We live in a world that is so explored, photographed and documented; it is a wonder if there is any mystery left at all. Where can one go that is not overflowing with tourists, where you are not bumping into selfie sticks and not met with false smiles? There is such a place. A land hidden from the world. A community where the smiles of the people are authentic and brighter than a summer solstice sun. It is a place called the Gulf Province – the least visited province of Papua New Guinea, and this is what makes it so appealing.
The Gulf sits on the Southern coast and is dominated by mountain ranges, grassland flood plains and river deltas that spread out like long fingers reaching for the ocean. These deltas are formed by some of the great rivers of Papua New Guinea including the Kikori, Turama, Purari and Vailala Rivers which all meet and flow into the sea called the Papuan Gulf. These rivers attract keen canoeists who want to explore the Gulf life in the best possible way. By using the waterways to get around you can travel to far reaching communities and enjoy watching the river banks change from swamplands to thick jungle to thriving villages. While there are very limited tourist infrastructure, guides and village stays can be arranged so you can take in the sights of the delta lands and experience living like a local in one of the village guesthouses.
The houses are built on piles high above muddy river banks and are woven with plaited bamboo or grasses while the roofs are thatched. The village is based around a men’s log house called a Dobu or Ravi. These Dobus store important items such as weapons, artefacts, ceremonial objects and once even the skulls of enemies! This practice, however, died out long ago when Christian missionaries came in the early 1900’s. The Men sleep in the long house while the women sleep in smaller huts outside. Village life in the Gulf is a step back to a simpler life. You will not be woken by alarm clocks or the loud hum of morning traffic. You will rise to the sound of a morning bird song or the dappled light of dawn. There is much to see and learn, as there is always work to be done in the village. Before falling asleep be sure to look to the skies which will be littered with bright stars thanks to the complete absence of city light and pollution.
The province is lowly populated and made up of just two districts, Kikori and Kerema. Kerema, the provinical capital, sits on the coast quietly blessed with natural resources such as Sago, Beetlenut and an abundance of fish. Kerema is the gateway to the Gulf, and sea travel is generally the only form of transportation to this isolated province as the bone rearranging road to Port Moresby is subjected to a lot of weather erosion and jungle overgrowth. Keen fisherman come to the Gulf to have a go at navigating PNG’s southern seas and trying to catch the huge Black Bass that inhabit the waters here. Or you can head up the river and try your luck at fly fishing in the Mountain streams. At the end of a long day fishing be sure to join the happy and playful locals for a sunset swim and then learn how to cook up all that fish you caught in true Gulf style.
If you haven’t got the strongest sea legs, then the mountains are filled with bush walks for all levels of fitness and adventure. Kaintiba which is nestled in the mountains, is particularly popular as there are many good walks and lots of villages and missions to stay in along the way. You can even embody the adventurer within and be taken on an expedition to retrace the steps of early explorers who embarked into the unknown and some even went looking for gold. The forested basin of Lakekamu is another must see. It is teeming with birds and wildlife that are like nothing you have seen before.
The Gulf is one of the few remaining places in this world where you can truly experience paradise in all of its authenticity. Where all the sounds are of nature itself and the homes harmoniously blend in with the surrounding landscape. The only skyscrapers to be found here are the towering palm trees that sway gracefully in the warm ocean breezes. The serenity is truly what draws people here, the simplicity, the warmth of the Gulf locals and the thrill of feeling as though you are stepping into an undiscovered world that’s just waiting to unveil its natural wonders.
Gudmundur (Gummi) Fridriksson, is the CEO of Paga Hill Development Company (PNG) Ltd, overseeing the development of Paga Hill Estate, a world-class, master planned estate located in the heart of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Gudmundur first arrived in Papua New Guinea over 20 years ago and is passionate about sharing PNG’s natural beauty and diverse cultures with the world. Find out more about Gudmundur Fridriksson on his website:http://www.gudmundurfridriksson.com/ and about the Paga Hill Estate development at http://www.pagahillestate.com