One of the most colourful and rapidly changing places on earth, Papua New Guinea, must be seen to be believed. Steeped in culture and tradition, this island nation promises travel experiences like no other place on earth.
You can’t talk about Papua New Guinea without mentioning some of the incredible festivals that are held each year around the country. Throughout the year, Papua New Guinea’s tribal history and culture are on full display in a series of colourful, vibrant festivals packed with music, food, arts and other performances.
While not the largest gathering, the Rabaul Mask Festival is a must-see event. Groups from all across the islands gather with bright, colourful costumes and elaborate spirit masks to honour their ancestors. Far from being a sombre affair, the Rabaul Mask Festival features traditional costumes and ritual dances, and you can even see something you won’t come across elsewhere.
During the Baining Fire Dance, initiated men from the Baining tribe perform dances through flames, somehow remaining unharmed while the sound of beating kundu (drums) and tribal chanting fills the night.
We won’t go into every festival in detail here because there are too many. However, you can read more about them in this article, which contains plenty of things to do in Papua New Guinea. But one of the more unique experiences is the Kenu and Kundu Festival.
Held each year in Milne Bay, tribal groups from across the country gather to celebrate their culture, show off their elaborate traditional dress and acknowledge the region’s maritime history. Like many gatherings of this nature, you’ll experience sing-sing performances, traditional food and music and much more. But one of the highlights is the canoe (kenu) race.
Tribes prepare their heavily decorated traditional war canoes, with participants donning amazing costumes and headdresses. The race takes place in Milne Bay, as tribespeople battle it out to the sound of pounding kundu (drums). While there is certainly a fierce rivalry in these races, the festival is always held in good spirits as a true celebration of the region’s history.
Both the Rabaul Mask Festival and Kenu and Kundu Festival are wonderful events, but they are part of a much larger tradition that stretches across all of Papua New Guinea. Sing-sings are annual gatherings of tribes or villages. Sing-sing groups from nearby tribes come together to celebrate their history, show off their cultural dress, and share music and a number of other traditions.
Some of the popular sing-sings include the Ambunti Crocodile Festival, Siwai Cultural Show, Goroka Festival and the enormous Mount Hagen Cultural Show. At various times throughout the year, visitors can attend and sometimes even participate in local cultural shows and festivals. Each gathering is unique, with every tribe bringing its own unique traditions and stories.
The great thing about exploring places like Papua New Guinea is the friendliness of the locals. Of course, caution is needed in any new area, but with competent and well-organised guides, such as the Crooked Compass team, you can have some wonderful, enriching experiences.
Many tours through the country aren’t necessarily concerned with finding Papua New Guinea landmarks but with experiencing daily island life. For example, you have the opportunity to stay with local families on Yuo Island or visit with villagers in Madang. The Sepik River region, known for its strong connection with crocodiles and other animals, is also a great place to meet locals.
No matter where you spend time with local families in PNG, you’ll witness a laid-back, simple, yet challenging lifestyle far different from most parts of Western society.
A photography expedition through Papua New Guinea is one type of travel experience you won’t get anywhere else. Crooked Compass offers a photography and travel experience like no other, led by renowned international travel photographer David Kirkland.
We’ve already mentioned how colourful the Papua New Guinea festivals can be, and these provide a great setting for some of the most unique photography experiences in the world. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, David is there to guide you through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Contact Crooked Compass today to learn more about photography expeditions or any other eye-opening Papua New Guinea travel experiences. We’ve got tours for everyone, and we can’t wait for you to join us.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.