Papua New Guinea

Driving Directions Papua New Guinea

PAPUA NEW GUINEA in the southwest Pacific comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and several archipelagoes and islands, including New Britain, the Bismarck Archipelago, and New Ireland. The other half of New Guinea is Irian Jaya, part of the Indonesian ter­ritory. The main island has a mainly low-lying coast and southern half, but from the center to the north, there are spectacular and rugged mountains which form the Highlands.

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The mountain chain extends for well over 1,000 kilometers or 621 miles, and individual peaks and ridges are sep­arated from each other by fertile valleys. Lower slopes cloaked in dense tropical rain forests, and the forbidding landscape has meant that many local tribes have remained isolated from each other and undiscovered for hundreds of years. The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,500 meters or 14,765 feet. Major rivers include the Fly, Purari, Sepic, and Ramu.

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The climate is tropical, with high temperatures and heavy rainfall.

Many of the smaller islands are volcanic in origin with dramatic mountains. Some volcanoes on the north coast and smaller islands are active. The rough and inaccessible countryside means travelling is difficult and in places road building is impossible. There are a modest number of roads but no rail system and a light plane is often the only mode of transport which can reach remote villages.

Subsistence farming is the main economic activity although some coffee, cocoa beans and copra are grown for cash. Timber is cut for export and fishing and fish processing industries are developing. The country’s wildlife is plentiful and varied while the coastal waters support an abundance of sea life. Minerals such as copper, gold, silver and oil form the mainstay of the economy. The country still receives valuable aid from Australia from whom it gained its independence in 1975.

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