Introducing Papua New Guinea’s rainforests: staying on the Karawari River in East Sepik Province and in the Western Highlands provides good opportunities to explore these contrasting habitats.
Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s last frontiers, with an unparalleled array of natural beauty and exotic wildlife. The world’s second largest island is a land of extraordinary contrasts with 4,500 metre high mountains, vast expanses of rainforest, huge river systems and pristine coral atolls. It is remote and on arrival you are plunged into a utterly different world.
The indigenous population is extremely diverse, and more than 700 languages are spoken. Age-old traditions remain at the heart of everyday life and people share their heritage with genuine openness. As well as its cultural vibrancy, Papua New Guinea has one of the world’s richest and most varied avifauna. The 708 bird species identified to date include 578 land and freshwater species, 40 seabirds and 90 migrants from countries that lie to the north and south.
Excellent wilderness lodges are located in some of the remotest parts of the country, providing comfortable bases from which to sample the culture and witness the various ecological niches, where experienced and knowledgeable local birding guides are available to escort birding tours.
Due to the inherent difficulty of travelling within a challenging environment, we work with an established local partner that is almost entirely self-sufficient, with its own fleet of aircraft, plus vehicles and boats at each property. This ensures a reliable, safe and efficient service throughout your stay.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: In Singapore & overnight
Day3: Overnight flight to Port Moresby
Day4: Domestic flight to Mount Hagen, Western Highlands
On arrival at Jacksons International Airport, Port Moresby, connect with an afternoon domestic flight to Mount Hagen. On arrival at Mount Hagen in the late afternoon you will be met and transferred to your lodge, a drive of around 30 minutes.
During your stay at Karawari you explore the remote Sepik area to experience this fascinating region's mystery and mystique. Daily excursions with experienced and knowledgeable local guides will introduce you to the lifestyle and culture of the river villages - the adventure of a lifetime!
The people of the ecologically diverse Sepik region speak more than 250 languages and are loosely knitted together in systems of trade and cultural interaction. Ritual, genealogical and historical knowledge define each group, and maintain the distinctions that facilitate trade. All life revolves around the river, with men paddling narrow dugout canoes full of goods for trade, women fishing or making sago, and children swinging from trees along the riverbank and splashing in the shallows. The region is a gallery of tribal art, in which each village boasts a unique style and every villager is an artisan.
Head hunting was once practised here. Young men could only come of age by taking a head, which gives a fair indication of how incessant inter-tribal warfare must have been. The Latmul people of the Sepik would take heads in battle, boil them until the flesh dropped off, then hang the painted and decorated skulls as trophies around the men's house. This is where all important decisions about the village are taken, where boys are initiated to manhood, and where ceremonies to please the spirits are conducted. The crocodile is worshipped as the water spirit, and in excruciatingly painful ceremonies young men have their backs cut to resemble the markings of the crocodile - as a symbol of strength and power.
Although not cannibalistic as a matter of course, many head hunters ate human flesh until comparatively recently - within living memory. Indeed some older men in the villages recall eating it as children, and will tell you that it tasted a bit like chicken.
Day7: A day of guided activities from the lodge
Days8-10: Charter flight back to Mount Hagen; guided activities
This morning you will be transferred back to the lodge's airstrip for the charter flight back to Mount Hagen. On arrival you will be met and transferred to Rondon Ridge. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore the area around the lodge.
This morning you will be transferred back to Mount Hagen airport in time for the domestic flight to Port Moresby. On arrival at Port Moresby, you will be met and transferred to your nearby hotel for an overnight stay.
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 13 daysfrom £6,895 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 daysfrom £5,545 pp
Single supplement: From £1,160
When to go: Jan-Dec: Daily throughout the year
Port Moresby, the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea, stands on the shores of the Gulf of Papua. The city offers a choice of centrally located hotels for an overnight stay, or you may choose to head out to nearby Varirata National Park, one of the best places to see the Raggiana bird of paradise.
Where: Central Province
Excellent for: City stopover
Also home to the flamboyant Huli people, the Tari Valley is a utopia of pristine, mid-montane jungle, a birdwatcher's paradise! An eiderdown of interlocking tree tops, with splashes of colour from high altitude orchids. Nature trails take you across traditional vine bridges, tracing clear mountain streams to secluded waterfalls.
Where: Central Highlands
Ideal for viewing: crested bird of paradise, short-tailed paradigalia, ribbon-tailed astrapia, Lawe’s parotia, King of Saxony bird of paradise
Excellent for: Birdwatching
At 1,126 kilometres, the Sepik River is Papua New Guinea's equivalent to the Amazon and it is the people of the Sepik that makes this region an exciting and fascinating place to visit. Life revolves around the river, and locals are unique in their belief in the spirit world with its mythical stories and rituals.
Where: Central Highlands
Ideal for viewing: dwarf cassowary, Gurney’s eagle, twelve-wired bird of paradise, king bird of paradise, white-eared catbird
Excellent for: River safaris
The Mount Hagen area is the home of the Melpa people, a people with a strong culture, who still live largely traditional subsistence lifestyles. From the lowland rainforest to alpine grasslands, it is a land of colour and vibrancy and one of the best places to see Papua New Guinea’s birds of paradise.
Where: Western Highlands
Ideal for viewing: King of Saxony bird of paradise, Macgregor’s bowerbird, Stephanie’s astrapia, Loria’s bird of paradise, Huon tree kangaroo
Excellent for: Birdwatching
This province covers a surface area of 4,300 square kilometres. Home to the world’s largest population of birds-of-paradise, the rainforest habitat houses an abundance of wildlife of all sorts. It is traversed by a number of well-maintained trails, making it one of the most pleasant locations for hiking in the highlands.
Where: Western Highlands
Ideal for viewing: ribbon-tailed astrapia, brown sicklebill, crested satinbird, crested berrypecker, blue bird of paradise
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Airways Hotel is Papua New Guinea's leading accommodation and one of the most unique airport hotels in the world. Nestled into the mountainside, each room opens onto a balcony with mountain or garden view, and facilities include a stunning pool, restaurants (poolside and fine dining), spa and tennis court.
Karawari Lodge stands on a lone ridge above the Karawari River, overlooking an endless expanse of dense tropical lowland rainforest in one of Papua New Guinea's most remote and unspoilt areas. Accommodation is in ten cottages, inspired by traditional architecture and constructed using materials.
Located a short drive from Mount Hagen, this hotel offers magnificent mountain views, and all 12 rooms have 180 degree views. The surrounding area is home to ten species of birds of paradise and numerous orchids, and walking trails from the lodge make it easy to get out and see the area’s unique ecology.