Get Off Grid in PNG
While our adventure stuck to the coast, others trek into Papua New Guinea's interior. More than 65 percent of the island is dense rain forest, home to plants 100 million years old. It's a land of steep valleys and mist-covered mountains, dramatic waterfalls, unbelievable fauna and wildlife, and native villages accessible only by foot. PNG Trekking Adventures offers six- to nine-day treks along the famous Kokoda track or up Mount Wilhelm, a 15,000-foot peak and the country's highest point. If you prefer floating to hiking, Trans Niugini Tours will take you down the Sepik River into the western lowlands to Sepik Spirit, a floating luxury lodge permanently moored in one of the most remote regions on the planet. Completely off the grid, this area has tribes with children who may never have seen a foreigner.
Fish for Dinner
Most afternoons, Cody and I fished for our dinner. We were all smiles after landing a prized Spanish mackerel. We handed the catch to our resort's chef, who prepared it in the customary mumu style – wrapped with rice and vegetables in banana leaves, then cooked slowly on hot rocks.
This Milne Bay tribesman wears traditional dress at a festival called a sing-sing, where 2,000 people from 24 tribes gather to compete in canoe races and share their dances, food, and ceremonial costumes. We were among a handful of foreigners there.
Papua New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting during WWII, and a large number of wrecks can be found in the surrounding waters – including this plane that we explored one morning. Later that day, we hiked through the jungle to cement bunkers full of rusted anti-aircraft guns (and a family of wild pigs).
Your Hut Awaits
Accessible only by boat (a 15-minute ride from the end of the road), the Tawali Resort is a series of air-conditioned bungalows built atop a volcanic bluff overlooking the protected waters of Milne Bay, which has some of the world's best diving, with more than 50 established sites and new ones being discovered constantly. A native village, home to most of the resort's employees, is next door.
Endless Summer, Redux
While surfing the fine, head-high waves off Lissenung Island, we often had an audience of native kids on the beach, who would cheer our every move. "I can't believe this is the 21st century," Cody said to me after one ride. "I feel like I'm in a seventies surf flick."
The water in Papua New Guinea is 80 degrees all year round. It's also some of the clearest in the world, with visibility levels of between 70 and 100 feet. The miles of pristine reefs, relatively small numbers of divers, and a staggering abundance of sea life make the place a mecca for scuba fans. On one particular dive, from about 60 feet down, I remember gazing up toward the surface. The water was dense with fish, sharks, turtles, and rays – a thick, dark, undulating cloud of sea life blotting out the light from above.
More information: Air Niugini, Qantas, and Virgin Australia offer daily, three-hour flights to Port Moresby from Australia's Brisbane International Airport. For great diving, head to Tawali Resort; surfers should stay at Lissenung Island Resort; Airways Hotel in Port Moresby is nice and clean. Asia Transpacific Journeys offers visits to rain forests, beach resorts, and more. World Surfaris can set up your ultimate surf adventure.
Credit: Photograph by Cody Doucette