Synonymous with adventure and home to the world's most exotic tribes, a trip to Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific is an anthropological tour de force: hundreds of distinct tribes speak 850 mutually unintelligible tongues. Barely post-Stone-Age agricultural practices, complex tribal liaisons, ancestor cults, and wild cultural celebrations make Papua New Guinea the last frontier of adventure travel.
A Closer Look
It was while traveling in Papua New Guinea that UCLA professor Jared Diamond was asked by a local elder, “How is it that the white man has all the cargo?” His answer, 20 years in the making, was published in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel, which explains gaps in power and technology between human societies as originating in environmental differences: that is, you can’t hitch a marsupial to a plow.
Any great Papua New Guinea tour will include attendance at a sing-sing (tribal festival). We recommend the famous Mt Hagen Sing-Sing, the obscure and authentic Tumbuna Sing-Sing and the Waghi Sing-Sing. Whichever you choose these incredible spectacles will be a highlight of your Papua New Guinea itinerary.
Papua New Guinea travel should also include a visit to a Huli Wigmen village to observe close-up the traditions of these wildly exotic and friendly people, who weave elaborate headdresses from human hair. You can also meet the Asaro Mudmen, the Sepik Crocodile People and dozens, if not hundreds, of distinct tribes on a trip to Papua New Guinea.
In Papua New Guinea festivals are known as Sing-Sings. Dozens, or even hundreds, of tribes speaking mutually unintelligible languages assemble for a spirited and colorful celebration and competition of dancing, costumes, and other tribal rites. These are a few of our favorite Papua New Guinea festivals:
MT. HAGEN SING-SING
The incomparable Mt. Hagen Sing-Sing is Papua New Guinea's most famous. A marvelous mélange of tribal peoples gather from all over the country for a spirited competition and review of costume, dance, and music. Hundreds of tribes attend, making Mt. Hagen a one-of-a-kind experience.
Join the locals in celebrating the spectacular, authentic Tumbuna Sing-Sing. "Tumbuna" means "ancestors" and this remote festival celebrates the time that belonged to the indigenous people (pre-European contact).
Coastal tribes will gather from far-flung islands-some voyage for up to a week-to attend the Kundu Sing-Sing. Tribes race their canoes to the dramatic blow of the conch and row to the rhythmic beat of the kundu, the traditional war drum.