Morobe is the gateway to the Highlands and boasts majestic mountains and lush rainforests filled with butterflies, orchids and tropical birds. The Huon Gulf provides excellent fishing and diving and there are good reefs around the coastal town of Finschhafen, Salamaua and the Siassi Islands. Salamaua District also has war relics, swimming, snorkelling, and stunning walks to Mount Tambu for spectacular views.
Morobe Province curves around the tropical waters of the Huon Gulf. The Saruwaged Mountains, rising from the sea at the tip of the Huon Peninsula, are blanketed by tangled and impenetrable rainforest. To the south-west, the fertile Markham Valley rests between equally awesome ranges, while the waters between Huon Peninsula and New Britain are dotted with volcanic islands.
Lae is the capital of Morobe and Papua New Guinea’s second-largest city. It was once a tiny mission station before the 1920s goldrush at Wau, and later developed into a major seaport. The town is well serviced by banks, hotels, department stores, markets and artefact shops. Gold mining, bird watching and butterflies can be seen around Wau and Bulolo in the hills south of Lae. Lae is linked to the Highlands by the Okuk Highway.
Things to See
Morobe Show: The Morobe Show is one of the biggest events in the city of Lae. The annual event is hosted by the Morobe Provincial Agricultural Society. The show celebrates the various cultural ethnic groups living in Lae and showcases the different products and services of Morobe's agriculture and commerce industry. Exciting activities taking place at the Morobe Show include rodeo-style events, motor-cycle stunts, cultural dress pageants, Ferris wheels and much more. For more information see: Morobe Show Event.
Lae Botanical Gardens: This haven of greenery has huge trees, bright, noisy birds, lizards and an extensive orchid collection, including the world’s largest orchid.
Lae War Cemetery: Most of the 2363 graves in this peaceful, well-kept cemetery are of young Australians. Located within the Botanical Gardens, it’s a short walk from town along Coronation Drive to Memorial Avenue. A map of the cemetery is available for those interested in locating particular headstones.
Unitech: The Matheson Library of Technology is the largest in the South Pacific and features a collection of historical artefacts. Buildings worth seeing include the haus tambaran-style (spirit house) coffeehouse and the 36 Sepik-style carved pillars in Duncanson Hall. The Unitech is located eight kilometres out of town on Bumbu Road.
Rainforest Habitat: Located next to the University of Technology is 3000sqm of rainforest, under a canopy, with a lake, raised walkways, semi-tame birds and beautiful flowers. You’ll find the largest variety of birds of paradise species kept anywhere in the world, together with other native wildlife such as tree kangaroos, parrots, cassowaries and the unique New Guinean long-nosed echidna. The rainforest is open daily 10.00am to 4.00pm.
Markets: Lae’s main market is located on Air Corps Road, west of the old airstrip. Here you’ll find food, produce and local curios. Smaller markets are located out of town on Butibum Road, just past the Bumbu Bridge on the way to Unitech.
Arts & crafts: Street sellers often position themselves outside department stores, while visitors should look for bilums and other crafts at the main market. The biggest selection of arts and crafts is at the Melanesian Arts Centre located at the old airport below the town.
Wau and Bulolo: Situated in the hills south of Lae, Wau and Bulolo are well known for gold mining, bird watching and butterflies. Visit the small museum in the Wau Ecology Institute, with its photos of Wau in its heyday. The institute also houses research on the country’s ecology, and features a Butterfly Ranch with an amazing variety of insects and hostel accommodation. Also take a look at the small McAdam National Park, which preserves the last virgin stands of Klinkii and hoop pine and has many birds and tree kangaroos. The national park has one trail; however you will need a guide.
Finschhafen: First colonised by Germans in 1885, this small coastal town is peaceful and idyllic. In Finschhafen you’ll fine guesthouse accommodation, good snorkelling and walking and a lot of history in the area. Beautifully carved Tami Island bowls can be bought at nearby Malasiga Village. Sialum, a two-hour drive north, also has good walking, swimming and snorkelling.
Salamaua: This area was an important base during the war and now features a selection of war relics to explore. Salamaua also offers word-class fishing, swimming and snorkelling; and there is a picturesque walking track to Coastwatchers Ridge and Mount Tambu, for spectacular views. The island can be accessed by boat from Voco Point in Lae and guesthouse accommodation is available.
Limestone Caves: Near Mumeng on the scenic drive to Bulolo are the Avilu Caves and the Avadedu burial ledges, above the Gangwe River.
Menyamya and Aseki: In this coffee-growing region in the heart of Anga country, people still wear traditional dress. Anga people used to smoke their dead and mummified bodies can be seen at Angipena, between Wau and Aseki. Market days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in Aseki, and Monday, Thursday and Saturday in Menyamya.
Labu Tali Conservation Area: Giant leatherback turtles come here between late November and early February to lay eggs. Guesthouses are at Maus Buang and at Busama and villagers will act as guides. Fishing, bushwalking and swimming are other options. Boats going to Salamaua stop here.
Kamiali Wildlife Management Area: Here in the Kamiali Wildlife Management Area, local people run eco tours to see turtles nesting and offer visitors the chance to swim, fish, snorkel, walk or paddle canoes.
Things to Do
Diving: The coasts around Finschhafen, Salamaua and the Siassi Islands are particularly good for diving and the wrecks of the B-17 bomber Black Jack and the Dutch cargo ship St Jacob are also interesting dives.
Fishing: Several Tour operators run fishing charters in the area.
Trekking: There are several long hikes in the Morobe region; however, you will need a guide. The trek around the coast from Finschhafen to Lae, takes three to four days; or fly to Teptep, a village high in the Finisterre Mountains, for the two-day walk to Wantoat. A section of the old Bulldog Track between Tekaku and Kakoro can also be trekked in two days, while treks from Menyamya to Kamina or Kerema take six to eight days.
Golf: Papua New Guinea’s best golf course has its clubhouse on Bumbu Road, near the intersection with Markham Road.