PAPUA NEW GUINEA is a mind-boggling numbers game. Only 160 kilometres north of Australia, the country has more than 850 languages, 600 bird species and 600 islands surrounding the main land mass.
"Authentic experiences are getting harder to find but here these cultural experiences are not contrived - it's raw," says Michael Woods, of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority.
"Australia is the No.1 target market but more than 50 per cent of visitors are from North America and Europe."
About 15,000-plus people have travelled to PNG this year, generating about 3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
On the festival schedule there's the Ambunti Crocodile Festival in East Sepik Province and the Mount Hagen Show in the Western Highlands Province, where visitors can walk among 70 different cultural groups in traditional costume.
"People are singing, dancing and chanting regardless of whether we [visitors] are there or not," Woods says.
Beyond the popular Kokoda Track there's Mount Wilhelm at 4508 metres, the Black Cat Track in the Morobe Province (challenges include ravine-crossing and abseiling) and the 60-kilometre Lark Force Wilderness Track in East New Britain.
The tourism body is also promoting the country's lesser-known water sports: from black-bass fishing to surfing uncrowded breaks and diving on World War II wrecks in 28-degree waters.
For those who have the budget for complete seclusion, a resort on Panasesa Island, with just six beachfront bungalows, will open in December. Part of the Conflict Islands group in Milne Bay, the entire 22 islands can be explored by guests.
Activities include diving and snorkelling and the resort has a resident chef whose menus include seafood (crayfish anyone?) from the surrounding waters.
The Panasesa Island resort costs from $3750 a person for a seven-night stay (based on 12 guests staying) and includes meals, beverages and return charter flights from Port Moresby.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald Traveller, 17 September
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