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Holiday Guides for Oceania - Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea Holiday

Papua New Guinea is believed to have been settled by Asian immigrants more than 50,000 years ago, followed by Austronesians. The first European to arrive in Papua New Guinea was Portuguese explorer Jorge de Meneses.

The eastern half of the island of New Guinea was split between German and British rule in 1885, passed into Australian control and gained independence in 1975 as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The nation remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea comprises a group of islands, which includes the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The small nation of just five and a half million people borders Indonesia, which occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea, and covers an area slightly larger than California.

The country has more than 700 indigenous languages and societies and just 18 per cent has been urbanised, making it a unique place to visit. English is one of the three official languages, which include a local creole dialect, New Guinea Pidgin.

With a 5,152km coastline, Papua New Guinea has some excellent beaches, beautiful resorts and opportunities for watersports. There is excellent diving on some of the islands, such as New Ireland and New Britain, and coral reefs full of colourful fish.

The capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, is the arrival point for most travellers and the busy, crowded city has some problems with crime, though there are also a number of sights and activities for tourists.

Many of the smaller settlements rely on traditional agricultural and fishing practices and local arts and cultures, such as wood carving, jewellery making, music and dancing, are kept alive. The Sepik, a region of islands with open coastline, beaches and mountains, has some interesting places to see, including the indigenous villages along the Sepik River.

There are numerous hikes and nature trails across the islands and guided treks can be arranged relatively easily. Popular sights include the picturesque town of Madang, the still-active volcano on the island of Manam, a network of tunnels and caverns built by the Japanese during World War Two on New Britain, the beautiful Varirata National Park and the stunning Lake Kutubu, high in the mountains.

The exotic wildlife that makes its home in the humid, tropical forest of Papua New Guinea ranges from large, bright butterflies to tiny tree kangaroos and beautiful birds.

There are plenty of secluded resorts dotted around the islands of Papua New Guinea and it is wise to arrange transportation and activities in many areas through a hotel rather than travelling independently, as the country still has some crime problems.

Papua New Guinea is hot and humid all year round, with the wettest season between December and March, though the highlands on the island of New Guinea can be very cold. The dense forests make the island hard to travel around and many places are best visited by plane.

Some travel companies now offer holidays to Papua New Guinea and the islands will delight divers, nature lovers and those interested in different cultures.