Famed for its unique cultures (over 800 different tribal groups) and stunning birds of paradise, this mesmerising country is one of the world’s last frontiers. A country where the modern world is only just creeping into everyday life and where traditions are cherished, PNG is the ultimate travel destination.
Having briefly stopped in Singapore and Port Moresby, the next leg of the journey was on to the outlying island of New Britain and the town of Kokopo. East New Britain is culturally aligned with the Soloman Islands; its towering volcanic peaks, stunning waters filled with mesmerising marine life and a rich cultural heritage provide a fascinating contrast with Papua New Guinea’s heartland. The highlights here are swimming with a pod of more than 100 spinner dolphins in the crystal clear waters and the truly mesmerising experience of the Baining Fire Dance.
The Baining people are native to the highlands of East New Britain and perform the fire dance as a coming of age ceremony. Teenagers must prove their worth by dancing and walking in a large fire, moving in an almost trance-like state to rhythmic chanting and beats. The evening’s events are remarkable - you could say they are spell-binding. As the fire is fuelled, the young men begin their fire dance - individuals must surely burn their legs and feet as they kick burning material and run through the hottest parts of the fire. They take it in turns to brave the flames, each of them taking their own approach, all the while the fire fuelled by yet more wood and palm fronds.
To watch such a unique tradition is real privilege, and sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remember that what you are seeing isn’t a dream and in fact you are one of very few outsiders to watch this spectacle playing out before you.
Stay tuned for my next blog 'Highlights of the Papua New Guinean Highlands’, coming soon.