A question we are often asked is what is there to do in Papua New Guinea. Well, the short answer is LOTS! And the longer answer involves describing the various celebrations and festivals that are on throughout the year. Not to mention the bird watching, diving, snorkelling, WWII history, incredible hikes, mountains to scale… the list goes on!
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18 per cent of its people lives in urban centres. There are 852 known languages in the country, of which 12 now have no known living speakers. Most of the population of more than 7 million people live in customary communities, which are as diverse as the languages. The country is one of the world’s least explored, culturally and geographically. It is known to have numerous groups of uncontacted peoples, and researchers believe there are many undiscovered species of plants and animals in the interior – not to mention tribes to still be discovered!
The cultural shows are the real draw card . From incredible culture, vibrant colours and a proudness that captures your heart. Read on to learn about the most fascinating festivals that Papua New Guinea has to offer.
The Rabaul Mask Festival is a one of a kind spectacle. Held just 20kms from Rabaul the festival is a showcase of traditional dance, rituals, and ceremonies. On this tour, you will have a chance to experience the show as well as plenty of other highlights. The Festival is a unique celebration and the only one of its kind in Papua New Guinea. Together with their amazing costumes, groups from all across the islands gather in the coastal town of Kokopo to showcase their elaborate ancestral and spirit masks whilst performing ritual dances, each style forging the unique cultural identity of a tribe. Witness the ‘Kinavai’ opening ceremony at dawn, as the arrival of ancestral spirits is welcomed to chants and the beating of kundu drums by elders and initiated young men on canoes.
Experience the spectacular Baining Fire Dance from the Tolai’s of the mainland of East New Britain Province, wherein this night-time traditional dance, initiated young men perform harrowing dances through blazing fires amidst evocative chanting by their elders.
The Sepik River Crocodile Festival highlights the importance of the crocodile and its cultural significance to the people of the Sepik River. The Sepik River is one of the largest rivers in the Asia-Pacific region and is home to some of the world’s largest freshwater and saltwater crocodile populations. In Sepik culture man and crocodile share a special bond. The Crocodile symbolises strength, power and manhood. Skin-cutting initiations continue in Sepik River communities where men proudly wear scars cut into their skin during the rite of passage. These scars, resembling the back of a crocodile, run from the shoulder to the hip.
A cultural and environmental celebration, the Sepik River Crocodile Festival takes place over three days in August, highlighting the importance of the crocodile and its cultural significance amongst Sepik River communities.
This festival features live crocodile encounters, traditional dancing, colourful costumes and visits the sacred spirit houses where men undergo intensive initiation rituals. The Sepik River hosts some of the world’s largest saltwater and freshwater crocodile population’s and the richness of life in this area is celebrated during the WWF supported festival. Witness this region of Papua New Guinea, where humanity has been frozen in time.
Experience one of the largest tribal gatherings in the world with more than 100 tribes participating in the event which attracts thousands of local participants in traditional dress delivering an insight into hidden customs. Performing extraordinary displays of traditional song, rituals and dance whilst decked out in unique costumes, glorious colours and stunning face paintings, the tribes show off their distinct cultures with an undeniable passion.
Attracting over 1000 tribesmen and women from all over the country, this sing sing event is a dazzling array of colour and energy that showcases the diversity of this fabulous island. The town comes alive for the event and the enthusiasm of the performers and spectators is truly electric. This is one festival that you will remember long after you have returned home.
Villagers from all over the region come to showcase their costumes, music, dance and culture. The festival has been running since the 1960s and was originally about promoting peace between warring tribes. Today, it’s an opportunity to experience first-hand the customs of about 80 tribes in one of the most culturally intact places in the world.
Perhaps the most famous cultural show in Papua New Guinea amongst locals, the Mount Hagen Show brings together sing-sing groups from all over the country in an amazing conglomeration of colour, beauty and culture. The show was initially created for the purpose of sharing cultural experiences with each other, calming the ever present tribal animosities by bringing all tribes together in one cultural event to expose the positive side of life and to celebrate the diversity of cultures amongst the natives. Witness this festival and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity t see the tribes dance, sing and perform wearing some of the world’s most fascinating tribal ware.
Kenu (Canoes) and Kundu drums are a significant part of the lives of the people of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. The canoe and the kundu are widely used in traditional ceremonies and rituals in Milne Bay. The ‘war canoes’ are specially crafted from special woods under strict customs to derive the best results and ensure their use is a successful or victorious one.
The canoes used in the festival are crafted the same way as the ancestors of the Milne Bay people built their own canoes many years ago. The colours and patterns reflect the tribe and the area the canoe comes from.
This cultural highlight comprises dozens of canoes, some with 40 plus warriors, adorned in traditional dress and paddling to the beat of island drums, leaving a powerful impression. Races are held amid much rivalry and celebrated with just as much revelry. The dance performances are even more spectacular with brilliantly attired groups from all around Milne Bay. A festival not to be missed!
More information about travel to Papua New Guinea can be found on our website. If you would like to make this experience yours then contact us so we can help you secure your spot on one of these amazing adventure’s of a lifetime – places are limited. We look forward to welcoming you on a Crooked Compass tour!
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.