It’s time to set your travel sights on Papua New Guinea

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A three-hour flight from Brisbane and you stumble across a totally different world in the form of Papua New Guinea


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A three-hour flight from Brisbane and you stumble across a totally different world in the form of Papua New Guinea.

It’s secured a bad rap over the years, with the nation’s capital Port Moresby getting a particular bashing.

And well, not totally unjustifiably. Crime is rife on the streets and the only way for visitors to get around safely is in a hired car with driver (even taxis can be suspect), or hotel shuttle service.

The hotels are, typically, surrounded by secure fencing and have guards, whom are sometimes armed. The plan of action, for tourists, is to move out of the capital as quickly as possible.

Once you fly out of Port Moresby to another part of the country, you’ll feel like you have landed in faraway land, where the environment verges on idyllic.

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The in-flight announcements on commercial planes tell passengers that smoking is prohibited, but they also ask passengers to refrain from chewing betel nut on board.

Betel nut is a mild stimulant that is widely chewed in the country. It isn’t swallowed, but is spat out after use, and it colours the teeth red or purple.

It’s only part of the quirk of flying internally. Standard hand luggage can include long bunches of 50 or more bananas, and baskets overflowing with green-leaf vegetables.

But machetes and bush knives are not allowed on board, they have to be checked in. Obviously.

But where to go for first time visitors wanting to discover a true PNG experience – with a healthy amount of adventure and a limited amount of danger? Here are our top two picks.

Milne Bay

This province, in the southeast of the country, is a 55-minute flight from Port Moresby. It’s all about palm-fringed islands, turquoise water and colorful reefs.

What to see and do

There are seven island groups in the Milne Bay province, so getting around is mainly by motorised longboats (great fun itself). Many islands have places to stay, basic guesthouses to 4-star resorts.

There’s birdwatching, hiking, and eerie tours to caves of skulls. The annual Kenu and Kundu Festival, in Alotau each November, is a showcase of canoeing and drumming.

Where to stay

Alotau is the region’s capital (and also the place you’ll fly into). The town’s accommodation of choice is Driftwood, on the water’s edge. Stay there before exploring the islands.

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Doini Island Plantation Resort has beachfront bungalows and takes guests for swims with giant manta rays. Tawali Dive and Leisure Resort, set in jungle by the sea, has a live-aboard dive boat.

Budget travellers will love the overwater bungalows at Nuli Sapi https://www.facebook.com/NuliSapi.

Safety and friendliness factor: High

Rabaul

In the east of the country, Rabaul is an 85-minute flight from Port Moresby. There are volcanoes, islands, and World War II wrecks to explore. The climate is warm all year.

What to see and do

Trek to the top of the smoking volcano Mount Turvurvur and marvel at the lunar-like landscape that surrounds it.

Then check out Rabaul, a town that was almost totally buried by a massive eruption in 1994. (Most of the population moved to nearby Kokopo).

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There are also Japanese war caves and relics to see, hikes to waterfalls, dolphin tours, swimming (try the hot water near the volcano), snorkelling, diving, visits to local markets and the annual Mask Festival during July that celebrates the region’s mask culture and includes spectacular fire dances.

The nearby Duke of York islands have perfect lagoons and jungle-fringed beaches. It’s possible to stay on the islands in basic traditional houses, and to eat freshly caught seafood, including crayfish, with the locals.

Where to stay

More people stay in Kokopo, rather than Rabaul. (Kokopo is also the town you’ll fly into). Properties to consider include Rapopo Plantation Resort, Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort and Rabaul Hotel.

Safety and friendliness factor: High

All of the activities mentioned can be guided, with arrangements made through tour operators, hotels, or resorts.

And in a breakthrough development, the PNG government announced on July 14 that free 30-day tourist visas on arrival will be available for Australian passport holders.

 

 

 

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