Named ‘The Papuan Wonderland’ by explorers who discovered these hidden mountain valleys in 1935, the Southern Highlands contains lush, high valleys sandwiched between towering limestone peaks.
Clans in the Southern Highlands
Clans in the Southern Highlands have a strong and intricate social system little affected by change. It is one of the few places where the traditional way of life can be seen in everyday living. Ceremonial rituals are strongly observed. Men and women can still be seen wearing traditional dress, tending their gardens and pigs and building their bush material huts. Visitors to the tribal wonderland of the Southern Highlands can stay in a variety of accommodation from basic guest houses to luxurious mountain lodges.
Things to See
Mount Giluwe: The province contains the country's second-highest mountain, Mount Giluwe (4368 metres). The headwaters of the Kikori, Erave and Strickland rivers cross the province, beneath towering Mr Giluwe.
Caves: International caving expeditions have discovered caves of enormous depth and length. Researchers anticipate further significant finds in areas yet to be explored.
Mendi: Built around the airport in a lush high valley between impressive limestone peaks, this small town has essential services. Huli, Duna and other tribespeople from this area are famous for their red and yellow face decorations and elaborately decorated wigs.
Mendi Market: Mendi Market is best on Fridays and Saturdays when the locals come to town. The market is located by the main highway north of town across the bridge and beside the river.
Artefacts: A shop near Mendi Bakery sells weapons, baskets and hand-loomed products.
Lake Kutubu: Butterflies and birds of paradise are plentiful around this beautiful, peaceful place and the friendly people live traditional lives. You can swim, visit villages or just enjoy the scenery. The closest airstrip is at Moro and is serviced by Airlines PNG from Port Moresby and Mount Hagen.
Wasi Falls Wildlife Management Area: Virgin rainforest here is rich in birds and wildlife. There are several waterfalls including the Wasi Falls, which plummet 100 metres, and many caves, some of which were used for burials. Tubo Lodge can organise bird watching and wildlife tours.
Things to Do
Walking and trekking: Many people walk from nearby to Lake Kutubu and fly out from Pimaga. The longest route, from Nipa on the Tari-Mendi Road, takes three days and is fairly rigorous — a guide is recommended. Alternatively visitors can walk about 20 kilometres from Pimaga to Gesege Village and go by canoe to the lodge at Tage Point. Ambua Lodge and Lakwanda Lodge near Tari can organise hikes and tours.
Mount Giluwe (4368m), the country’s second-highest mountain, is an old shield volcano with vast alpine grasslands. Ancient lava plugs form the two summits. The mountain can be climbed from the villages of Palnol or Kopkop, taking four days, or from near Tambul in Western Highlands Province. Kiburu Lodge at Mendi can organise walks and treks.
Mount Ialibu (3465m) and other hikes can be made from Ialibu, midway between Mendi and Mount Hagen. Ialibu has a cultural centre and museum, and accommodation built by the local people, the Imbonggu. Basket-making is a village industry here.
Bird watching: Lake Kutubu and Wasi Falls are ideal for bird watching, while Ambua Lodge, surrounded by dense tropical rainforest, and Lakwanda Lodge, near Tari, also have an abundance of birdlife.
Sightseeing tours: Ambua Lodge organises a range of guided tours. Walk along rainforest tracks to go bird watching, take a trip down the river to see the waterfalls or go by 4WD to visit a village and watch a traditional ‘sing sing’. Kiburu Lodge, on the banks of the Mendi River, has a wide range of activities including cultural tours, mountain climbing and flora and fauna expeditions. Lakwanda Lodge offers orchid tours, skeleton cave tours, trekking, bush walking and other cultural activities.