An insight into PNG's extraordinary highlands
- Cost: US$3,890 per person for 12D/11N (all inclusive from start point to end point)
(equivalent to approximately UK£2,880 or €3,430 at time of publication)
- Start Point: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
- End Point: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
- Dates: For upcoming dates, click Join this Adventure on the right or email us. July to September are the best periods for bird mating displays.
- Group Size: 6–8
- Bespoke Tour: If you do not wish to join a group tour, we can customise a private trip to fit your dates and interests. Please email us for details and a quote.
Explore Papua New Guinea to see the very best tribes, birds of paradise and orchids which the highlands of this incredible land has to offer.
From the capital of Port Moresby, we travel to the Southern Highlands of the Western Highlands Province in search of New Guinea’s most iconic animals, its Birds of Paradise, as well as its rich montane forests and the alpine orchid species that inhabit them. We explore cloud forests dripping with exquisite orchids and beautiful tropical flowers, and even carnivorous pitcher plants (Nepenthes maxima).
Along the way, we visit four separate villages to observe intimate cultural displays by the famous mudmen, the skeleton men, and the spectacular Hagen Wigmen and the Huli Wigmen.
Based out of our comfortable, locally-run lodge, during this itinerary, we make daily journeys to different highland destinations always in the company of guides hired from the local tribes and traditional landowners.
Day 1: Transfer from Port Moresby to your lodge at 2400 metres elevation in the Western Highlands Province. If daylight permits, go in search of orchids around the lodge. Overnight in lodge.
Day 2: After breakfast, explore local mountain tracks in search of local orchids, including Dendrobium cuthbertsonii and other montane species. Over 100 species have been recorded in the local forest; with only lunch to interrupt the day, time spent botanising is ample. During the afternoon, we visit a village of the Huli Wigmen to observe a fascinating cultural show. Overnight in lodge.
Day 3: After breakfast, drive over a forested pass into Tambul district, searching for roadside orchids along the way. The eventual destination is a local orchid farm that specialises in species from the region. We can see the carnivorous Nepenthes maxima nearby. During the afternoon, we visit a village of the mudmen to discover why they create elaborate mud masks and paint their bodies with mud.
Day 4: A full day exploring the areas around the base of Mount Hagen, targeting stands of endemic Cyathea tree-ferns, for specialist epiphytes such as Pedilochilus, and forest margins for Bulbophyllum, Dendrobium, Calanthe, Corybas, Diplocaulobium, Coelogyne, Liparis and Pterostylis.
Day 5: An early breakfast is followed by a 5am transfer to a birding site near Rondon. Over 150 species of birds are known from the region, including 11 Bird of Paradise (BoP) species, over a dozen honeyeaters, as well as white-eye, whistlers, flycatchers, fantails, warblers, wrens, cuckoo-shrike and over 15 types of parrot. We have a good chance to see the Brown Sicklebill BoP, Stephanies Astrapia BoP and King of Saxony BOP. Return to the lodge for a late lunch before descending to a lower altitude to glimpse the Superb BoP during its evening display.
Day 6: Dedicated to the stunning Raggiana BoP, today begins with an hour’s morning drive to the birding site, which sometimes hosts Superb and Magnificent BoP also, along with trumpet manucode, Jobi manucode and helmeted friarbird. Other birds of interest include yellow breasted bower bird, rainbow lorikeet, doubled eyed pygmy parrot, clamorous reed warbler, white shoulder fairy wren, great wood swallow, little grass bird, dollar bird, purple swamp hen and hooded pitohui. The pitohui is one of the few known poisonous birds, with batrachotoxin present in its skin and feathers! After lunch, we visit Kumul Lodge, whose garden visitors include BoP like the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and the Brown Sicklebill BoP, but also the beautiful if ballsy tiger parrot.
Day 7: Today we visit the villages of the Hagen Wigmen. We may meet the chief and his wives and hear stories of past battles. He often shows his spears and war axes (some of which have been used in times of conflict). We then see a cultural display and hear songs from the Hagen Wigmen. After lunch, we transfer to the village of the famed skeleton men who adorn their bodies with ash and clay. We watch their cultural display, and discover why they used their skeleton paint patterns to frighten their enemies. We return to the lodge in time for dinner.
Day 8: An early start to the stomping grounds of the stunning Blue BoP. Other species seen here include the King of Saxony BoP and nine other more irregular BoP visitors. Once satisfied, explore the local forest and roadsides for orchids on your leisurely return to base.
Day 9: A visit to the Baiyer River with the intention of seeing the Lesser Bird of Paradise come tea-time. In the intervening period, explore the local reserve for orchids and other birds species, which may include hooded pitohui, Zoë’s imperial pigeon, trumpet manucode, Jobi manucode, southern baza, helmeted friarbird, great egret, white shouldered fairy wren, yellow breasted bower bird, sulphur-crested cockatoo, the imposing Blyth’s hornbill, black winged kite and black kite.
Day 10: Transfer to Port Moresby and check-in to hotel by early afternoon. Thereafter, transfer to the Botanical Garden to enjoy the collection of local and imported orchid species. Overnight in hotel.
Day 11: A whole day visit to Varirata National Park in search of local birds and lowland orchids. A number of BoP have been recorded here, including the growling riflebird, Raggiana BoP, as well as frogmouths, kingfishers and bower birds. We also have the option to visit the Adventure Park and Nature Park to see a wide range of captive BoPs and other native wildlife. Overnight in hotel.
Day 12: Transfers to airport for international departures.
There are many options to fly to Port Moresby. Don't just go to your local travel agents - they will probably give you a really high price for flying to Port Moresby, as flying this route is quite specialist.
From the USA & Canada, you can fly to Australia, then on to Port Moresby; or fly to Narita (Tokyo), Hong Kong, Manila or Singapore, then on to Port Moresby.
From destinations in Asia, Air Niugini flies Between Bali (Denpasar) and Port Moresby one day each week. Air Niugini also has weekly flights between Port Moresby and Manila (four days each week), Singapore (five days), Hong Kong (three days) and Tokyo (Saturday only). Phillipines Airlines is expected to join Air Niugini on the Manila–Port Moresby route in 2016.
From Australia & New Zealand, it is best to fly to either Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney, all of which have regular flight connections to Port Moresby, both with Qantas and Air Niugini.
From the Pacific, Air Niugini flies to Nadi (Fiji) via Honiara (Solomon Islands). The only other way of flying to PNG from the Pacific is via Australia.
From Europe, either fly to Asia or Australia, then catch onward connections to Port Moresby (see above).
Many people find flying to Singapore is the easiest option. From Singapore, there are direct flights to/from Port Moresby with Air Niugini. If you time your flights right, you can fly to Singapore and then continue on to Port Moresby the same day, or of course, break up your journey and have a night or two in Singapore exploring this wonderful city. For those with an overnight connection in Singapore, there is an excellent airport hotel within the terminal building of Singapore Changi Airport.
Flights to Port Moresby should not be crazy expensive. From London, a flight to Singapore can be as little as £400 return. And the Air Niugini flight from Singapore to Port Moresby can be as little as £600.
Please don't hesitate but to email us if you need any advice regarding flying to Port Moresby.
Adventure Rating: Moderate
For those wishing to experience the spectacular Mt Hagen Cultural Show, made famous by National Geographic, this event takes usually around 20 August. Additional days spent searching for specific birds can also be organised, both in the highlands, and at several incredible (and easy to visit) reserves close to Port Moresby. Extensions to the Sepik River can also be organised. To get a quote for any extensions, simply mention which extension(s) you are interested in when you apply to Join this Adventure!