May 10, 2010

Explore A Million Different Journeys in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a country of adventure where you can enjoy experiences found no other place on earth. PNG is linguistically the most complex nation in the world. Over 800 distinct languages are spoken, estimated as an average of one language for every 900 square kilometres.

The rugged terrain of the Owen Stanley Ranges on the mainland and over 600 islands offshore means tribes have developed in geographic isolation ensuring their original cultures have been preserved.

The individual heritage of each tribe is maintained through their art, sing sings, dancing and initiations - expressions of their culture that continue regardless of tourism which to date has barely touched most of Papua New Guinea. Examples include the Baining fire dancers near Rabaul and the Asaro Mud Men and Huli Wig men in the Highland regions.

Visits to remote villages scattered across the islands and forested landscape, second only in size to the Amazon basin, provide plenty of opportunities to see and in some instances purchase primitive art, timber carvings, masks (decorated with hair, shells, pig tusks), string bags (bilums), crafts, hand dyed Tapa cloth, woven baskets, penis gords and clay pots - and endless opportunities for photography.

Also on offer is a cultural explosion of colour and sound at PNG’s regular festivals: The Goroka and Mt Hagen Shows are world famous but also consider the Canoe Festival in Alotau, the yam festival in the Trobriand Islands or the week-long Malagan Festival in Kavieng - anyone of which provide unforgettable opportunities to experience large numbers of colourful, often raucous, tribes performing en-mass (in some instances this means thousands of participants).

PNG is widely recognised as having some of the best scuba diving in the world. The coral reefs are largely untouched, with outstanding marine life including reef sharks, pelagic fish, hammerheads, barracuda, manta rays as well as WWII wrecks (tanks, downed US bombers and Japanese Zeros) all in 28 degree waters. Apart from dedicated live-aboard dive boats popular dive spots include Loloata Resort, close to Port Moresby, Tufi Dive Resort, Jais Aben Resort in Madang or Walindi Dive Resort near Kimbe, all offering comfortable accommodation and plenty of options for those who may not be there just for the diving.

Pick just about any coastal destination and there is great fishing (including the famed Black Bass and Barramundi) to be had. A great lad's weekend away and a favourite for serious fishermen from around the world.

The view across to the coast from the summit of Mt Wilhelm is well worth the climb. At 4509 metres (Mt Kosciusko is 2230 metres) you can encounter snow, just a few degrees from the equator. Apart from Kokoda, there are plenty of other easier and harder treks to choose from including Black Cat near Rabaul, said to require half-marathon fitness level before considering the challenge!

The reputation of PNG's surf spots is growing, luring surfers who seek consistent waves with barely another person to jostle with. Kavieng and Vanimo are the stand outs. The Surf Association has a code of practice to restrict visitor numbers and ensure traditional land owners benefit from visitation.

For the fit and healthy kayaking is one way to explore the extraordinary coastline of PNG, surrounding islands and remote coastal Villages. What better way to meet locals in their dugout canoes than from your own kayak? Intrepid adventurer meets savvy local. Papua New Guinea waters and rivers offer enormous diversity for kayaking, providing a great opportunity to combine coastal exploration with outstanding fishing and cultural experiences through Village stays.

There are myriad choices to offer adventure travellers of all ages. Sited on the 'Ring of Fire' Papua New Guinea has a number of active volcanoes including the thunderous Mt Tavurvur in Rabaul, where you can walk through valleys of black ash, around fissures of escaping steam and sulphurous gas, while observing massive black clouds of volcanic waste looming above.

On thermal Fergusson Island locals wash and bathe in the cooler streams and cook vegetables in boiling hot springs and pools.

It's no wonder that keen photographers and birdwatchers flock to PNG to capture the wildlife and flora. PNG boasts the world's largest butterfly, the Queen Alexandra Birdwing which grows to 30cm across, the largest pigeon in the world, the Queen Victoria Crowned Pigeon (the size of a chicken), multiple species of Bird of Paradise, Cassowary and thousands of other species.

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