New Guinea

Whilst the Highland region is the most densely populated region in the country, there are friendly locals willing to answer questions about the traditional stone axe (still in use today) displayed by a Huli wigman in shows or the mud coated Asaro Mudmen. In the highlands, the local singsing is an exhibition of cultural dances accompanied by the beat of 'Kundu' drums. "Singsings are common all over the country and the Eastern Highlands or Goroka and Mount Hagen Cultural shows stand out to be popular ones. When planning to attend the Mount Hagen and Goroka Cultural shows, it is advisable to make accommodation bookingsat least one year in advance.

Port Moresby, the gateway to all the excitement and adventures in Papua New Guinea is also prominent for the explosive Hiri Moale festival depicting the epic voyages undertaken by the Motuans of Papua who in the past, trade clay pots for sago in the early trade days. This unique exchange or barter system ensured the survival of Motuans and in return, provided the Gulf people with quality clay pots for domestic use as clay quality was poor in Gulf. The show is a compostion of diverse representation from groups, making up almost 500 entertainers. Additionally, contemporary performers in music, dance and theatre.

The capital city is also home to the national dance and mask festival which is organised by the National Cultural Commission. It falls in March and April each year. Another fascinating cultural event is the Yam festival in the Trobriand Islands of the Milne Bay Province. The festival highlights the workmanship of the Trobriand Islanders who use traditional methods of planting and harvesting yams spuds.

Be ready for first class hospitality as you treat yourself to traditional dishes and local fruits. You can also visit the Trobriand Islands aboard the 21-cabin "MV MTS Discoverer" luxury expeditionary vessel and liveaboard. The MTS Discoverer is operated from Madang by international tour operator Melanesian Tourist Services. Cruising aboard this comfortable and spacious vessel, passengers are able to make dinghy trips out to local villages on the coast. It offers an opportunity of capturing local life and make friends with cheerful islanders. To mark your visit to the Trobriand islands, craftsmen will tempt you to some of Papua New Guinea's finely carved story boards and well crafted souvenir.

Exploring the magical flood plains of the Mighty Sepik river system will leave you breathless as you take in the picturesque scenery and vast expanses of mother nature's wonders. Along the Sepik, smiles are accompanied by friendly chats and the people ensure that your comfort is assured for the duration of your stay. The Sepik stands to be one of Papua New Guinea's natural treasures in terms of art and craftsmanship. Like the Trobriands, the Sepiks are capable of converting imaginative pictures and dreams into reality through carvings and other hand crafts. Samples of Sepik art and culture are displayed overseas on numerous occasions.

The MV MTS Discoverer offers indepth explorations of the extensive river networks of the Upper, Middle and Lower Sepik River and its many tributaries. For a more adventurous experience, guests can walk into villages or travel by dinghy through small river canals to local villages. It gives the traveller the opportunity to experience the lifestyle and daily activities of local Sepik communities. Each routing remains flexible, pending the opportunity to witness any local ceremonies that might occur en route.

If your idea of adventure is witnessing locals dressed in traditional ornaments dancing over blazing flames than Rabaul in the East New Britain Province is the place to be. The local customs and traditions portray the typical Melanesian but very distinct in style. The Malagan carvers for instance, in New Ireland possess a very complicated method of carving wood depicting the process of initiations and rituals. The Malagan Beach Resort in Kavieng affords deluxe beach-front accommodation close to dive sites and excellent surfing.

The Baining Fire Dancers of East New Britain Province are popular for their dances performed over blazing flames after nightfall. This is a ritual show of thanks giving to the gods and release of spirits into the calm of night. The Island Provinces or the New Guinea islands region were the first Papua New Guineans to interact with early missionaries and traders and are outstanding church goers and choirs masters. Local villages along the Buluminski highway in New Ireland province hold traditional secrets to calling white sharks to the surface. This breathtaking experience is offered to visitors and tourists who wish to stay over in the local guest houses. Apart from all the customs and traditions of this untouched paradise, remains of the two world wars and the volcanic vents offer sites of interests and satisfaction in terms of geography and oral history.

Accommodation
PNG offers fine hotels, resorts and village lodges all offering excellent accommodation. In addition, live aboard dive vessels are available in Milne Bay, Madang, East New Britain, New Ireland, West New Britain offering superb diving. A mini-expeditionary cruise vessel operates schedule cruises along the Sepik River and to the Trobriand Islands.

New hotels have opened at Kimbe, Lae, Rabaul, Mt Hagen and Alotau. Guest Houses are opening in all major centres of PNG offering comfortable accommodation.

Medical
Visitors to PNG should consult their doctors to obtain the appropriate anti-malarial depressants and dosage. Malaria is endemic throughout most parts of PNG but this should not deter visitors providing they have taken the precaution of taking malarial tablets. Water in most parts of PNG is quite good, but if in doubt, purchase bottle water or boil. In all major townships there are private doctors and a hospital that can provide visitors medical attention. Medivac organizations that can provide fast jet ambulance services to North Queensland in an emergency. Well stocked Pharmacies are available in all major townships of PNG. A decompression chamber is available in Port Moresby in the event of diving accident.

Like many other developing countries, HIV/Aids is becoming a major problem and visitors should be aware of its prevalence in larger urban areas.

Communication
PNG has a modern telephone system but it is disrupted due to vandalized solar panels on repeater stations. ISD/STD dialing is possible throughout PNG. The country code is 675. Satellite telephone systems are now becoming widespread in remote regions of PNG along with television and other communication technology. Internet is available but tends to be slow and sometimes unreliable.

Transportation
Travel within PNG is by Air Niugini, the National Airline, plus a number of smaller commuter airlines including MBA, Airlink, Island Airways all of whom have a good safety record. In addition to airlines and charter operators in recent years a number of fast ferries have been introduced providing inexpensive travel between major centres such as Rabaul, Kimbe, Lae, Madang, Wewak. The Highlands Highway runs from Lae into all Highland Provinces but travel on PMV vehicles can be uncomfortable and dangerous. Whilst most major towns have feeder roads, very few of the major centres are connected by road. There are not trains in Papua New Guinea. Visitors should practice some caution in utilizing public motor transportation. Rental cars are available in all major centres throughout PNG.

PNG is served internationally by Qantas operating between Australian ports and Port Moresby and by Air Niugini who operate international flights from Brisbane, Cairns, Singapore, Manila, Honiara to Port Moresby and from Cairns to Port Moresby and Lae. Aircraft used are B767, Airbus 321, F28-4000 series.

Air Niugini recently announced they have signed up with the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.