Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a group of islands, including the eastern half of the island of the world’s second largest island – New Guinea, between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean – east of Indonesia. The terrain is mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills. The highest point is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509 meters (14,793 feet). PNG lies within the Coral Triangle, considered the global center of marine biodiversity.
Environmental issues include rainforest deforestation resulting from commercial demand for tropical timber, pollution from mining, and severe drought. The website of the Embassy of Papua New Guinea in Washington, DC includes a good overview of conservation efforts in PNG. The Department of Environment and Conservation was established in 1985 to protect the environment. The National Fisheries Authority is concerned with sustainable management of marine resources. According to the country’s leading daily newspaper, Post-Courier Online, a PNG Greens Party lead by Dorothy Tekwie has been active for some time.
Papua New Guinea maintains membership in the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. The Papua New Guinea Forest Authority, established in 1993, is committed to the wise use of forest resources. The PNG Eco-Forestry Forum serves as an umbrella organization for the interests of small-scale sawmilling. The PNG Sustainable Development Program is funded from mining compensation funds.
Partners in Conservation is an informal forum about working in the environment and conservation sector within Papua New Guinea. The Environment Sustainability Society of Papua New Guinea is a network for environmental professionals. International NGOs Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society both work with the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research in Goroka. The Kamiali Biological Research Station monitors the Kamiali Wildlife Management Area. Mahonia Na Dari – Guardian of the Sea is a local NGO founded by Walindi Plantation Resort for marine education at Kimbe Bay.
There are two Ramsar wetlands of international importance in PNG, Lake Kutubu Wildlife Management Area and Tonda Wildlife Management Area. Other protected areas include Jimi Valley National Park and Mountt Wilhelm National Reserve. Baiyer River Sanctuary is a nature reserve in the Western Highlands. Oi Mada Wara Wildlife Management Area is on Goodenough Island. Partially explored, though unprotected, cave systems include Atea Cave and Esa’ala Cave. The former National Capital Botanical Gardens is now Port Moresby Nature Park. Ndrolowa Marine Managed Area is in the Admiralty Islands. There is a protected area on Lihir Island, which also contains a gold mine with one of the world’s largest gold deposits. There are a number of Locally Managed Marine Areas, including Kimbe Bay, Lavongai, and Madang Lagoon.
New Guinea is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, and one of the few places where new species are still being discovered, such as along the Hindenburg Wall. There are quite a few endangered tree kangaroos in PNG, such as Matschie’s tree-kangaroo in the YUS Conservation Area on Huon Peninsula. Tenkile Conservation Alliance works to protect the endangered Tenkile and Golden-mantled Tree-kangaroo in the Torricelli Mountains.
Papua New Guinea has quite a few venomous snakes, including taipans, two kinds of death adder, brown snakes, and poisonous black snakes. PNG also has one of the highest and healthiest population of saltwater crocodiles, which are capable of growing to immense lengths. They should be shown respect at all times, and occasionally devour humans. Salties are equally at home in coastal waters, freshwater lakes and rivers; so, swimming is generally not advised except at higher elevations.
By far the most well known trek in PNG is the Kokoda Track (alternately Kokoda Trail), a 96 kilometer (60 mile) footpath, from Owers Corner across the Owen Stanley Range to the village of Kokoda. The track commemorates the infamous Kokoda Track campaign of WWII. The track is regulated by the Kokoda Track Authority. Commercial trekking operators include Kokoda Trail Adventures & Trekking and PNG Trekking Adventures. Other walking tracks include Black Cat Track, Bulldog Track, and Kapa Kapa Trail.
The Australian company No Roads Expeditions offers guided Tigak Sea Kayaking tours, between New Hanover Island and New Ireland in the remote Bismarck Archipelago. Papua New Guinea has a national surf management plan limiting the number of surfers to popular spots and taxing them. PNG also requires surfers to pay for a local surf guide, creating jobs for its people. The Surf Management Plan is coordinated by Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea. Niu Ailan Surfriders Alliance provides more information about surfing New Ireland. Scubaventures Kavieng is a dive operator out of Balgai Bay, New Ireland.
Papuan people are speakers of Papuan languages, and strictly speaking are neither Melanesian nor Austronesian but closely related. Recent genetic studies have shown that Papuans are among the only living peoples whose prehistoric ancestors are known to have interbred with a subspecies of Homo sapiens, called Denisovans. Papuans are thought to have inhabited New Guinea for some 60,000 years. Papua New Guinea is supposedly home to more than 700 tribes and 800 languages, something like one fifth of the world’s language diversity; but the official language of PNG is Tok Pisin, for “talk pidgin”.
When Europeans arrived in the 16th century, they found Papuans to have a productive agricultural system. The term New Guinea was applied to the island by the Spanish, because of a resemblance between inhabitants and those found on the African Guinea coast. In the 19th century, when the Colony of Queensland tried to annex southeastern New Guinea, the British government would not support it; however, the next year when German settlements were discovered in the north, the British proclaimed a protectorate. By the early 20th century, the British had placed the Territory of Papua under the administration of the Commonwealth of Australia.
At the outset of WWI, Australia seized the colony of German New Guinea, and following the war the League of Nations granted Australia trusteeship over eastern New Guinea. Around the time of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese also invaded New Guinea. The New Guinea campaign was fought throughout the rest of the WWII. The Kokoda Track campaign amounted to the dogged protection of Port Moresby from advancing Japanese forces, with the aid of local Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Following WWII, Papua New Guinea was placed under international trusteeship and gradually prepared for independence, which came in 1975. In 1989, a bloody secessionist revolt began on the island of Bougainville, which went on for 9 years.
As part of the Dutch East Indies, the Netherlands controlled the West Papua region, known as Dutch New Guinea, from the 17th century up to the Japanese invasion of WWII, until Allied forces regained control in 1944. In the wake of WWII, the Dutch East Indies became independent as Indonesia; and, during the 1960s Indonesia effectively annexed West Papua through a United Nations brokered process. Today, West Papua comprises of two Indonesian provinces, Papua province and West Papua province. In the 1970s, an unrecognized Republic of West Papua was declared, and a Free Papua Movement emerged. In 2004, independence activist Filep Karma was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for treason against Indonesia in response to raising the Morning Star flag. West Papua is widely considered to be much cheaper to visit than Papua New Guinea, though most economic benefits now flow to ethnic Indonesians. There is a border crossing between Indonesian Papua and PNG; the border towns are Wutung in Papua province and Batas in PNG. Boat service is also available between the two north coast cities, Jayapura and Vanimo.
The Kina (PGK) is the official currency of Papua New Guinea. Health risks in PNG include Malaria and rampant HIV. There is a problem with criminal gangs, called Raskol gangs (Tok Pisin for “rascal” gangs) in PNG, particularly in urban centers such as Port Moresby and Lae. In 2013, it was widely reported that a woman accused of being a witch was burned alive by a mob in Mount Hagen. The U.S. State Department has prepared an online Primer on Personal Security in Papua New Guinea.
In terms of heritage, Papua New Guinea has one official World Heritage site, Kuk Early Agricultural Site at Kuk Swamp, as well as seven sites on the Tentative Lists of World Heritage. Protected seascapes include the memorial park at Cape Wom and peace memorial at Wewak. The Papua New Guinea National Museum & Art Gallery is located in Port Moresby. Sing-sing is Tok Pisin for a tribal gathering or festival, something like a Native American powwow. The most popular tribal festivals are the Goroka Show, Mount Hagen Cultural Show, and Sepik Crocodile Festival. Contemporary events include the annual United Nations sponsored Papua New Guinea Human Rights Film Festival. PNG is well known for coffee production, so opportunities exist for coffee based agritourism on highlands plantations.
Plans have been announced for the merger of the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority with the Office of Tourism, Arts & Culture into a single Department of Tourism. Additionally, there are both a PNG Tourism Industry Association and Tour Operators Association of Papua New Guinea. Ecotourism Melanesia is a Port Moresby-based tour operator. Niugini Eco Tourism Services is a tour operator based in Mount Hagen. Country Tours Papua New Guinea is a locally owned company with offices in Mount Hagen and Port Moresby. PNG Eco Tours Limited is based in Kavieng, New Ireland province. Nancy Sullivan is an anthropologist and independent ecotourism guide, specializing in cave arts of the Karawari, who works out of Madang province.
Village Huts is Papua New Guinea’s premier accommodation booking and travel services website. Trans Niugini Tours operates a network of some of the best known wilderness lodges in PNG, including Ambua Lodge, Karawari Lodge, Malolo Plantation Lodge, the Sepik Spirit floating lodge, Bensbach Wildlife Lodge, and Rondon Lodge. Melanesian Adventure Tours is based in Wewak and operates Ambunti Lodge on the Sepik river. Rabaul Discovery & Eco-Tourism Tours works out of Kokopo Village Resort in Kopoko, East New Britain province. Other interesting places to stay include Tawali Resort and Ulumani Treetops Rainforest Resort in Milne Bay, Rainu Beach Lodge on Muschu Island off Wewak, and Warili Lodge in Tari, Southern Highlands. Walindi Plantation Resort is in Kimbe, West New Britain, and Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort and Kokopo Lodge in the Rabaul region of East New Britain. Lissenung Island Resort, Nusa Island Retreat, and TreeHouse Village Eco Resort are available in New Ireland.
Transportation options run the gamut from air to land and sea. The primary airlines are Air Niugini and Airlines PNG. The main highway in PNG is called the Highlands Highway, between Lae and Tari. Hitchwiki includes a section with tips for hitch-hiking in PNG. There is a yacht club in Port Moresby, the Royal Papua Yacht Club. The PNG Ports Corporation lists all ports, and stakeholders for each port. Expedition cruising, a kind of boutique cruise, is a good way to experience remote and otherwise inaccessible parts of New Guinea. There are good number of these operators cruising New Guinea waters, including Aurora Expeditions, Coral Princess Cruises, North Star Cruises, Orion Expeditions and P&O Cruises.
- From Cannibal Tours to cargo cult: On the aftermath of tourism in the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea by EK Silverman, 2012
- Governance and tourism policy in Papua New Guinea (PNG)-An evaluation by G Guaigu, B Prideaux & J Pryce, 2012
- The Management Strategies of Ecotourism Development in Papua New Guinea by K Subbiah & S Kannan, 2012
- Residents’ Perception On The Implications Of Tourism And The Proposed Mining Operations Along Kokoda Track In Papua New Guinea by B Manoka, 2011
- The Convenient Traveller: Using Technology to Enhance Tourism in Papua New Guinea by J Imbal & L Fitina, 2011
- Contemporary Challenges Facing the Development and Management of Culture Tourism in Papua New Guinea by J Imbal, 2010
- Forest land use by the community in Sorong Natural Tourism Park at Sorong City, West Papua Province by YY Rahawarin, 2010
- Scenarios for knowledge integration: exploring ecotourism futures in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea by EL Bohensky, JRA Butler & D Mitchell, 2010
- Understanding local power and interactional processes in sustainable tourism: Exploring village–tour operator relations on the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea by SL Wearing & M Wearing, 2010
- Developing the Tourism Potential in Papua New Guinea by J Imbal, 2009
- ‘Ethnic Tourism’ in Papua New Guinea by Y Toyoda, 2009
- Scenarios as models for knowledge integration: ecotourism futures in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea by EB Bohensky, JRA Butler & D Mitchell, 2009
- Moderate expectations and benign exploitation: Tourism on the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea by EK Silverman, 2008
- The Practice of Community Based Tourism: Developing Ecotrekking for the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea by S Wearing & P Chatterton, 2007
- The Impacts of Tourism on Village Communities in the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area of Papua New Guinea by M Rohde, 2006
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- Tourism in the Sepik River of Papua New Guinea: favoring the local over the global by EK Silverman, 2001
- Conflicts and Paradoxes in Economic Development: Tourism in Papua New Guinea by PK Basu, 2000
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- The shark callers: an ancient fishing tradition of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea by G Kohnke, 1974