Papua New Guinea

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Truly one of the world’s last travel frontiers, PNG boasts exotic tribes and resplendent birds of paradise, the most beautiful birds in the world

The nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, second largest island in the world, as well as many other Pacific islands, some of a considerable size such as New Britain and New Ireland, and many much smaller islands and atolls.

The most linguistically diverse country on earth, PNG has more than 850 mutually unintelligible, indigenous languages reflecting at least as many different traditional tribal societies. This astonishing cultural variety has given rise to many different forms of expression, including art, carving, dance, singing, music and flamboyant costumes and hairstyles. The colourful cultural heritage is celebrated annually at numerous large regional festivals and sing-sings, including Goroka and Mt Hagen and lesser-known Tumbuna and Kundu.

Habitats range from dense tropical rainforest to savannah and wetland plains, volcanic mountains to white sand beaches and coral reefs. The forests are home to many rare species of marsupial such as tree kangaroo, insects including the Queen Alexandra birdwing (the world’s largest butterfly) and birds such as the cassowary. However, PNG is best known for Sir Richard Attenborough’s favourites: the brilliantly coloured birds of paradise, with 38 of the 43 known species found there.

Papua New Guinea is truly one of the world’s last travel frontiers. Nature and humanity unite in a heady mix of sights and sounds, and many parts of the country remain blissfully unaffected by the ever-advancing ways of the western world. However, PNG is definitely up and coming (it received the Most Emergent Destination award from Wanderlust Magazine in 2014) and, now that Reef & Rainforest can put together tours at reasonable cost, there should be many more visitors, so go now while it’s still authentic and unspoilt.


What To See


A significant producer of coffee, Goroka is the capital of PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province. A town of around 19,000 at an altitude of 1600m, Goroka has a pleasant climate and is known for being a relaxed and friendly place. Culturally it is famous for the Asaro mudmen who cover themselves in mud and don huge frightening mud masks before heading off on raids. Attractions within the town include the Raun Raun Theatre, Mt Kis lookout and the JK McCarthy Museum, celebrating the life of one of PNG’s legendary patrol officers who wrote the classic PNG book, Patrol Into Yesterday.


Located on a peninsula on the north coast of New Guinea island, Madang has been referred to as the prettiest town in the Pacific. With its laid back tropical atmosphere, Madang is a good spot in which to relax at the end of a busy tour. There is excellent snorkelling and diving to be had with good visibility, diverse tropical coral and fish life and many World War II wrecks to explore, both above and below the water.


Famous for its magnificent fjords formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, Tufi is a small town on the far south east coast at Cape Nelson on the main island of New Guinea. The chief attraction is the spectacular fjord, reef and wreck diving. The local cultural heritage (you can stay in friendly village guest houses), orchids, birds and butterflies including the world’s largest butterfly, the Queen Alexandra birdwing, are further reasons to visit the region.

New Britain

New Britain, Papua New Guinea’s largest island, has several active volcanoes, including Ulawun (the nation’s highest volcano), Tavurvur and Vulcan, whose eruption in 1994 destroyed the old capital of East New Britain Province, Rabaul. Today, most of the town still lies under a thick coating of ash. East New Britain Province has a wealth of attractions, including historical sites from World War II, and is particularly famous for fishing and diving. West New Britain is much less developed, with large areas of pristine rainforest still intact. The reefs around New Britain are perhaps the most biodiverse in the world, containing half the Earth’s known coral species and a huge abundance of marine life of every kind.

Sepik River

At 1126 kilometres in length, the Sepik is the longest river in New Guinea and one of the world’s great waterways. Running from its central highlands source to the Bismark Sea, much of its length is navigable. The people living along its banks are highly dependent on the Sepik for transportation and food, and well known for their highly collectible wood carvings and works of art. Life for a villager is still very traditional: for instance, young men from the Middle Sepik still have to endure initiation rites involving scarification, one of many ancient practices which remain to this day.

Mount Hagen

Located in the Waghi valley, Mount Hagen is the capital of Western Highlands Province. First visited by westerners in 1933, the area has developed at a fast pace so that now Mount Hagen is the main gateway to the Highlands and the Sepik area. The town is most famous for its cultural show held annually in August, in which tribes and clans from across the country gather to compete in dance contests in flamboyant traditional costumes.

Western Highlands

With habitats ranging from lowland forest to alpine grasslands and coffee plantations dominating the fertile valleys, Western Highlands Province is one of the most agriculturally productive regions of Papua New Guinea. Sing-sings are an important part of life for the local Waghi tribe, during which clans gather for ritual singing and dancing ceremonies.

Southern Highlands

The Southern Highlands is a remote and underdeveloped province where the tribes have retained their traditional cultures, particularly in the Tari Basin. Tari is one of the few places in Papua New Guinea where tribes habitually wear traditional dress and retain their customs intact, observable on visits to the Huli Wigmen, the region’s largest ethnic group. The Tari Gap is very popular for birdwatching, with 13 species of birds of paradise found in its lush cloud forests.

Port Moresby

The capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, is a sprawling coastal city overlooking a beautiful natural harbour. It contains the parliament, built in the style of a haus tambaran (Sepik worship house), and an interesting national museum. On the outskirts of town lies the Pacific Adventist University estate providing exceptional birding with species such as bowerbird and frogmouth. An on-site guide is available and small fee payable. For anyone interested in birds with a few hours to kill in the Port Moresby area, this location is a must. Another option is to visit the Adventure Park with various species of birds of paradise on display and botanical gardens with beautiful displays of New Guinea’s native flora. While it is normally perfectly safe if accompanied by one of our guides, it is strongly advised not to wander around town alone, especially at night.

Best Time To Visit Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea has a very variable tropical climate. The wet season is normally December to March and the dry season, May to October. April and November are considered cusp months when the weather can be unpredictable. In general, the period between June and September tends to be cooler and drier and therefore perhaps the best time to visit. Temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year in most regions. Average temperature in the lowlands is 27C, while in the highlands it is around 20C.

Papua New Guinea Travel

Getting There

Flight Time

13 Hours from London to Singapore, then 6 hours 40 minutes from Singapore to Port Moresby

Time Zone

GMT +10


Tok Pisin


7.321 million


Wildlife Holidays


Featured Places To Stay

Ambua Lodge

Set in the Southern Highlands at 7000ft with stunning views of the Tari Valley b...

Tufi Dive Resort

Located on the mainland slopes of Mount Trafalgar with stunning views of the fjo...

MV Sepik Spirit

A comfortable, stationary floating lodge with nine spacious en suite guest rooms...

Rondon Ridge

Magnificent views of the Hagen Range, Mount Giluwe, the Sepik Divide, the Baiyer...


Destination Map

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Papua New Guinea: -6.140555, 147.458496

Your Very Own

Papua New Guinea Specialist

Claire Pote

Area Specialist

If you have any questions regarding travel to Papua New Guinea, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965

There should never be less than three nights in this sensational location [Ambua Lodge] with a superb climate (hot during the day and cool at night) with very good food, and seeing the amazing Huli Wigmen with their outstanding head-dresses.

Mr D C - Essex