I still pinch myself when I remember that I had the chance to experience Papua New Guinea. This country is so unlike any place that I’ve ever been, and while I was there, I truly felt like an explorer. My group traveled with Swain Destinations, a luxury tour operator and member of the USTOA, and in one week, I saw jaw-dropping landscapes, visited remote jungle villages and developed a rich understanding of the fascinating local life of PNG.
Watch the video above, and see below—and read this story—for more!
Visit: Mount Hagen
Our first official stop after a brief stopover in Port Moresby, Mount Hagen is one of the more “developed” towns by PNG standards. What struck me most here was the Mount Hagen market and a visit with the mud men (read more about the mud men here).
Experience: The Sepik
PNG’s varied terrain includes both the Highlands and the Lowlands, and the Sepik is the latter. This region runs along the Karawari River, which is basically the lifeblood for the small villages that call the Sepik home. Each day, our guide took us to new villages where we met elders, played with local children and were given insider access to their daily lives.
Tour: The Highlands
Given the altitude, the Highlands had a completely different climate and thus look and feel. We took jungle hikes to waterfalls, spotted rare birds in the canopy and enjoyed sweeping views of this undeveloped area. In the town of Tari, we met local villagers and experienced different traditions such as the wigmen school and sing-sings or tribal dances.
If you’re going to go, make sure you have enough time to see several different areas in this large island nation. Life also moves more slowly here and there’s really no way to set up many of the experiences on your own. The best way is to use a local tour operator and I felt very safe, comfortable and confident with Swain Destinations. We really were able to dive into the local life without disrupting the traditional ways. And in a country where the tourism industry is still developing, the standards are much different than you might expect. However, all parts of this USTOA-member tour were of the highest caliber.
In Part 2: 3 cool lodges.
For Ian Livingston’s recent series on Papua New Guinea, start here. For more on guided travel in Papua New Guinea, visit USTOA.com. For more on the specific itineraries and guides from Kelley’s video, check out swaindestinations.com.