A Gap Year in Papua New Guinea

Why go backpacking in Papua new guinea?

Made up of multiple tribes, lifestyles, wildlife and landscapes, Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Backpacking in Papua New Guinea is like visiting nowhere else in South East Asia, or the world.

Papua New Guinea also hosts more languages than anywhere else on the planet – 12% of the world’s total to be exact. 848 languages are currently listed in Papua New Guinea, although less than a thousand people speak each language. English is spoken in some parts of the country.

It is important to make your plans flexible as the transport infrastructure in Papua New Guinea is basically non-existent. The roads are often poor and sometimes dangerous, making transport on aircraft or foot the easiest options.

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The sights

The scenery offered in Papua New Guinea is extremely diverse, opening up perfect environments for hundreds of thousands of wildlife species, some similar to those in Australia. In fact, Papua New Guinea has its own species of kangaroo, known as the tree kangaroo.  Instead of hopping over land, these kangaroos jump at incredible heights through the rainforest canopies.  Backpackers can hire guides through the rainforest to see for themselves, but you’d be very lucky to spot one!


If the novelty of the rainforest wears off – which is unlikely, let’s face it – backpackers can try out different terrains. Experienced hikers can take on the popular yet challenging Kokoda Trail. This narrow track stretches across 60 miles through the Owen Stanley Mountains, which were a prominant location during the World War II battle between the Japanese and Australian forces in 1942. It’s a work out and a history lesson.  The trek reaches heights of 2,190 meters and can last between 4 – 12 days but there are a number of guest houses on the way to recover after a long day of hiking. Parts of the trek have been targeted by armed robbers, so it’s recommended to hire a guide.

Scuba Diving

Papua New Guinea is also known for its diverse marine life and incredible scuba diving. The waters of Papua New Guinea feature barrier reefs, coral walls, and wreckage sites, mostly ships, aircrafts and submarines from World War II. The high season for diving is usually May – November, but it can be done all year round with access to dive courses, equipment for hire and facilities to clean personal kit.


To experience the culture of Papua New Guinea without having to trudge through thick jungle, travellers can visit one of the many nature parks, and cultural shows. One of the most popular and centrally located nature parks is situated in the capital, Port Moresby which is suitably named, the Ports Moresby Nature Park. In this recently renovated attraction, travellers can see all different kinds of exotic birds, such as kookabarras and parrots, as well as wallabies and the tree kangaroo! Despite Port Moresby’s bad reputation, the nature park is very safe and popular amongst the locals on weekends.

Visitors can also witness tribal activity at the annual Cultural Show in Goroka, held in September. Started in 1950 as a means of gathering the various Papua New Guinea tribes and clans together, the tradition has stuck and each year is filled with traditional dancing, dress and demonstrations. To be honest, it has become a bit of a tourist attraction for tourists, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, and Papua New Guinea is a country best experienced on the beaten path and not off it.

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