Western Province, on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea, bordering Irian Jaya, is a perfect destination for fishermen, photographers and lovers of flora and fauna. The countryside here is unlike anywhere else in Papua New Guinea. Wide open grasslands are home to Rusa deer, wallabies and wild pigs. Crocodiles, and lizards linger near river banks and teems of wild fowl and ducks fly across rivers. Two of the greatest rivers in the country, the Fly and the Strickland, run for almost their entire length through Western Province.
Bensbach Wildlife Lodge, The premier tourist destination in Western Province is Bensbach Wildlife Lodge, located on the Bensbach River. The mouth of the river forms the border between Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya. The area is a vast open, seasonally flooded plain, lightly populated with people, but crowded with bird and animal life. The Bensbach Lodge, small, comfortable and built of local materials, has established a reputation for spectacular barramundi fishing. Other species include ox eye herring and saratoga. Fresh locally-caught fish and game are part of the regular menu.
Lake Murray, in the centre of the province, is the biggest lake in Papua New Guinea and home to a crocodile research station. During the wet season the lake spreads to five times its 400 kilometre area.
Western Province is also home to the giant Ok Tedi gold and copper mine, one of the largest mines in the world. Established in 1980 in rugged mountainous terrain, the mining operation processes 80,000 tonnes of ore each day.
Daru, the main town of Western Province is situated on a small island of the same name, just off the coast. Once a busy pearl and beche-de-mer trading port, it is now the centre of a growing fishing industry. Crocodile skins from the province are packed and exported from Daru.
Star Mountains, If you follow the Fly River you will come to its source, high up in The Star Mountains. These mountains are an immense limestone formation that crosses the border into Indonesia. Some of the highest mountains of PNG are found here including Mount Juliana (4700m). The rainforest environment here is of dense undergrowth, moss and fern, adapted to the high rainfall of this area. It is home to bats, possums, tree kangaroos, tree cuscus and a striking array of orchids and more. Mysterious large caves, sinkholes and stunning gorges can be found here, created by water eroding limestone.
One cave, the Luplupwintem was discovered to contain the only surviving Bulmer’s fruit bats.
Hinderburg Wall, One of the must see phenomena of the Star Mountains is the Hindenburg Wall, a immense cliff up to 1km in height and 40 km’s in length.
Balimo and the Gogodala People, Balimo Station is located in the Middle Fly Area, along the flood plains of the Aramia River.
The area is the home of the Gogodala people. Gogodala people are famous for their intricate but fascinating cultural beliefs, their art and their ancient practice of building giant long houses that could accommodate whole village.
Their distinctive culture that has attracted a lot of researchers.
Gogodala Canoe Festival, Every year they hold the Gogodala Canoe Festival between April and May and features beautifully crafted canoes of each of the Gogodala people’s four tribes racing each other.
This is an ancient Gogodala practice and attracts visitors from all over the world every year.
Travel the Fly River, The Fly River is the third largest river in Papua New Guinea. It is also the 23rd largest river in the world.It has a total catchment area of 76,000 square kilometres.
This vast river which begins in the Star Mountain, is the integral part of an ecosystem that hosts an incredible array of life including an 120 fish species and waterbirds, as well as the fly river pig nosed turtles, crocodiles, frogs, prawns, reptiles of all sorts.
The savannahs, its giant estuary and wetlands also sustain a wide range of animals including wallabies, possums, non-native Rusa deers and more.
It has around 39 delta islands, the largest of which is Kiwai Island, famous for its dancers and the reputation of its ancient warriors.
Bamu River, Another giant river of Western Province, The Bamu River is famous for the legends and stories of its river monsters including giant snakes and eels that call its dark, turbulent waters home
Wawoi Falls, The giant Wawoi Falls in the province lies in the Wawoi District of Middle Fly. A spectacular waterfall, some argue it is largest waterfall in PNG.
Endangered Snakes and other reptiles, Western Province is the last home of the mighty Papuan Black. Killed of in many places, this dangerous and beautiful snake is now only found in some places of Papua region and especially in the Western Province.
You can also spot a lot of the province various types of crocodiles and reptiles including goanna’s and possibly unclassified species of frogs and small lizards.
Birdlife, Over 50 percent of New Guinea’s total bird population is found in the eco-regions of Western Province. Every visitor to the province will talk about the birds, whether they are a birdwatcher or not.
There has never been a comprehensive book or documentation on the bird life in this province but when I was at Balimo I saw Pelicans, Hornbills, Eagles, Birds of Paradise, Parrots and numerous other types of birds.
Other birders have reported Twelve wired Bird of Paradise, Flame Bower Bird, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Southern Cassowary, Little Paradise Kingfisher, Great billed Heron, Hawk Owl, Painted Quail-thrush, Black Sided Robin, King Bird of Paradise, Black Faced Monarch, Emerald Ground Dove, Superb Pitta and a host of migratory birds.
The main bird watching areas are in the Morehead and Nomad/Lake Murray Areas and Bensbach at the Bensbach Wildlife Lodge. Balimo is also another great spot to Bird Watch along the Aramia flood plains.
Tonda Wildlife Management Area, Visit the Tonda Wildlife Management Area. This area lies in the south-west of the province and is a wetland of significant international importance and is the largest protected area in PNG.
It covers some 590,000 hectares and includes forests and wetlands in the Fly flood plains.
It is sparsely populated and hardly receives visitors.
It is compared on a world scale to world heritage sites in Africa and Brazil and despite the relative age of New Guinea and the fact that the Tonda Wildlife Area is located on an island, its diversity in flora and fauna, especially its bird life, has it earmarked it to become a possible world heritage site.
250 species of resident and migratory birds have been found here, including most of the world’s population of Little Curlew which stage on the plains during migration. Other birds include Birds of Paradise and Brolga.
Fifty mammals have been recorded in this area including animals that have not been found anywhere in New Guinea which include the Spectacled Hare-Wallaby, False Water Rat, Bronze Quoll and Chestnut Dunnart.
Air Niugini offers direct flights from Port Moresby to Daru while, third level airlines Airlines PNG, Mission Aviation Fellowship and Tropic Air service most parts of Western Province.