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Regions, Provinces and Towns in Papua New Guinea

MAJOR REGIONS
1. HIGHLANDS REGION and its Provinces
Eastern Highlands Province
Simbu (Chimbu) Province
Southern Highlands Province
Hela Province
Western Highlands Province
Jiwaka Province
Enga Province
2. NEW GUINEA ISLANDS REGION and its Provinces
East New Britian Province
West New Britian Province
Manus Province
New Ireland Province
North Solomons Province
3. MOMASE REGION and its Provinces
East Sepik Province
Madang Province
Morobe Province
West Sepik Province
4. Papuan Region and its Provinces
Central Province
Gulf Province
Oro Province
Milne Bay Province
MAJOR TOWNS AND CITIES IN PNG
Port Moresby
Lae
Mt Hagen
Madang
Goroka
Rabaul
Kimbe
Kavieng
Wabag
Mendi
Tari

THE HIGHLANDS PROVINCE

The Highlands – is the most heavily populated and agriculturally productive region of PNG. It’s remarkable and beautiful, with fertile valleys, turbulent rivers and seemingly endless, saw-toothed mountains –It is difficult to visualize that only quiet recently did the outside world come to really discover the diverse and attractively inventive tribes that live here.

In the 1930s, when the European explorers made it into PNG’s rugged interior, they didn’t find the unbroken tangle of mountains they had expected. Instead they stumbled into broad, heavily cultivated valleys and a million-plus people. Ironically, it wasn’t the imposing topography but the cultural divide that amazed the participants of this unexpected ‘first contact’.

The Highlands region today, is a vibrant part of PNG and a unique part of Melanesia. Its peoples’ lives are changing rapidly, but many aspects of their traditional cultures remain. Clan and tribal loyalties are still very strong. Men as the superior of women still exist. Pigs and gardening remain the two most important things in life and tribal fighting is still a common manner in which disputes are solved.

People in the Highlands mostly wear Western second-hand clothing which is mainly imported from Australia. Women are still into their meri-blouse and wrap-around skirts (kolos & laplap). However, during the famous celebrated Highland shows, the feathers, shells, bark, mud quills and skins come out. Only in an anthropologist’s wildest dreams could you see such a gathering of colorful tribes. Featuring in the shows will be the famous Asaro mud-men and Huli wigmen, sili muli from Enga Province, snake-boys, skeleton people, and other famous stars on tour itineraries such as the Welder ladies from Western Highlands Province who are traditionally built for such occasions.

Originally the Highlands Region has 5 Provinces which is the; Eastern Highlands (around Goroka), Simbu (around Kundiawa), Western Highlands (around Mt Hagen), Enga (around Wabag) and Southern Highlands (around Mendi). However, just recently, there were two more additional provinces which is the Hela Province (Tari which was divided from Southern Highlands) and Jiwaka Province ( Minj & Banz which was divided from Western Highlands Province). All these highlands Provinces have the country’s most massive road system and an ever growing economy based on, oil, gold, copper, coffee and tea.

Eastern Highlands Province Back to Top

Eastern highlands was the first Highlands province to be colonised in by colonial administrators and it was the first the feel the impact of missionaries, prospectors, mercenaries and misfits who have all visited these parts. It is the most heavily populated of all the province in the region and its located at altitudes between 1500m and 2300m. It is less cohesive group than their Highland cousins. The mountains of this province form the headwaters for two of PNG’s most important river systems: the Ramu River, which runs parallel to the coast to the northwest, and the Wahgi and Aure Rivers, which run south and enter the Gulf of Papua as the Purari River. The province’s highest point is Mt Michael (3647m).

Simbu Province

Simbu Province is west from Goroka; Simbu is mountainous, much more rugged and steep with valleys that are smaller and less accessible. Papua New Guinea’s highest mountain, Mt Wilhelm (4509m) is found in this Province. There are also vast limestone caves near Kundiawa and Chuave (very good for rock climbers).

The Province derived its name when the first patrol officers gave steel axes and knives to tribes’ people, and in appreciation they replied saying simbu (very pleased). Simbu is sometimes pronounced chim-bu, and sometimes spelt that way. Regardless of its rugged topography, it is the second most heavily populated region in PNG. The people have turned their steep land into a patchwork of gardens spreading up every available hillside. Population pressures are pushing them to even higher ground, threatening remaining forests and bird of paradise habitats. Most people in the province speak a similar language or a common language called the Kuman language – Simbu dialects make up PNG’s second-largest language group.

Simbus are said to be avid capitalists who watch their coffee profits, and strong believers in payback – minor warfare is still common around Simbu and there’s a pervading eye-for-an-eye ethos. The town which is Kundiawa is known as the four corner town because of the shape in-which the shops are lined up.

Southern Highlands Province Back to Top

Southern Highlands Province is made up of Mendi, Magarima, Nipa, Ialibu, and Pangia. This region is particularly beautiful with lush high valleys and it is the mouth of some great big rivers, including the Kikori, Erave and Strictland. The province also has the second highest mountain of PNG which is Mt Giluwe at 4368 meters high and rests on the province’s northern eastern border.

Mendi area is the most developed part in the Southern Highlands but it was not explored by Europeans until 1935. In 1950 when the first airstrip was constructed and 1952 before tribal warfare was forbidden (taboo). The Mendi tribes then focused their attention on attacking government patrols and were still fighting them in the mid-1950s. The ‘discovery’ of the beautiful Lavani Valley in 1954 triggered newspaper journalists to write detailed stories about the discovery of a lost Shangri-la.

Hela Province

The most remote Province of the highlands, this Province consists of Tari, Komo, Hides, and Lake Kutubu. It lies between towering limestone peaks and thick untouched rainforest.  Their traditional cultures thrive, especially in the Tari Basin where most people still hold on to their traditional ways and whose men are famous for their intricately decorated wigs. Tari has more attractions and services for travelers, the limestone hills and high rainfall are ideal for the formation of caves. Some caves of enormous depth and length have already been explored and it is a distinct possibility that some of the deepest caves in the world are still awaiting discovery in this region.

The Hela Province is still very much undeveloped, the setting up of oilfields near Lake Kutubu and now the multi-billion kina project which is the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) with its major contractor Exon Mobile is gradually opening up the Province.

In pre-European times the province was at the end of the trade route from the Gulf of Papua into the Highlands.

NIUGINI ISLANDS REGION Back to Top
This region is made up of people from East and West New Britain, Manus, New Ireland and North Solomons. The people from East New Britain have been seen as culturally diversified with rich and unique traditions. The  “tumbuan” signifies spiritual dancers and traditional ceremonies that demonstrates a history well kept and used in today’s society. The NGI region has a tropical humid climate.Temperature  would normally be between 24 and 32 degree Celsius, and drop to 20 degree Celsius during wetter months.

All basic infrastructures can be found in all the four provinces of this region. Banks, hospitals, police, shops, market, internet cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, meeting venues, public transport, security services, telephones and other communication technology including mobile phones work in most parts of the provinces.

East New Britain.

The capital of the province is Kokopo , not far from the old capital of Rabaul, which was largely destroyed in a 1994 volcanic eruption. East New Britain covers a total land area of 15,816 square kilometres , and the province has an estimated population of 220,133 (2000 census). East New Britain has a dual economy: a cash economy operates side by side with the subsistence farming sector. The main crops produced for are cocoa and copra. Tourism continues to be an increasingly important sector of the provincial economy.

West New Britain Province

The provincial capital is Kimbe. The area of the province is 21,000 square kilometres , and there are 184,508 inhabitants (2000 census). The province produces palm oil for export. There are seven (7) major tribes, the Nakanai, Bakovi, Kove, Unea, Maleu, Kaulong and Arowe, speaking a total of close to 25 languages. There are substantial oil palm plantations on the north coast of the province especially in the Kimbe region, and logging activities in the interior and on the south coast. The Walindi dive resort near Kimbe is a significant tourist destination for overseas visitors to Papua New Guinea.

Manus Province

Manus is the smallest province in Papua New Guinea with a land area of 2,100 square kilometres, but with more than 220,000 square kilometres of water. The capital of the province is Lorengau and the total population is 43,387 (2000 census). The province is made up of the Admiralty Islands ( a group of 18 islands in the Bismarck Archipelago) and Wuvulu Island and nearby atolls in the west. The largest island in the grouop is Manus Island where Lorengau is located. This is one of the most beautiful island provinces of the country, very untouched and a very good holiday destination.

New Ireland Province

The province has the mixture of the old and the new; traditional culture practices (“custom”) are widespread and almost universally urbanisation, and various aspects of global contemporary culture making their mark. It has a population of over 118,000 people (2000 census) with the vast majority of living in small rural villages. The main town is Kavieng, the provincial capital, on the northern tip of the main island; Namatanai is another small town halfway along the island. The Boluminski Highway runs down the east coast, linking the two towns. Over 20, languages are spoken in New Ireland, and the number of dialects and sub dialects totals over 40.

North Solomons Province

NS is also known as the Autonomous Region of Bogainville, and is an autonomous region. The largest island is Buka and assorted outlying islands including Carterets. The capital is temporarily Buka,  though it is expected that Arawa will once again become the provincial capital. The population of the province is 175,160 (2000 census). Bougainville Island is ecologically and geographically, not politically, part of the Solomon Islands. Buka, Bogainville, and most of the Solomons are part of the Solomon Islands rain forests eco region.

MOMASE REGION Back to Top
Climate and Geography: This region is made up of people from Morobe, Madang, and East and West Sepik. The Momase region has a tropical humid climate, envied by many around the country. Temperature would normally range between 24 and 32 degree Celsius, and drop to 18% degree Celsius during wetter months. Like the rest of the country, it experiences dry and wet seasons.
Wrapped by beautiful mountains, botanical gardens and parks, walking tracks, old gold mining routes, over 200 bird species, reef fringed lowlands, offshore volcanic islands, tropical coastlines, coral reefs, and game fishing spots, big butterflies  and unique orchid species, Lae and Madang offer natural sceneries that are absolutely breathtaking. In fact, Madang has been described as the “prettiest town in the Pacific.” It is also known as the diver’s paradise. Go to the Sepik and you are captured by the strength of the mighty Sepik River, which runs kilometres from its sources in the Central Mountains to the sea. It is a wonderland of islands, gorgeous coastlines, river systems, and mountain ranges.

Infrastructure: All basic infrastructures can be found in all the four provinces of this region. Banks, hospital, police, shops market, internet cafes, coffee shops, restaurant, meeting venues, public transport, security services, telephones and other communication technology including mobile phones work in all the provinces.

Lae and Madang are connected by road to the highlands region, and they inter-connect. The Sepik provinces are accessed by air transport. Air Niugini runs weekly and daily flights through the centres.

East Sepik Province

In the Sepik Region there are two Provinces, East Sepik and West Sepik which is known as Sandaun Province. East Sepik Province is much more developed than Sandaun Province and includes the most-visited and heavily populated sections of the Sepik, as well as several large arms of rivers. In 1945 here in East Sepik the Japanese at last admit defeat to their allies and various war relics can still be found, rotting where they were left. Wewak is the Provincial capital and it is linked by three roads to the famous Sepik River and districts of Angoram, Timbunke, and Pagui.

Sepik River and Its Tributaries

Great and mighty Sepik is the most famous feature of Papua New Guinea. It has captured the collective imagination of adventure travellers. It represents to foreigner something unusually primitive, and an embodiment of ideas portrayed in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – a vast, densely populated river region home to isolated people (Conrad was a friend of the anthropologist Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski).

The beautiful stilt villages along the river, the impressive architecture of haus tambarans, the scale of the great sepik river, the long canoes with crocodile-head prows, flower-clogged lakes, misty dawns and astonishing sunsets make a visit memorable.

The most frequently visited parts of the river is the middle Sepik, however, it is not packed with tourists – you’re unlikely to bump into other travellers. The river carries traders and missionaries, but that’s about it. Although the photos of Sepik villages may look heavenly, they don’t show the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes or the basic village food. Nor do they show the contemplative nature of travelling for hours every day in a motor-canoe, watching ibis take to the sky as you round a bend, or the rewards of experiencing these rich and intriguing cultures.

During the dry season water levels drop dramatically, cutting off villages and turning the lakes stagnant. The trapped water heats up resulting in a toxic algae bloom which kills the fish. Eagles then feast on the dead fish (which are found in droves on the river banks).

The river has few exploitable natural resources and has attracted little development in spite of the density of the population. Even in the face of Western influences, the people on the river are living much the same way as their ancestors – people here cook in Western pots and drive motor-powered boats and canoes, they wear Western clothes, but they still practise many traditions.

Christianity, as elsewhere in PNG, is blended with many traditional beliefs. Although most Sepik people would claim to be Christian (they go to church every Sunday) it’s a very localised interpretation. The religious world is also inhabited with the spirits of ancestors and crocodiles.

The Sepik is too big to cover, so pick a section and give yourself plenty of time to relax in the villages in between legs on the river – don’t try and do too much. Two or three Middle Sepik villages are enough for most people, and some enjoy it more when they get off the main river.

The Upper Sepik extends from the river’s source to just below Ambunti, the Middle Sepik covers from Ambunti to Tambanum and the Lower Sepik is the final section from Tambanum to the coast.

Madang Province

The beautiful Madang says it and has it all. It is PNG in miniature. It has coastal people, islanders, mountain people and river dwellers. The fertile coastal strip is backed by some of the most rugged mountains in PNG. The Adelbert and the Schrader Range to the north, and the Finister Range to the south.

Madang is a little withdrawn, a little more reserved than her sisters. Like a Melanesian maiden from a cliché in a South Pacific musical, Madang is nicknamed as the ‘Prettiest town in the Pacific’. And to be sure, she has obvious charms – perched on a peninsula as she is, surrounded by scenic islands and sprinkled with parks, ponds and water-lily-filled waterways.

The township of Madang was rebuilt after it was almost wiped out during the Japanese inhabitation and successive fighting. There are huge Casuarina trees that tower over the Madang streets which house huge colonies of flying foxes. The trees may have

Madang’s warm, wet climate and fertile soil produce luxuriant growth. Many of the huge casuarina trees that tower over the Madang streets support huge colonies of flying foxes. The trees may have escaped WWII moderately intact but Madang itself wasn’t so lucky. Madang is PNG’s most tourist-oriented city and provides a range of facilities with some excellent places to stay in all price range.

Morobe province

Morobe Province is the industrial heart of PNG and gateway to both the Highlands and Islands. A string of village guesthouses along the beautiful Huon Coast are a great opportunity to get off the beaten track and for those up to the challenge, the historic war time Black Cat, Bulldog and Skindiwai Tracks will challenge the most avid outdoor enthusiast.

Intense WWII fighting has bequeathed a legacy of battlefield relics from submerged shipwrecks to downed aircrafts. Culturally, the region boasts 171 distinctive languages and hosts the spectacular Morobe Show in late October.

MAJOR TOWNS & CITIES Back to Top

Lae
Lae is PNG’s second-largest city and, despite having a sizable industrial base, it is vastly more attractive than Port Moresby. Like other PNG cities the streets are filled with people and it can be hard to imagine what all the crowds are doing. No one seems to be in a rush; happy to chat with friends and amble around town – until about 4pm when all hell breaks loose as everyone tries to catch a PMV simultaneously.

Despite its hard-nosed reputation, don’t be afraid to stash your valuables back in the hotel and do some ambling about town yourself. The locals don’t bite.
On its outskirts Lae boasts the wonderful Rainforest Habitat, probably the best place in PNG for seeing the country’s fantastic wildlife without having to mount a months-long expedition to do so.

Mt Hagen

Mt Hagen is  PNG’s third biggest city, and lies 445km from Lae and 115km from Goroka. ‘Hagen’, as it’s often called, was a patrol station before WWII, and has boomed in the last 30 years as Enga and the Southern Highlands have opened up. Now it’s an unruly city with major squatter settlements and many itinerant people. As in Lae and Port Moresby, Hagen’s streets are packed with people.

The city’s ambience can vary from the usual PNG relaxed vibe to periods of heavy tension during elections or interclan disputes.

Goroka
Goroka’s high altitude produces cool temperatures and warm people – both can be a welcome relief from lowland heat and Port Moresby paranoia. The town has grown from a small outpost in the mid-1950s to a major commercial centre, and it’s now the main town in the Eastern Highlands Province.
Mountains encircle the town which in turn almost encircles the airport. Leafy streets, a pleasant climate and all the essential services combine to make it one of PNG’s most attractive towns. More relaxed than Mt Hagen, safer than Lae, and caught between them both means there are decent roads in and out of town.

The old colonial houses with their spacious verandas on McNicholl St hark back to pre-independence days, an arguably wealthier time. Today the main cash crop is coffee and you’ll see it growing under the canopies of larger trees in the hills throughout the district. At 1600m, Goroka enjoys a ‘perpetual springtime’ of warm days and cool nights.

Tari Town Back to Top

Tari is one of the few towns in PNG where some people still wear traditional dress, and the Huli wigmen and their distinctive clothing are a must see. Most of the wig schools are some distance from the town itself and difficult to find, so you will need to organise transport with your guesthouse or join a tour. Often some of the bachelor boys supplement their income by travelling to town to demonstrate how they grow and care for their hair.

Before photographing anyone, traditionally dressed or not, ask permission. Locals are usually happy to be snapped and do not ask for payment (although this doesn’t apply to the wigmen). Still, make your thanks known and if you offer to send copies of the pictures, do. The main market day is Saturday and this is a particularly good time to meet locals in their finery.

The town itself is little more than an airfield and a handful of buildings. There is a post office, police station (540 8022), a few large but basic stores and a hospital.

 

 

2012 Traditional Sing-sings and Festivities:

 2012 Mt Hagen Show Pkgs

 2012 Goroka Show Pkgs

 2012 Morobe Show Pkgs

 2012 PNG Mask Festival

 2012 Waghi Show Pkgs

 

Be ware! Good accommodations for the Mt Hagen Show and Goroka Shows are usually sold out months and years in advance before the actual dates of the shows. Its advisable to book early and secure your rooms. To secure your space for any of the packages on offer send us an email or call us on +675 5423552.

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Remote places like the Lake Kutubu pictured here offers an experience of pure escapism and relaxation.

Curious Islanders looking out in the ocean for an oncoming cruise ship in New Ireland Province.

 

 
 
   
   
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