The striking natural beauty and myriad complex cultures in Papua New Guinea offer some riveting and truly life-affirming experiences.
The island of New Guinea, is only one-ninth as big as Australia, yet it has just as many mammal species, and more kinds of birds and frogs.
Head to the Highlands for a glimpse into PNG's fascinating tribal cultures, or enjoy the Central, Oro & Milne Bay Provinces, home to gorgeous reefs and historic wartime sites - including the country's foremost attraction, the Kokoda Track.
The mountainous terrain has spawned diversity in two ways: isolated mountain ranges are often home to unique fauna and flora found nowhere else, while within any one mountain range you will find different species as you go higher. In the lowlands are jungles whose trees are not that different from those of Southeast Asia. Yet the animals are often startlingly different – cassowaries instead of tapirs, and marsupial cuscus instead of monkeys.
The greatest diversity of animal life occurs at around 1500m above sea level. The ancestors of many of the marsupials found in these forests were derived from Australia some five million years ago. By the time you have reached 3000m above sea level the forests are stunted and wreathed in epiphytes. It’s a formation known as elfin woodland, and in it one finds many bright honeyeaters, native rodents and some unique relics of prehistory, such as the giant long-beaked echidna. Above the elfin woodland the trees drop out, and a wonderland of alpine grassland and herbfield dominates, where wallabies and tiny birds, like the alpine robin, can often be seen.