Photos of Papua New Guinea that Will Make You Pack Your Bags

Posted by at 09:30

While scrolling through my photos on the way home from Papua New Guinea, I realised it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. That said, I’d like to show you why this country made such an indelible impression on me. I’ll definitely be returning here once I complete my mission to visit every single country on our planet.

1. The River Sepik

From Angoram I take several excursions on the mighty River Sepik, visiting tiny villages where people run to their huts to show me their superb wood carvings.

Sepik river Papua New Guinea

2. The Betel-Nut Run

I’m lying on a shipment of betel nuts, which have been loaded onto a small boat in sacks. We are carried through the night on the mighty Sepik, until at sunset we arrive at the river mouth. Once we are out at sea, we set course for an island that seems to consist almost solely of a smoking volcano, where the sacks are loaded into a truck. I hitch a ride to Madang with the merchants. The journey seems interminable, but is also one big adventure.

Boat beach betelnutrun Papua New Guinea

3. The Madang Festival

I get lucky on arrival in Madang, because the festival is on. I spend a whole day gaping at the so-called “sing-sings”, which sees villagers from across the region gathering (and dancing!) in their colourful traditional outfits. I am warmly welcomed to the festival grounds, where even the most dangerous looking men prove to be very friendly and willing to tell me everything about their culture and traditions.

Madang Festival traditional man

4. Climbing Mount Wilhelm (4,509m)

This is unofficially the highest mountain in Oceania. When I reach the top, I find myself standing among iced-up plants, looking out over tufts of cloud at the spectacular hills and lakes below. And then the sun comes out to warm the view and viewer. This is my reward for two days’ climbing and layovers in cold huts under Spartan conditions. Fortunately, I’m pretty fit and have spent an extra day in Keglsugl to acclimatise. Altitude sickness is one of the main reason hikers don’t complete the climb. A guide is essential, because some stretches are done in the dark and the route isn’t always easy to find. This mountain has taken more than one life.

Mount Wilhelm

5. Kiriwina: The Island of Love

The yam is accorded holy status in this unique culture. I helped harvest yams and visited a number of yam houses, where these tubers are stored for future consumption. Festivities mark the end of the yam harvest. And I am fortunate enough to witness the opening of a church.

Kiriwina Papua New Guinea

6. The Volcano at Rabaul

Rabaul was once the capital of New Britain, but in 1994 it was largely destroyed when Mount Tavurvur erupted. The village is located on the edge of Simpson Harbour, which is actually a large submerged crater (a caldera) surrounded by various volcanoes, some of which are active. I climb Tavurvur, where the earth breathes out its smoke, heating the stones at the peak.

It’s an even longer climb to the top of Mount Kombiu, where you’re rewarded with a spectacular view of Mount Tavurvur and the entire bay. You’ll find similar, awe-inspiring panoramas up at the Volcano Observatory around sundown.

Rabaul Volcano Papua New Guinea

7. Matupit – A Hot Village

This village near Mount Tavurvur miraculously escaped destruction during the 1994 eruption, because the wind changed and blew the volcanic ash towards Rabaul in the north. Every day, the men of Matupit cross the bay in their traditional canoes and dig up to two metres into the volcanic ash in search of megapod eggs, which are each worth about a dollar. The beach here is so hot that the waves steam when they break.

Matupit Papua New Guinea

8. Lovely people

Apart from all these spectacular attractions, it was the people who made my visit unforgettable. Every day, without fail, the Papua people moved me with their generosity, their sincere attention, their sense of humour and their laidback interaction with this strange tourist travelling around on his own.

Another amazing facet of this country is that its 7 million-plus inhabitants speak more than 800 different languages. All my efforts to learn a local language were erased as soon as I moved on to the next place, where I had to start all over again.

Kiriwana house

Visiting Papua New Guinea?

How does one get there?
Catch a KLM flight to Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar, Manila or Tokyo, and then catch an Air Niugini flight to Port Moresby.

Things to do
Papua New Guinea has a lot to offer. The mountains on the eastern reaches of the island rise to a height of 4,500 metres, while the western part consists mainly of rain forests surrounding the majestic River Sepik. The islands in the east have glorious sandy beaches, where you can snorkel and dive around the coral reefs and get a taste of a highly authentic culture almost untouched by Western influence.

When to go
Papua New Guinea has a tropical climate. Temperatures in the coast region vary from 25 to 35°C. The interior is somewhat cooler, while temperatures in the highlands can be freezing, especially at night. To avoid the rainy season, plan your visit in May-June or October-November.

Travel warnings
Papua New Guinea presents various challenges to the travellers Not everyone speaks good English, but the local lingua franca, Pidgin, is partly composed of English words and you’ll usually find someone you can communicate with. There is almost no public transport, with most people using PMVs (public motor vehicles), which are larger or smaller buses and trucks with simple seating. The country is relatively poor and it can be unsafe in the bigger towns Port Moresby and Lae. It’s probably best to stay indoors at night when you’re in town. Before setting off, be sure to check if travel warnings have been issued.

Tour operators offer all sorts of package trips. These are great if you’re an inexperienced or nervous traveller. Personally, I found that it’s quite easy to make your way around if you prepare thoroughly and set off with a flexible attitude and an open mind.

Do you want to read more about Boris’ travels, check his website.

13 Responses to Photos of Papua New Guinea that Will Make You Pack Your Bags

  1. Paolo Naldi

    Dear Boris,
    thank you for your photo scroll of this unusual place. It reminds me of the time when I lived in Papua New Guinea jungle in Aitape inland-West Sepik Province (i.e. sundown province in Pidgin). I was a volunteer in a rural area for two years.One of the best period of my life.Thank you again.
    Paolo Naldi
    KLM Milan

    • Boris

      Ciao Paolo, how nice to hear that you lived in Sundaun! Unfortunately, I didn’t make it there this time. I can imagine that living there must be an experience that stays with you for the rest of your life.

  2. Ria Verhoekx

    In 2009 my husband and I visited our son who was doing a medical internship in Port Moresby, Madang and Goroka. As tourists we were advised against visiting Goroka because of tribal tensions. We especially enjoyed the laid back atmosphere in Madang. Several times we took a small boat to Siar Island, Krangket Island and the uninhabited Pig island . The reef is even more beautiful here than the Great Barrier Reef .
    I share your opinion about the very friendly people in Madang (Port Moresby had a lot of crime) .
    It was one of our most memorable vacations . Our son saw the Goroka festival , it was very spectacular and he also climbed Mt. Wilhelm. After flying for KLM for 31 years, I can certainly recommend PNG for the adventurous traveller. Thanks for sharing your story .

    • Boris

      Yes, Port Moresby has a bad reputation for crime; apart from that, it is not overly interesting for the visitor. That’s why I opted to skip it, although I had short visits there in between domestic flights. The people I met in PM were, nevertheless, as friendly as anywhere in the country. Most of them, of course, have roots elsewhere in the country, and are very happy when you have been there and can relate to their background.

  3. Félix Maltchinski

    KLM do not fly there.

    • Boris

      Unfortunately, not – and reaching PNG requires several flights for almost anyone. My underlying message: it’s definitely worth the journey!

  4. guillermo - jimmy - bindon

    august 6 is another landmark in KLM history and south american services, marking 70 years since the departure of the first flight to the River Plate. setting a long standing reputation of top quality and reliable service, with some interruptions for political reasons,
    being the 3rd airline within 6 months to start the first ever regular south atlantic passenger services except pre war zepppelin flights from Brazil to Germany. Although presently flying to Buenos Aires sadly KLM is always absent from the local media and market, no press releases ever published locally but still a top name in airline travel, a reason for all blue KLMers to be proud off.
    my father was present for the first KLM arrivalo in old Moron Airfiled in Buenos Aires and I saw off the last take off in 2001.

  5. Jean

    Thank you for sharing your photos as it was a pleasant reminder of the year, 1995, I lived in Port Moresby.

    • Boris

      My pleasure! I hope you managed to explore the country when you lived there!

  6. Rikie Dommerholt

    Thank you very much for your positive story about Papua New Guinea, the country where I lived for 20 years (1970 – 1990), a couple of years in Madang, a lovely place, 2 years in Kundiawa near Mount Wilhelm, too cold for me, and the remaining years in Lae. I managed there the Guest House for the Lutheran Church, where I met many people from all over the world. Also Lae is a beautiful city, but crime became worse while we were living there and from what I hear now from friends who live there it is not very safe anymore. I reckon 90% of the Papua New Guineans are friendly, caring people, it is just a few who spoil it for the rest. It is heart warming to read your experience with PNG! Thank you very much.

    • Boris

      Wow – 20 years is a long time! I skipped Lae: it was not on my itinerary this time. And yes, I was told that it has the worst crime record of the country, together with Port Moresby. I think 99% of the people are very friendly; I did not meet a “bad” person in over 3 weeks of traveling around. You always need a little bit of luck while traveling not to meet that 1%…

  7. Edwin

    I have been planning on visiting PNG for a long time. Plus, I live in Malaysia so it isnt so far. Also, I love to surf and I heard there are some good surfing spots located in the east. I enjoy your post. Thank you…

  8. Irene

    Thanks for sharing! We are thinking about visiting PNG next year but still hesitant because of its reputation of being dangerous. From your comments, it sounds like traveling in the countryside (with some common sense and adventurous spirit) can be done rather safely…?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *