|Government||Constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy|
|Area|| total: 462,840 km2|
land: 452,860 km2
water: 9,980 km2
|Population||5,545,268 (July 2006 est.)|
|Language|| English spoken by 1%-2%, Tok Pisin widespread, Motu spoken in Papua region|
note: 820 indigenous languages
|Religion||Roman Catholic 22%, Lutheran 16%, Presbyterian / Methodist / London Missionary Society 8%, Anglican 5%, Evangelical Alliance 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1%, other Protestant 10%, indigenous beliefs 34%|
Papua New Guinea is an island nation in Oceania.
PNG has 11 regions (7 on the main island and 4 island regions):
- Highlands - includes Enga Province, Chimbu Province and the Southern, Western and Eastern Highlands
- Huon Gulf - Morobe province
- Madang (region)
- Manus Island
- Milne Bay
- New Britain
- New Ireland
- Central and North - includes the city of Port Moresby and the Central and Northern provinces
- Sepik - includes the West and East Sepik provinces
- South-western provinces - includes the Western and Gulf provinces
- The capital city of Port Moresby, with its interesting Zoological gardens, the Parliament building, the museum, and general Melanesian atmosphere.
- The island of New Britain, home of heart-rendingly beautiful diving and Rabaul, the city at the foot of a volcano.
- Mt. Hagen, the 'wild-west' frontier town in the Highlands which will introduce you to the cool, crisp highlands weather and Highlands culture
- 'Beautiful Madang' - a city with breath-taking flights of bats in the evening (it is illegal to hurt them), and yet more breathtaking diving.
- Wewak, 'the gateway to the Sepik', where you can experience Sepik culture, the river itself, and the elaborate carvings typical of the region.
Papua New Guinea (known popularly as 'PNG') - the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (which is the second largest island in the world) - was divided between Germany ('German New Guinea') and Great Britain ('British Papua') in 1884. The Dutch had West Papua, now the Indonesia territory of Western New Guinea. Papua was owned by the UK but administered by Australia - and thus a colony of a colony - until Australian independence, when in 1906 it became an Australian colony. In 1914 the Australians did their part in the Allied war effort and took control of German New Guinea, and continued to administer it as a Trust Territory under the League of Nations and (later) the United Nations.
During World War II New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting on land (at Buin and on the Kokoda Track) and sea (at the Battle of the Coral Sea) - it was the first place in the war where the Japanese advance was checked and then reversed. After the war, both New Guinea and Papua were administered from the government center of Port Moresby on the south coast, in Papua. In 1975, the country - now united as 'Papua New Guinea' - achieved independence from Australia. Today Papua New Guinea continues to be the foremost country in Melanesia. The country struggles to fulfill the dreams of independence as economic stagnation, corruption, law and order problems, and a nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville.
Papua New Guinea offers the traveler a true paradox. With little to no tourist infrastructure, getting around can be tough. Illness and crime are also obviously a problem in a place without a well-developed health care system or a strong police force. But Papua New Guineans themselves are wonderfully welcome people who will go to great lengths to accommodate strangers. Don't be under any illusion - apart from a very few, very expensive package tours, PNG is 120% adventure travel and not for the inexperienced or faint of heart.
But then again, not every traveler is inexperienced or faint of heart, and for people who can make it out to PNG, the experience is unforgettable. PNG's incredible natural beauty is simply indescribable. Its unique flora and fauna includes enormous radiations of marsupials and birds, including the Raggiana bird-of-paradise (PNG's national symbol) and several species of tree kangaroos. Untouched coral reefs compete with spectacular WWII wrecks for the attention of divers, and the hiking is out of control.
The central highlands of Papua New Guinea were not mapped until the 1930s and not effectively brought under government control until the late 1960s. As a result, the people of PNG are even more interesting than the countryside. Papua New Guinea is a place that often markets itself as 'the Last Unknown' or a place where you can still find 'Stone Age People'. Of course, telling a Papua New Guinean that you consider them a stone age savage is incredibly rude. And while you can - if you try hard enough - find old men who remember the first time they or anyone in their society saw metal you'll also have trouble finding anyone who hasn't seen Titanic. Indeed, what makes Papua New Guinea so interesting today is not the fact that it is some sort of living museum, but its incredible dynamism. In the hundred-year shift from stone to steel to silicon, Papua New Guineans have turned the shortest learning curve in human history into one of the most colorful - and often idiosyncratic - experiments in modernity ever produced by human being. Featuring ritual garb made of human hair and rolled up Instant Noodle wrappers, rap in Pidgin English, or tribal warriors named 'Rambo' for their valor in combat, Papua New Guinea's collision with global culture has been intense and fascinating. So don't worry about the fate of 'traditional culture' - in the bar-room brawl between PNG and the global culture industry our biggest worry is keeping PNG from pummeling global culture to a pulp.