I’d admit it: I never thought a luxury vacation was possible in Papua New Guinea. Actually, I really didn’t know what to expect from the place! Before I booked my trip I really new very little about it except for its lush forests and scenery, and varied tribes of aboriginal people. It turns out there really is luxury available if you know where to look!
We flew into Cairns, since Australia is really the nearest stop to Papua New Guinea. It was a long flight from the states, and we stayed there overnight before heading back to the airport the next morning. I took the chance to do a little more research into the place we’d be visiting. It turns out that the country of Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, and a portion of what is called Oceania (the islands of the Pacific Ocean). I traveled with a small group (there were 8 of us) and we were scheduled to visit some pretty incredible places on our trip. The National Museum holds over 30,000 anthropological collections, 20,000 war relics and an art gallery with well over 7,000 contemporary art collections. I was glad that I packed comfortable shoes for all of the walking we’d be doing.
I know I mentioned that this was a luxury vacation, but when we first flew in to Karawari, we had to take a riverboat, followed by a 4×4 to our lodge. If this was how our adventure was to begin, I could only imagine what we’d see later! The lodge was absolutely spectacular. It was perched at the top of a hill and offered full views of the Karawari Rver. The lodge itself was modeled after a spirit house. There were 20 rooms in total, and the airy spaces and verandas were kept cool with ceiling fans running day and night. After we settled into our rooms, our guide explained what we’d see on our adventures. Considering that Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, I was starting to get really excited. There are over 800 languages spread throughout the rural areas. Papua New Guinea remains one of the least explored countries in the world, though due to its mining and resources, it’s become one of the fastest growing economies worldwide.
We visited the Kundiman Village. The area renowned for its headhunting and cannibalism, has long since eradicated those activities and our guide jokingly told us that we didn’t need to worry. The villagers were more than hospitable, dressed covered in paint, and made sago pancakes. The were all smiles when they saw our group. The pancakes were delicious and the cook seemed thrilled that I enjoyed them. This was the first of several villages we’d visit by boat in the first day. That evening, our group enjoyed a luxurious dinner – it was completely the opposite way of life of the villages we’d just spent the day learning about.
A few days later, after exploring the region where we were staying, we headed to a moored river boat that had been built as a hotel. It was small and held only 18 passengers in 9 luxurious suites. We explored the Sepik River by jet boat so that we’d be able to see as much of it as possible; the Sepik is the longest river on the terrain includes rainforest, swampland and mountains. The river wove around corners and we cruised past thatch huts and smiling locals who always waved at us. We kept going in one direction and stopped at a hotel for lunch before returning back to our hotel moored on the river.
Our trip was incredible. The dichotomy between the aboriginals’ way of life and our luxury accommodations was interesting, but we explored their cultures in a most sensitive and inquisitive manner. In total, we stayed in 4 different hotels and covered quite a bit of land on our tours. It was only with great reluctance that we finally boarded a plane for Australia at the end of our nearly three-week adventure.
Sam is an avid world traveller (though he still hasn’t seen the North or South poles!). He has seen it all – from backpacking trips in Asia to riding a private jet through South America. In his old age he’s been enjoying the luxury of group travel with Travcoa.