Papua New Guinea
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Papua New Guinea.
At the northern end of Waigani Dr, by the University of Papua New Guinea, this is an island of calm. More than 2km of walkways thread under and through the jungle canopy, with well-maintained gardens displaying both local and exotic plant species, including native and hybrid orchids. The trees are alive with the clamour of fruit bats, and wildlife displays include tree kangaroos, hornbills, cassowaries, and a large aviary that houses parrots and birds of paradise. Take public motor vehicle (PMV) 9.
There are numerous villages around Maprik, many with a striking, forward-leaning haus tambaran, an architectural style echoed in such modern buildings as Parliament House in Port Moresby. The front façade of the Maprik haus tambarans are brightly painted in browns, ochres, whites and blacks and in some cases reach 30m high.
The main Parliament Haus building is in the style of a Maprik- or Sepik-style haus tambaran, while the attached, circular cafeteria follows Highland design principles and a mosaic features unmistakably PNG motifs. The cavernous lobby is entered through doors whose handles are stylised kundu drums (an hourglass-shaped drum with lizard skin). Inside, a towering wood carving represents the four regions of PNG. The receptionists are usually happy to walk and talk you through the building’s design and history.
This superb museum, beautifully remodelled for the country's 40th anniversary of independence, is the best introduction you can get to Papua New Guinea's rich indigenous culture. Subtly lit exhibits are divided by theme: musical instruments, body adornments, ceremonial kundu and garamut drums, seafaring equipment (including a magnificent Milne Bay outrigger canoe decorated in large cowrie shells and ornate canoe splashboards), elaborate masks and vast totem poles from the Sepik are all present and correct. Take your time.
The main thing to do on Samarai is just wander around soaking up the faded-glory. From the wharf, head toward the hill and, at the northeast corner of the sportsground, you'll pass the memorial to Christopher Robinson, the one-time administrator who committed suicide in 1904. The inscription notes he was 'as well meaning as he was unfortunate and as kindly as he was courageous' and that 'his aim was to make New Guinea a good place for white men.'
Right after the small store at Laloki River Gorge is the turn-off to Varirata National Park which, at 1000 hectares and over 800m high, is the highlight of the Sogeri Rd. It's 8km from the turn-off and you'll find several clearly marked walking trails among the pine trees, ranging from 45 minutes to three hours long, and some excellent lookouts back to Port Moresby and the coast. Birdwatchers may spot such feathered highlights as kingfishers and Raggiana birds of paradise.
Most people come to see a microcosm of PNG’s marvellous flora and fauna, including birds of paradise, cassowaries and tree kangaroos; although the real star is ‘Agro’, the huge and largely inactive saltwater crocodile.The habitat comprises about 3000 sq metres of reconstructed rainforest inside a walk-through aviary, plus a number of smaller enclosures. Unfortunately it is all rather neglected with collapsing walkways and derelict enclosures. Clearly it has seen better times.
Korogo has an impressive haus tambaran with a pair of carved eagles at each end of the roof, related to a local myth, as well as colourfully painted pillars and beams, garamut drums with river spirit carvings, ceremonial costumes and shell-studded long masks for sale.
Palm trees, turquoise waters, nearby reefs and a left-hand point break (November to March) make Muschu one of Papua New Guinea’s best-kept secrets. Hidden in the jungle are two Japanese anti-aircraft guns and a plane wreck, consisting of scattered debris, two hulking engines and a propeller. Further inland, two jeeps lie abandoned and overgrown alongside the Japanese Road. Boats run from central Wewak to Muschu.