This year is a big one for Papua New Guinea as it brings the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Trail, a pilgrimage for many Australians. It’s also hosting the first international surfing competition, is easier than ever to get to with additional Qantas flights from Australia, and Coral Expeditions is also offering the chance to visit some of its most unspoilt locations on an classic 25-night expedition cruise. All this means one thing: it’s time to put Papua New Guinea at the top of your 2017 bucket list!
With over 700 languages spoken, the most biological diverse environment in the southwestern hemisphere, vast swathes of lands and indigenous tribes unfamiliar to the western world, as well as fascinating traditions such as competitive feasting ‘fighting with food’, and some of the world’s most spectacular flora and fauna, Papua New Guinea deserves to be fast tracked on the bucket list.
It is currently one of the least explored countries in the world but visitor numbers are expected to increase soon, so Coral Expeditions urges travellers to take a once in a lifetime journey around this enigmatic country in 2017, and here’s ten reasons why:
1.World Class Coral Reefs
Papua New Guinea has about twice the amount of fish species of the Red Sea, and approximately ten times as many species of corals are found here compared to the Caribbean. With so many diverse coral reefs, from the crystal-clear waters of the narrow Tufi Fjords to the turquoise lagoons of the Morobe region there is something for everyone! Underwater adventurers can expect to see everything from macro species such as sea horses, nudibranch and gobies to the majestic whale sharks, with a variety of vibrant coral reefs, walls and gardens providing a colourful backdrop. For happy snappers PNG has been dubbed an ‘underwater photographer’s paradise’ so holiday pics won’t disappoint!
2.Swimming with Whale Sharks
Cenderawasih Marine Park is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to snorkel with the majestic whale shark – the biggest fish in the sea. These gentle giants aren’t afraid to linger on the surface at Cenderwasih Bay so snorkelers will have plenty of time and opportunity for close encounters. With Coral Expeditions’ expert expedition team on hand, travellers are taken to the best spots at the best times so encounters are common on every sailing.
Set at the edge of New Britain Island the smoking active volcano, Mount Tavuruver, offers the opportunity for an adrenaline-fueled hike. Offering sweeping views over neighbouring volcanoes and the crystal-clear water bordering the unspoiled island of Rabaul, the rewards of this hike are just as great as the risks!
4.Exploring the ‘Islands of love’
The Trobriand Islands, also known as theIslands of Love, are an untouched paradise, with nature and indigenous cultures unspoilt by outside influences, offering travellers a unique and remote island experience. The island is also true to its name, as is home to the world’s original free love community: Islanders change spouses whenever they want, have dedicated ‘love huts’ and settle their differences over a game of cricket! Visitors can learn all about the locals take on love, unique local customs and enjoy traditional Trobriand dances performed by the colourfully costumed locals and visit the local markets.
The famed Kokoda Trail, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is PNG’s trekking centrepiece with 96km of mesmerising jungle trails that take travellers into the unspoilt and historically charged interiors of the country. For more casual walkers and ‘cruisers’ PNG is home to many rainforest walking excursions, from the jungle trails around Buna, where the Kokoda Trail starts, to the Kamiali Wildlife Management Area, one of PNG’s most important conversation sites and home to spectacular prehistoric rainforest.
The Dobu and Fergusson islands are home to the famed Dei Dei Hot Springs – a dramatic natural phenomenon enshrouded with mystical tales and traditions! The natural hot springs surround mud pools, with bouts of vapour steam creating a mythical tableaux. Locals use the springs as a giant cooking pot by boiling food in palm and leaf baskets but have plenty of tales to tell on the Springs’ murky past. It is local lore that after a lover’s quarrel, a beautiful woman named Seuseulina,’ threw herself into the boiling spring, and now, if you call her name, the geyser spirit will erupt in anger. This magical island is also renowned for its birdlife, native orchids and fringing coral reefs.
7.Discovering your own tropical island
Papua New Guinea is made up of 600 islands, so travellers can sail to one of these remote tropical paradises to enjoy their own private palm fringed escape where they can swim, snorkel and sunbathe on an undiscovered tropical island. With so much in Papua New Guinea left to discover, travellers can summon their inner Robinson Crusoe and Christopher Columbus, and might even join these early pioneers with a new discovery.
8.Warm Welcomes & Cultural Encounters
Untouched by the modern world, Papua New Guinea greets you with a swirl of colours, movement, huge smiles and songs. The rich local cultures all have unique characteristics but are united in their warm welcoming greetings and melee of artistic talents. For curious travellers the sky is the limit for tales, traditions, skills and knowledge they can uncover, from the renowned tradition of wood carving on the Sepik River and Yam Festival in the Milne Bay Province, to the Baining fire dancers in East New Britain and the Sharking Calling Festival.
9.The Birds, Bees and under the seas
Papua New Guinea accounts for no more than 1% of the world’s landmass but has nearly 10% of the world’s vertebrae and is one of the most diverse places on earth for flora and fauna. PNG is also a familiar entry in the Guinness World Book of Records with the largest pigeon, smallest parrot, longest lizard, largest butterfly, aptly named Queen Alexandra Birdwing, and the tallest tropical trees. Travellers can encounter over 700 species of bird, tree kangaroos, forest wallabies, the unique PNG long nosed echidnas, dolphins, whales, parrots, and over 3,000 species of Orchid.
10.This pristine location won’t fly under the tourism radar for much longer
This up and coming region is set to be a hot destination for 2017 and beyond! Not only has Qantas recently increased their flights to Port Moresby from Australia, but Visa rules have also changed. Australian citizens can now arrange visas free of charge, making this year the perfect time to go before everyone else finds out!
With so much of Papua New Guinea inaccessible by the land, the country is best discovered by sea. Coral Expeditions offers a 25-night journey of a life time which starts in Cairns and ends in Darwin. The cruise departs on 29 October 2017. Prices start from $19,480 This sailing is on-board the new refurbished Coral Discoverer which had a multi-million-dollar upgrade in 2016.