Papua New Guinea–When You Go There

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Papua New Guinea is an exceedingly difficult place to travel. Tourist-friendly hotels and restaurants exist but are scattered and scarce and there are few easily accessible historical or cultural attractions. Even if you have a particular travel destination in PNG there is virtually no infrastructure in place to enable Papua New Guineans to get around, let alone cushy transportation networks to coddle us spoiled Westerners. (For example, there are no roads connecting the capital city of Port Moresby with other cities–to get anywhere else one must fly.) According to Lonely Planet’s PNG pages, traveling in Papua New Guinea, “can feel like you’re stepping into the great unknown.”

Still, self-motivated, very independent travelers go to Papua New Guinea and have a grand time. There may be no better place on earth to go to experience nature the way nature used to be; PNG is one of the most megadiverse of the world’s few remaining megadiverse countries.

If you want to forge relatively uncharted territory, go into the Papua New Guinean interior. There are almost certainly species of animals and varieties plants no one but indigenous Papua New Guineans have ever seen; there are also still potentially “uncontacted” tribes living in complete isolation. (See a video of members of PNG’s Toulambi tribe meeting a “white man” for the first time. Or, is the video fake, or at the least disingenuous? Whatever the case, there are many nuances to what is happening here.) If you want to experience the Papuan interior but would prefer it come to you, book your travel to coincide with a “singsing,” a celebration of traditional song and dance (learn about singsings below).

One of the best ways to decide if you want to go to Papua New Guinea is to read accounts by travelers who have gone there and decide if you’d like to do some of the same. This account by American Clark Scott tells the tale of his trip to PNG that included some time in Port Moresby, a slow motorboat tour of the Sepik River, a visit to the Huli Wigmen, the Tumbuna Sing Sing and a few second-hand run-ins with PNG’s legendary lawlessness. For his BBC/HumanPlanet blog photographer Timothy Allen traveled to PNG and seemed to have a grand time (Allen in the forest | Allen at a singsing). For the even more adventurous, maybe a trek along the Black Cat Trail sounds like fun. Do you mind leeches and snakes?

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