Papua New Guinea Provinces


With a history of gold mines and coffee plantations, Eastern Highlands Province has had more exposure to European influence than any of the other Highlands provinces. It has a history full of colourful characters - miners, missionaries, patrol officers, plantation owners. Traditional dress is seldom worn these days, although the Highlanders still live in villages of neat clusters of low walled round huts built amongst the rolling kunai-grass covered hills.

Goroka, a small outpost station in the 1950's, has developed into an attractive, well organised town with modern facilities and relaxed atmosphere. It is a major Highlands commercial centre of 25,000 people and at an altitude of 1600 metres it has a climate of perpetual spring.

Today Goroka has become known for its annual show, held every August. It is a marvellous opportunity to gain an overview of PNG's cultural diversity. The shows were first held in the 50's as a means of gathering together the different tribes and clans. At times there could be more than 40,000 painted warriors dancing to the beat of the Kundu drums. The scenario was an amazing success and grew from its original concept of a local get-together into a major tourist attraction.

Amongst the performers are the legendary mud men of Asaro. Tribal folklore records that centuries ago the warriors of Asaro were defeated in a tribal fight with a neighbouring village. Honour compelled the men to retaliate with a "payback" raid, and, to make themselves look fierce in the process, covered their bodies with grey mud. According to legend, the ruse worked, and their enemies fled at the sight of these ghostly apparitions. The mud men recreate the drama at the Goroka show and for hotel tour groups.

The Raun Raun Theatre Company, based in Goroka is a highly acclaimed performing group which tours both nationally and internationally. The theatre is located near the market, just a short walk from the town centre.

The J.K. McCarthy Museum in Goroka is named after one of Papua New Guinea's legendary patrol officers. It is second only to the National Museum in Port Moresby and exhibits a wide variety of artefacts, handicrafts, war relics and a collection of photographs which portray early contact between Europeans and Highlanders.

From the Post Office, the street leads to a track that climbs to Mt Kiss lookout. A long steep walk ends with a magnificent vista across the valley. More serious trekking can be found south of Goroka at Lufa, the base of Mt Michael. There is a cave nearby with some interesting prehistoric paintings.

From Goroka on the old road to Kainantu is the village of Bena Bena, a centre for weaving. The men operate the hand looms, weaving pleasantly coarse rugs, bedspreads and place mats.

Eleven kilometres out of town by four wheel drive is the Mt Gahavisuka Provincial Park. This is an area of around 80 hectares set in beautiful mountain scenery. The Park includes a botanical sanctuary, where exotic plants from all over PNG have been added to the local, natural orchids and rhododendrons. There are clearly marked walking tracks and a lookout at 2450 metres with panoramic views.

Hotels can arrange day tours to any of the attractions near Goroka including visits to working coffee plantations, processing plants and the Kotuni trout farm - a favourite on local menues.

There are a number of options for accommodation in Goroka, ranging from the top of the range Bird of Paradise Hotel to the Teachers College Campus.

Air Niugini has daily direct flights to Goroka from Port Moresby. Third level airlines also provide connections to Goroka from various centres. Local PMV buses travel regularly between Lae and Goroka.

Map of Eastern Highlands


Beautiful Rabaul, half buried during the 1994 volcaniceruptions, is re-emerging as a tourist destination with a difference. There are few places where the dramatic consequences of the contrasting moods of nature can be experienced so intimately.

The drive from the airport, now located at Tokua about an hour from Rabaul, is along a narrow road winding its way around the glittering waters of the Gazelle Peninsula. Through the coconut trees villages of thatched huts surrounded by colourful flowerbeds and tropical fruit trees look out over calm waters. The Tolai children with their bleached hair and wide smiles stop their play to wave at passing traffic.

Across the Harbour is Tavurvur, bellowing great clouds of black-ash filled smoke, some days grumbling, other days bellowing. From this warm tropical lushness enter the now lunar-like landscape at the base of the volcano, Vulcan. Further on, pass through untouched suburban streets before turning into the main street of Mango Avenue. Amidst the tangled mass of rubble and ruins covered in layers of muddy volcanic ash, three former resort hotels have been resurrected and stand like oases amidst the desolation to welcome the awe-struck visitor.

The history of Rabaul is one of wreckage and regrowth. Modern historians will find a treasure trove of World War 2 relics, tunnels and caverns to explore within driving distance of Rabaul. Close to the now thriving centre of Kokopo, are the remnants of Gunantambu mansion, built in the 1880's by the legendary "Queen Emma".

War wrecks also litter the surrounding reefs. The excellent visibility makes this an exciting dive spot all year round. Dive trips, day tours as well as charter boats for fishing can be organised through any of the hotels.

Out of Rabaul, along the north coast road to Kabakada is the Kulau Lodge. Located on the beach front, it is built in traditional style of woven kunai grass. It is surrounded by gardens and the large, airy restaurant provides a relaxing area to enjoy the magnificent views across the sea.

Forty five minutes by boat from Kokopo are the Duke of York Islands offering sport diving, snorkelling and picnics under the coconut trees. The lagoons around this historical group of islands provide all-weather canoeing, wind surfing and skiing and are a haven for visiting yachts.

There are daily Air Niugini flights to Rabaul.

Map of East New Britain


Enga Province, sharing a border with Western Province, features rugged mountains, high valleys and fast flowing rivers. The Engan people are a hardy race living mostly by subsistence farming. Tribal warfare is still a common way to settle inter-tribal disputes and ceremonial life encompasses the giving, receiving and displaying of wealth.

Ceremonies are presided over by tribal elders, distinguished by their two-metre high head-dress displaying the brilliant colours of plumes from the bird of paradise. Proud warriors painted in bright ochre dance long into the night to the beat of the Kundu drums. The ceremonial singsing can last for days during which time many pigs, the greatest symbol of wealth, will be presented as gifts. Men will slaughter and prepare a feast of pork, green leaves and vegetables cooked in a deep earth pit over hot coals. After several hours it is shared amongst the guests with the choice cut being offered to the guest of honour.

Monetary wealth has come to the Engan landowners since the introduction of coffee plantations and more importantly the development of the Porgera gold and silver mine, estimated to be the largest gold mine outside South Africa. Despite the wealth, development of infrastructure has been slow. The rugged terrain does not lend itself well to progress. Landslides and broken bridges are common along country roads and walking is often the only alternative to travel by four wheel drive.

Trekking enthusiasts will find their efforts rewarded by the magnificently unspoilt surroundings. In the west of the province is Laiagam. The Botanical Gardens here have a collection of over 100 species of native orchids and more than thirteen species of rhododendrons. Lake Rau, in the middle of Enga, is a crater lake 3000 metres above sea level. It is a day's walk from the nearest village of Pumas. A guide is recommended.

Wabag is the provincial headquarters. It is about four hours drive by bus or four wheel drive from Mt Hagen. The Wabag Cultural Centre includes a museum with a fine display of wigs, war shields and masks and an art gallery. The centre also houses a workshop where young artists are taught the skills of sand painting, an art form unique to Enga Province. Using ground stone in natural hues as a medium, the sand painters create landscapes and legendary figures on a base of wood or plasterboard. The centre is open from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm week days.

There are several comfortable lodges to stay in and around Wabag including the Kaiap Orchid Lodge, the Wabag Lodge and the Malya Hostel, a budget priced mountain hideaway. All lodges will arrange transfers and day tours.

Map of Enga


One of the world's largest waterways, the Sepik, snakes it's way through East Sepik Province. Dense rainforest covers the north coast and the mountains north and south of the river basin. Birdlife and rainforest creatures splash colour across the blue and green hues. Sepik fishermen in their dugout canoes wave to visitors on the great white catamaran, the "Melanesian Explorer", as it plies it way down the river taking passengers on a journey which will impress an unforgettable image of the magnificence of Papua New Guinea.

The Sepik River, often compared to the Amazon and Congo Rivers, presents nature untamed and unspoilt. See it from the comfort of the "Melanesian Discoverer" or the "Sepik Spirit", a luxury twelve berth flat-bottom river cruiser. For the more adventurous, the Karawari Lodge on the Karawari River south of the Sepik is a quality but very remote jungle tourism lodge, or spend some time in a guest house in the villages along the river.

Wewak, with its palm fringed beaches is the main town of East Sepik. Not far from Wewak is Cape Wom, the site of the Japanese surrender where Lieutenant General Adachi signed the surrender documents and handed his sword to Major General Robertson on 13th September 1945. A war memorial marks the site and the wartime airstrip is still in place. Another memorial in town has been erected at the site of the Japanese war graves and nearby is the Japanese/PNG Peace Park.

Accommodation in Wewak, while not luxurious, provides adequate facilities as a base for day trips to one of the 15 islands off the coast of Wewak. Idyllic tropical islands become a reality when you travel by boat to Kairiru Island with its waterfalls and hot springs. Swimming and snorkelling are superb in these clear turquoise waters. Diving is simply spectacular. Virtually unknown and untouched, the waters and reefs display an abundance of sea life - turtles, sharks, manta rays, tuna, corals as well as sunken wrecks from World War 2.

Map of East Sepik


Gulf Province, located on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea is dominated by highland mountains, lowland river deltas and wide expanses of seasonally flooded grass plains. The Turama, the Kikori, the Purari and the Vailala are just some of the great rivers that flow into the swampy, delta-land of the Papuan Gulf.

The people of the delta-land build their houses on piles high above the muddy river banks. As the rivers change course they frequently have to move their villages. Each village is centred around the men's longhouse, known as a dobu or ravi, where weapons, important artefacts, ceremonial objects and, in the past, the skulls of enemies were stored. Men slept in the longhouse, women in smaller, individual huts outside.

Cannibalism was a way of life for the fierce gulf people until the arrival of Christianity. Although head-hunting has not survived European civilisation, seven distinct styles of artistic craftsmanship have been categorised. A thriving market for carved masks, bull roarers, headrests, skull racks and gope boards keeps local craftsmen busy.

Gope boards are elliptical in shape and incised with brightly coloured abstract patterns. Warriors were entitled to have a gope board for each act of bravery and a board from the vanquished enemy's canoe held particular significance, transferring some of its previous owner's strength to the victor.

Delta towns Kikori and Baimuru, although set well back from the coastline, are both serviced by coastal freighters. Canoes are still an important means of transport for villagers. The provincial centre of Kerema enjoys its government status solely because it is situated to the east of the lowland delta region and is drier. The town affords most of the basic amenities and services.

Very few tourists visit the Gulf and tourism facilities are not readily available. Keen fishermen and canoeists visit the area and bushwalking expeditions have retraced the journeys of earlier explorers. Trekking to Wau through the Bulldog Road, created in the early 1900's during the gold exploration epic, is one such route. There are some guest houses available and village stays can be arranged.

The Moale Festival commemorates the traditional Motuan trade voyage from Central Province to the Gulf, in search of sago in exchange for the Motuan clay pots. This event is held every September. In November the Provincial School of Arts and Crafts holds its annual festival.

Gulf Province has about 500 kms of roads, mainly along the eastern coast and mountains. River and sea transportation is the popular mode of travel. Third level airlines also serve this part of the country.

Map of Gulf

Copyright © 2004 Embassy of Papua New Guinea to the Americas and Globescope, Inc.
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