Missed our Papua New Guinea event? Watch a full recording and see the highlights of the evening here...
Over 500 of you joined us for a virtual tour of Papua New Guinea and were treated to fascinating videos, an insightful talk from award-winning travel writer Mark Stratton and heaps of knowledge from our expert panel.
If you missed the event or had to leave early, you can catch up on the highlights here…
Is it safe in Papua New Guinea?
Robin: Papua New Guinea is very much a destination where you play by the rules. If someone tells you not to go somewhere, you don’t go there. That said, I’ve been to Papua New Guinea so many times and I have never really experienced anything other than kindness. A lot of the trouble you hear about in Papua New Guinea is often tribal conflict in remote regions of the country. When you do hear about crimes on foreign visitors it is often petty crime such as bag snatches, cameras getting stolen etc. I can honestly say as someone who has travelled extensively around Papua New Guinea, I have never so much as had a pocket felt. Just be sensible and remember that a guide is your key to opening doors, be guided by what you are told and respect local sensibilities.
Mark: You will need to enlist a local guide to help you get around the island as the infrastructure is minimal. I personally found it very safe and I felt very welcome. There has been a few instances in recent years, particularly directed towards geologists as there is still great concern on the island about outsiders coming in and taking over the mine. Ultimately, I found it very safe.
How do you you get there?
The easiest way to get there is via Singapore and you can fly from the UK to Singapore with Singapore Airlines. From there, you can get to Papua New Guinea with Air Niugini which is the national carrier which takes around six and a half hours. The plane will arrive in Port Moresby in the early morning (around 5.30am) which means you can connect to your final destination the same day.
Do you need a visa?
Yes, you do need a visa. You can get it on arrival and it is free.
What is the weather like in Papua New Guinea?
There are two seasons in Papua New Guinea, a wet season and a dry season. The wet season is roughly from November to March and the dry season is the rest of the year. Please note that I have never been to Papua New Guinea and had it entirely dry for the whole time! As with anywhere in the world, the weather can change in a blink of an eye. If you’re in the mountains it can be quite cool but if you are on the coast it can be hot and humid so prepare for all weather.
Is Papua New Guinea a good destination for children and how old do you think children need to be to visit?
Slightly older children (around ten and older) are more suited to Papua New Guinea and you should consider the health risks such as malaria before deciding whether to take your children. Another thing to consider is that Papua New Guinea is an expensive destination. That said, there is so much to see and experience and so many wonderful places to take children to see.
What range of accommodation options are there?
There is a whole range of accommodation from very basic to relative luxury. You can see the accommodation options here.
How easy is it to see birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea?
Bret: There are key sites where you can easily see birds of paradise. Usually what you will find is that the lodges in Papua New Guinea are situated in prime cultural and wildlife areas. For example, the area around Mount Hagen up in the Highlands and Varirata National Park are both places that are brilliant for birds of paradise. Iconic ones include the raggiana bird of paradise and the king of Saxony. There’s real specialist species and you can very easily see some of them displaying, particularly the raggiana which are loud and like to go up high in the trees. When I was there I saw seven different species in three days and had displaying birds only 15m from me. There is a lot of other birdlife as well as the birds of paradise to see too, and there is a high level of endemism on the island.
Can you see tree kangaroos?
PNG and Australia not only share many cultural links but ecological links as well. There is a line (the Wallace Line) in Indonesia to the west of the island of Papua which is an ecological divide. To the west of the line is one distinct group of species and to the east of it is another distinct group. Kangaroos are one of them and tree kangaroos are not just found in Papua New Guinea, they can also be found in the far north of Australia. They are quite literally a tree climbing kangaroo! Unfortunately now in Papua New Guinea they are very rare and hard to see. They have succumbed to some hunting pressures, but there are still some out there and it isn’t impossible to see them. We have had clients who have seen them on trips but they are very hard to see, so don’t go there expecting to see them, think of them as an added bonus.
Do you know which companies offer a group tour to Papua New Guinea?
Wildlife Worldwide operate a range of tours across Papua New Guinea, either small group tours, but more commonly we send people on a tailor-made basis. You can see the range of tours here.
Is Port Moresby Nature Park worth visiting?
Port Moresby Nature Park is arguably one of the best wildlife parks of its kind and you will definitely see tree kangaroos there. They do really good conservation work both with the wildlife and with the local communities. It is definitely worth going there and you will often see wildlife that you won’t see anywhere else.
Would you recommend visiting during the festival season?
The one time when things get busy due to tourism in Papua New Guinea is during the festival season. It is important to remember that the cultural festivals are put on for the tribes people to display their finery to each other and they are not put on as a tourist attraction. You’re very welcome to visit but capacity is quite small so if you want to visit, you have to plan it a year or two in advance to get a space. While visiting during the festival period is a great experience, remember there is plenty more to see and do and I prefer going when it is a bit quieter. When you go to a remote village and they haven’t seen anyone for six months, you do feel more like an explorer!
Are there any culture tours you can do?
Any tour in Papua New Guinea includes the culture. Even if your primary focus is birdwatching, you cannot go to Papua New Guinea and ignore the culture. It is all around you no matter where you go. It is also such a fascinating culture that it cannot be overlooked. What Wildlife Worldwide can do is tailor-make your trip and organise for you to stay at lodges with local guides who can take you out and explore not just the wildlife but the local communities so you have a chance to meet tribal groups and see villages. Any tailor-made trip to Papua New Guinea will include a large proportion of culture. You can also book to walk the Kokoda Track with Walks Worldwide.
Do people mind if you take photos of them?
Like with anywhere, you need to ask permission to take photographs. If you are witnessing a Sing Sing then I think that is fine. But if you want to take a portrait of someone then always go up and ask. It is possible that they will ask for a little bit of money and it’s up to you whether you want to do that or not.
How commercialised is the Kokoda Track?
Mark: I didn’t find it too commercialised but then I never met any other walkers on the route as I was off season in the rains. It’s not exactly a great wilderness escape because there are settlements on the route. But the WWII history on route was visceral and engrossing.
If I had 10 days to tour PNG , what would be the best itinerary?
Mark: If it’s your first time I would stick to the main Guinea Island, and maybe split your time between Highlands and Sepik regions. With 10 days you’ll need to work with a tour operator as going DIY requires a lot of logistics. Maybe, if you like nature and birdwatching, try Kumul Lodge or a place like this. In Sepik, you can arrange river trips. A good lodge to base yourself in might be Karawari Lodge.
Has anyone backpacked, rather than going on an official tour? What is the infrastructure like to travel within PNG in terms of public transport and accommodation like hostels and home-stays?
Mark: I’ve done a little travel outside of assistance of a tour operator and I can say the logistics are not easy and you need time. Public transport vans (PMVs) are a genuine option but hit and miss and you’ll just need a little patience. I’ve stayed in a number of homestays over the years, particularly on the islands which are inexpensive. Remember though, the only way to travel between major regions is to fly as there is no national road network.
Are there off the beaten track eco-type lodges to stay in?
Mark: I think it is fair to say most eco-lodges in PNG are a bit off the beaten track. Ones that come to mind – yet they are a little more popular – include Ambua Lodge, Kumul Lodge, and Karawari Lodge. Ask a tour operator or check out the PNG Tourism website as my most recent trips to Trobriands and Bougainville have been to islands with very little tourism infrastructure.
What are the best dives spots in Papua New Guinea?
Papua New Guinea is in the the Coral Triangle region, and there are so many great dive spots. Walindi (Kimbe Bay), Lissenung (New Ireland), Tufi, Rabaul and Milne Bay are probably the most famous spots.
Is the diving mainly liveaboard or are there any good land based options?
There are liveaboards from Kimbe Bay, but otherwise, diving is resort based. Liveaboards certainly offer an exciting option. Resort-based diving in Papua New Guinea, unlike some other destinations, is also absolutely world-class. It is also possible to combine both!
Can you combine a diving and wildlife trip?
Absolutely! You can combine diving and wildlife in one trip. Some of our clients also plan around the festivals and combine this with the diving, but you need to plan well ahead.
What is the situation with the corals. Are the reefs dying off?
That is a problem in some parts of the world now unfortunately, but certainly not Papua New Guinea. It is blessed with an ideal combination of factors that ensure it has, quite possibly, the healthiest coral reefs in the world.
When is the best time to go diving there and are there strong currents at the dive sites?
You can dive all year in Papua New Guinea. For the most part, April to October would be considered the peak diving season, but it does depend where you go as there are some micro climates. Tufi, for example, is best from October through to March, which brings the best opportunities to visit the thrilling outer reefs.
What about snorkelling?
There is wonderful snorkelling in many areas. Walindi, Lissenung and possibly Milne Bay are all options worth looking into. Dive Worldwide cater for snorkellers as well as divers. Increasingly, there are many people looking for truly world-class marine life experiences while snorkelling.
Mark Stratton’s incredible article on Bougainville will be in the next issue of Wanderlust, onsale 17 June.
We asked the experts what their one must-visit place in Papua New Guinea was. Here is what they said...
Mark: For me, the Sepik region is the place that has entranced me the most. From having several trips down the river ranging from dugout canoes to relative luxury on a cruise boat, I have been blown away by the culture. It is just so raw and so happening. You just see everything and it is incredible. This is a river where the people are just living in a different world and I find it fascinating. The further you get a way from the main villages, the more incredible it becomes.
Brett: I loved Kokopo in East New Britain not only for the culture which is fantastic but also for the history. The World War history is remarkable. It also has active volcanoes which makes it very exciting. I also swam with some 100 spinner dolphins for over an hour and a half there, so what’s not to like about that?
Robin: During my last trip to Papua New Guinea at the end of 2019, I visited Lake Murray which is a less-visited area. I really did feel like an explorer and it was the only place I have ever seen a bird of paradise. I went from the boat, into the forest and saw a bird of paradise within ten minutes of being there so I would go back to Lake Murray in a heartbeat.
This video was incredible, It makes you want to travel to PNG to experience the culture, admire beautiful nature and learn more about the country. Simply amazing.
PNG has been on my 'go to ' list for a long time and you have made me want to visit even more! thank you.
What an adventure! Sounds like a fascinating destination…
Thank you Mark for such an amazing presentation! Really inspired to travel to PNG.
Wow what an amazing place and much more aware of the cultural diversity there.
Thanks for a brilliant session, reinforced the visit that's been on my bucket list forever!
Thanks for put up this event and make lots of people aware of this wonderful destination.
Thanks everyone for such a wonderful evening - inspirational for our post-lockdown world!
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