PAPUA NEW GUINEA
There lies an opportunity in Papua New Guinea to experience unparalleled natural beauty in a raw, humbling way. Laying eyes on the extremes in terrain alone creates an indelible memory. From the granite mass of Mt. Wilhelm jutting more than 4,509 metres from the Earth to the meandering, deep water fjords of Tufi to flooded deltas, coral atolls, underground cave systems and heaving rivers. The sheer majesty of Papua’s topography would be enough.
Add to that the largest stretch of rainforest outside of the Amazon offering a home to 5% of the planet’s species. Papua New Guinea’s jungle is filled with a myriad of fauna and flora including 700 species of birds, many endemic to the region, and 3,000 varieties of orchids. A lack of predatory animals coupled with geographical isolation has allowed the country’s unique wildlife to flourish. Spot Goldie’s Bird of Paradise or Carola’s Parotia, perhaps the rare Bulbophyllum nocturnum orchid - the world’s only known orchid whose flowers bloom at night only to drop off before dawn, making it reliant on nocturnal moths for pollination.
The spectacular terrain marked by volcanic plugs and lagoons, the Kokoda trail, birdwatching and sea life - add yet another layer. The human history. An ancient people live on these lands, 5,000 different clans, speaking over 850 distinct languages forming the most culturally diverse nation on Earth. Their customs endure the centuries with little disruption from the outside world. It is a privilege to witness mass gatherings for cultural events such as the Kutubu Kundo and Digaso festival or the acclaimed Frangipani Festival celebrating the rebirth of Rabaul after the 1994 eruption. It is quite something else to come in to the fold of day to day life in isolated villages. The art, the songs, the initiation rituals and rites of passage meld in a fascinating way.
More recently, Papua New Guinea’s history has entwined with others. Reef encrusted bomber planes from World War II lie scattered in the ocean in their watery graves. Sunken ships and submarines now a metropolis to Lemon Damsels and Cabbage Coral. A Hudson A16-126 wreck spent 66 years entangled in jungle-clad saw-toothed mountains before being found again ten years ago. Papua New Guinea is unparalleled in diversity of character or content.
In such a heterogeneous land, expert guidance is required. With less than 50,000 cars on the island and undeveloped infrastructure, Papua New Guinea is largely unserviced by the tourist industry. Subsistence farming in isolated, traditional villages is still the norm for 80% of the near 8 million inhabitants whose major mode of transport is walking. It is extraordinary to think that first contact with some of the more remote hill tribes was made little more than 80 years ago in 1932 by Australian prospector brothers Michael and Dan Leahy. To this day, many inhabitants live without access to power or running water.
To go to PNG is to embark on a journey which will forever mark you. In a modern World reshaped by human interests, teeming cities with millions of inhabitants, reams of motorways, pollution, congestion and stress, there is nothing like standing at the base of a volcano, seeing molten rock being hurled in to the air or silently canoeing an ancient cliff-walled gorge. Inspire means to breath life in to. Papua New Guinea will do that. It is the antidote, the tool to shift perspective. Dexterous facilitation will make it happen.