Papua New Guinea (PNG) is, situated east of the Indonesian province of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), forms the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the world's second largest island after Greenland and also the world's highest island. PNG was the world’s last great land mass to be explored. Today, it remains one of the world’s last frontiers where western civilized living co-exists with primitive lifestyles. It has a population of more than 5 million, speaking 800 languages and coming from as many distinct and diverse cultural and tribal groupings. PNG is a former Australian colony but its earlier occupation was by the Dutch, German, British and Japanese. PNG became an independent country on 16 September 1975.
To the outside world, this is a fascinating land of extraordinary variety. Rugged and high mountain peaks, broad and fertile highland valley systems, vast swamps and deltas, endless forests, coastal plains, fast flowing rivers, myriad volcanic islands, coral reefs in crystal clear waters and a greater variety of plant and animal life - more than any other region in the world. There is nothing lacking for the visitor; in fact there is something here for everyone. The photographer will find subjects for his lens that would take a lifetime to exhaust. The bird lover will find to his delight one of the most varied and richest bird faunas in the world. The country is home to 38 of the 43 known birds of paradise who graze this land together with giant Bird wing butterflies. The scuba diver will find reefs and wrecks offering unsurpassed opportunities for both professionals and amateurs.
The most fascinating of all are the people themselves. Papua New Guinea has long been the haunt for scientists, anthropologists and artists. Diversity is the most distinctive feature of the people and their cultures. The people are a mixture of Melanesian, Polynesian and some Micronesians stock as is evident in the extraordinary differences in physical appearances. After colonization and subsequent independence, the people have been divided into regional groups - Southern made up of mixed Melanesian and Polynesians, Northern Region of full Melanesian stock, New Guinea Islands of Melanesian and some Micronesian extractions and Highlands of stocky Melanesian populations.
The average Papua New Guinean is a hunter and gatherer and the daily lifestyle is by co-existence with their land and natural habitats - meaning that they can almost entirely live off the land. Food is collected from the abundant forests as well as from subsistence farming. Building materials, clothing fibbers, colors, hunting and gardening tools, weapons (stone, bone, shell, bamboo, black palm and wood) and medicinal materials are all collected from the forests, swamps, rivers and seas. The weapons are simple and primitive but deadly and effective. There is never any shortage of food - vegetables, root crops and fruits which are grown in the shifting cultivation pattern of agriculture.
ART & CRAFT
Despite the simple tools and materials at their disposal, the people of PNG evolved an awesome artistic tradition, which is continued today, although modified by new technology. An amazing range of wood carvings, paintings, pottery and jewelry are available and much sought after by private collectors and leading museums around the world. Dugout canoes carved out of single hull logs still plough up and down the main rivers and swamps. Huge intricately carved totem poles carry the weight of huge “Haus Tambarans” (spirit houses) of the Sepik River region and sacred men’s houses of the coastal regions, while hand made outrigger canoes and large trading “Lakatoi” sailing canoes plough through the unpredictable seas - these make Papua New Guineans unique and prolific craftsmen of the Pacific.
The Highlanders make up more than one third of the total population and are not into producing material art and craft. This they consider as a coastal culture and tradition and the only creative form of art is making weapons and tools whilst the women are very creative in making bilums (carry-all string bags). Highlanders are economic-minded people and spend a lot of time tending to their gardens. Tribal warfare is common in the Highlands region - all the more reason why the men folk spend time making weapons. In recent times though, traditional weapons have been replaced by modern factory-made firearms.
Papua New Guinea possesses natural resources of extraordinary abundance. The country’s natural wealth depends on agriculture, timber, fisheries and most significantly, mining. The full extent of the mineral resources is yet to be determined but exploration experts report that it is significantly enormous.
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Papua New Guinea is a democratic country and is a member of the British Commonwealth with the Queen as Head of State represented by a Governor General. PNG is also a member of the United Nation and other lesser global groups.
Papua New Guinea is no different from any other developing third world island nation. We have our rogues and criminal elements just like anywhere else in the world. We admit we have our problems but the majority of the population will face the challenges of the future with determination and confidence. This country is so rich in natural attractions and cultural diversity that visitors can choose the type of PNG that they want. At the end of the day, Papua New Guinea is the Land of the Unexpected! It's Paradise Live! and Land of Adventure and Excitement!
Security and insurance are the two major concerns for travelers anywhere in the world. Papua New Guinea is no different to all other countries; we have our rogues and visitors are advised to take precautions and not to attract unnecessary attention. Tourists are advised to contact Paiya Tours or any local tour operator before making travel arrangements.
PNG climate is tropical and whilst it is generally hot and humid in the coastal areas, it is cool and spring-like in the highlands. We have only the wet and dry seasons but when in the highlands, weather is unpredictable - there can be extended rainy days in the dry season (May to October) and dry spells in the wet season (November to April) . A light rain coat is recommended whilst touring the highlands.
The monetary unit is Kina (Kee-nah) and sub units of 100 Toea (Toy-ya). Note denominations come in K2, K5, K10, K20, K50 and K100. The current rate of exchange (ROE) prevails at US$0.31=K1.00 and coins are .1t, .2t, .5t, .10t, .20t, .50t and K1.
TIME, ELECTRICITY, WATER
PNG is ten (10) hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Electric power supply is 220-240V (50 cycles) and accessible through a three point plug with the top two pins slanting. World Health Organization (WHO) standard water is available in all major towns and cities. In village situations, water should be boiled before drinking.
SAFETY & SECURITY
All countries have their rogues and criminal elements. Think safety and act responsibly and not to attract unnecessary attention. Do not carry valuables like passports, airline tickets, credit cards, jewelry and/or large amounts of cash whilst walking around unescorted. All expensive camera equipment must be adequately insured. Never leave valuables unattended, any place, any time.
The people of Papua New Guinea can resent to intrusion of privacy. So with the exception of planned performances such as those at the Mt. Hagen Cultural Show or pre-booked village performances, always ask before taking photographs of particular individuals. People may agree for a price. In this case, do not take the photograph. The local communities on tour programs are usually paid a fee and it is better for the whole community to benefit rather than individuals.
Due to the geographical nature of the country, there are strict baggage restrictions on all domestic flights. On Air Niugini scheduled domestic flights, baggage allowance is 16kgs while on third level regional airlines, baggage allowance is only 10kgs. Therefore, it is often necessary to repack into smaller overnight bags for overland travel whilst the main luggage can be forwarded to the next destination or stored in Port Moresby.
PROVINCIAL CULTURAL EVENTS - HIGHLANDS SHOWS
The biggest and most consistent festival is the annual Mt. Hagen Cultural Show followed by Goroka Cultural Show. Both these festivals were initiated by Australian colonial administration officers in an effort to bring people together in one central location to promote peace, unity and public awareness of the existence of Government, its functions, objectives and the rule of white man’s law. In early colonial days, government officials as well as Christian missionaries found it very difficult to traverse the tough terrain to reach the people. There were no roads, bridges or airstrips - it was all foot patrols.The first Shows were overwhelmingly successful and so more were staged until they became annual events. Over the past forty years, the Mt. Hagen and Goroka Shows have become major tourist attractions due to extensive cultural displays over one weekend and one location.
ENGA CULTURAL SHOW (First weekend of August)
This is the Provincial Cultural Show for the Enga Province staged during the second weekend of August each year. It is staged at Wabag, the Provincial Capital of the Enga Province, some two hours drive west of Mt. Hagen. Accommodation is a problem and most visitors tend to stay in Mt. Hagen and drive to/from the Show daily during the weekend.
HAGEN CULTURAL SHOW (Third weekend of August)
The first Mt. Hagen Show was initiated and staged by Australian Government officers in September 1961 at the site of present day market. Due to its positive success, it was resolved that this would become an annual Show. This has since become the biggest Cultural Show in the country and is widely promoted. Without doubt, the Mt. Hagen Cultural Show has become a major tourist attraction as is the most consistent and a reliable marketable tourism product. Overseas tour operators and tour wholesalers can safely sell the show scheduled for the second weekend of August - one week after the Enga Cultural Show. The Mt. Hagen Cultural Show provides the biggest cultural arena of all shows of its kind with a wider variety of performing cultural groups from all over Papua New Guinea. Accommodation facilities have improved significantly over the past ten years and there are continuing investments in this sector. Whilst there are a limited number of deluxe type accommodation in the Mt. Hagen central area, there are other good quality locally-owned and operated guest houses and lodges adequate for the purpose of visiting the Mt. Hagen Cultural Show.
GOROKA CULTURAL SHOW (Independence Weekend, Sept 16)
Australian Government officers initiated the Eastern Highlands Show (commonly known as Goroka Show) also during the colonial era and in the late 1960s following the success of the first Mt. Hagen Show. The show is staged in Goroka, the provincial capital, during the PNG Independence weekend. The Independence holiday falls around September 16 so the weekend nearest to that date becomes a long weekend and becomes Goroka Cultural Show weekend. Unlike Mt. Hagen, there have been inconsistencies in the past and promoters should check with Paiya Tours prior to planning tour packages and promotions.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
There is an official National Calendar of Events produced by the National Cultural Commission (NCC), listing all cultural events around Papua New Guinea. Provincial shows are staged almost every month but most shows are scheduled between June and September. In all provinces, there are independence celebrations including cultural components over the Independence weekend. Again contact Paiya Tours for information and advice.
PAIYA VILLAGE MOKA (FESTIVAL)
Paiya Village Moka is a culture festival organized by the community combining traditional dance/sing sing, traditional marriage, traditional fight using bows and arrows, traditional feast, courting activities and display of arts and crafts. Paiya Village Moka is held a day prior to the Mt. Hagen culture Show.The Festival attracts lot of tourists because of the composition of traditional activities, the natural setting being in the village and the friendly people.
Accommodation is provided in all centers from village type to luxury. Expect village type accommodation in rural settings while lodges, guesthouses and hotels in city/town centers.
MAGIC MOUNTAIN NATURE LODGE
Magic Mountain Nature Lodge is built from bush materials and is set in a natural and lush environment that perfectly blends with the environment.Its architectures are based on typical Highlands architectural design that also exposes the traditional identities of the people of Magic Mountain.Your accommodation is self-contained cabin/bungalows with in-built toilet, shower facilities and 24 hours electricity.The environment is quite and friendly and you have the opportunity of walking few Km to touch and feel the?nature and its habitats or observe some of the exotic plants and birds from the balcony.This is indeed a magical experience and a perfect example of ecotourism, offering village-based tourist facilities with high emphasis on quality and standards. A welcome dinner called "mumu" is prepared in earth oven mixed with vegetables,leaves and hot stones.This is your chance to savor local cuisine but on request.