The island country of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean is blessed with beautiful flora and fauna. The country possesses more hidden treasures unknown to you and me, until now!
1. It is the second largest island in the world! Along with the mainland it is comprised of 600 small islands and archipelagos.
2. Now this may come as a surprise but as rare as it is for a tropical country, Papua New Guinea actually has highlands and the highest points even go one to see snowfall!
3. The extremely biodiverse country has 11,000 plant species, 700 bird species and 250 mammal species. I would expect so seeing as how the country is comprised with 77% rainforest. It is also endowed with natural resources, mineral resources, renewable resources and also some of the world’s largest tuna stocks.
4. It is home to the world’s largest butterfly spices, Queen Alexandra’s Birdswing which have a wingspan of 9.8 inches! Whoa.
5. Did you know birds can be poisonous too? Yep! Meet the world’s one and only bird discovered to be poisonous, the hooded pitohui. Don’t fall for those cute look!
6. And with over 1,000 ethnic groups and 800 odd ethnic languages spoken in the country, it is also extremely rich in its cultural diversity.
7. Hagen Cultural festival sees the celebration of the 75+ tribes that would tread along and inhabit these lands. Traditional attires, headdresses and face tattoos are donned by the locals n order for the celebration as they indulge in folk dances, music, playing of drums and story-telling.
8. The tribes had once practiced headhunting and possibly even cannibalism in their ancient warfare. This practice was believed to take away the enemy’s spirit and the powers they possessed. Moreover, the belief in spirits is widespread as they still practice spirit worship of their ancestors.
9. In fact, the country is believed to be the land where cannibalism has actually been documented and traces reflect that the practice probably even continued well into the 70s. In the island’s Long Houses, Harry Dauncey found 10,000 skulls suggestive of these practices.
10. Archaeological evidence even suggests that humans first came to New Guinea some 42,000 – 45,000 years ago! Further, the UNESCO recognized heritage site of the Kuk Early Agricultural Site was excavated to reveal wetland reclamation from over 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.
11. Germans annexed the country and the Britishers occupied a part too. The Australians took over the British occupied land first in 1906 and with World War I they went onto acquire the German territory too. But in 1920 Australia receive a mandate from the League of Nations and so after the Second World War, the country was administered by Australia and placed under the UN trusteeship. The countries remain close ties and Australia remains a major donor to Papua New Guinea.
12. The country however was so untouched that while in the search of gold expeditions led explorers to the highlands roughly 70 years ago, they were astonished to find approximately a million people living there! Their way of life hadn’t altered since the Stone Age. They were unaware of alphabets, metals and even of an advanced world slightly outside their territories!
13. For the longest time the country used seashells as their currency, until the kina was introduced. Incidentally, some regions still use the shells as bride price even today. The practice can still be traced in the Tolai society which would use the tabu shell for transactions. The shells are still regarded as a sign of respect and are central to ceremonies for initiations, funerals, weddings and even pig feasts.
14. Some regions still initiate boys into manhood with rituals involving carving of the flesh on the backs of boys and artwork depicting the creatures of the sea, crocodiles. The country’s culture holds crocodiles in high regard as they believe that these creatures came from the Sepik /river and eventually became human beings. The Chambari tribe cuts the skin of the boys, filling them with clay and tree oil so that the scars appear risen and resemble the scales of crocodiles. The excruciating ceremony is believed to instil dedication and discipline.
15. There are very few paved roads but flying is popular because of the dense jungles so there are as many as 600 runways (both paved and unpaved).
Trip Leader Niyati’s Recommendations:
1. If the cultural talks have left your mind boggled and you want to experience them up close, plan your trip around the Milamala festival or Mt Hagen festival.
2. Even if you don’t attend the festival, a regular trip can almost always accommodate a Goroka show in order to taste the traditional music and dance at least.
3. Their neighbours are the Asaro tribe who paint themselves in mud and clay completely. Who wants to see mudmen?!
4. And if the talk of the biodiversity has left your mind curious a visit to the Variata National Park is a chance to explore the wildlife and diversity for yourself. There is also the Port Moresby National Park and the Rainforest Habitat for those who are quite keen.
5. To explore the island life in an off the beaten path manner, the Muschu Island gives you a chance to do so. There is only one bed and breakfast here so you will be treated to quiet beaches and forests for the perfect laidback holiday.
6. The Kokoda Hike Trail is for the adventurous souls. The hike goes through dense forests and even regions which had witnessed months of struggle during the Second World War. If hiking is your thrill and you’re looking to try out more trails, then how about hiking up a volcano? Mount Garbuna volcano hike is blessed with bird life and rugged terrain for the thrill seekers.
7. Want to relax in a hot spring? The best natural skin therapy that leaves you feeling rejuvenated is possible at the Rabaul Hot Springs.
8. We did say it is the second largest island so of course there’ll be more island destinations. Kime Bey and Madang are both stellar options with their turquoise waters, beautiful beaches and coral lives. You can even go kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving.
How to Reach:
You would have to fly down with one or more layovers in Kuala Lumpur, Hongkong, Singapore or Manilla.