Papua New Guinea is a nature lovers paradise. While the country's most famous attraction is the 96-kilometre Kokoda Trail, the capital, Port Moresby also boasts rugged jungle surrounds. Consider visiting the Varirata National Park, the Port Moresby Nature Park, the Laloki River region and Ela Beach. It's a fascinating city, full of interesting people who have time to talk once you return from your adventure.
Here are our top five natural attractions in Papua New Guinea.
Port Moresby's Ela Beach provides recreational as well as a long stretch of white sand and shallow sea. Be wary of the sea urchins, fascinating to observe but painful to come into contact with, so swimming is best saved for your hotel pool. The site of the annual Hiri-Moale Festival and the best market in Papua New Guinea, the Ela Beach Craft Market, where you'll find paintings, carvings, baskets and shells to buy.
Port Moresby Nature Park
In the natural surrounds of Port Moresby Nature Park, Papua New Guinea's only botanical and zoological gardens, discover thousands of exotic tropical plants, including more than 11 000 native and hybrid orchids, and gingers, heliconias and palms. See native animals including snakes, crocodiles, parrots, bird of paradise, tree-kangaroos, wallabies, and all three species of cassowaries. Port Moresby Nature Park provides a quiet piece of natural paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Laloki River Gorge
Below the cool, lush green hills of Sogeri, the Sogeri Road winds up the Laloki River Gorge to the Sogeri Plateau, 600m above sea level. Allied troops fought the Japanese here during World War II and the inhospitable way through the mountains became known as the Kokoda Track. Continue to the picturesque Rouna Falls - it's definitely worth paying for the privilege of taking a photo.
Varirata National Park
Varirata National Park, just forty minutes from Port Moresby, is home to native flora and fauna including kingfishers, bowerbirds and Western Black-Capped Lorys, as well as the iconic Raggiana's birds of paradise. The park protects the stretch of land from the western end of the Sogeri Plateau to the Astrolabe Mountains. A system of lookouts along six well-marked walking tracks, allow visitors to enjoy breathtaking views from the topmost steep slopes overlooking the Loloki River Valley. The network of trails provides grassy picnic areas and sheltered barbeque areas so bring supplies and enjoy a day out.
The iconic Kokoda Trail, or Kokoda Track, was the site of a four-month struggle between allied forces and the Japanese in 1942. In commemoration of the Australian servicemen who fought in that battle, the Kokada Trail is a physically and mentally challenging trek through the Owen Stanley Range. The Kokoda Track Foundation and the Kokoda Track Authority are working towards having the area nominated for World Heritage status.