Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital and the main entry point for international visitors, does not present an immediate picture of an ideal tropical paradise.
During the winter months the National Capital District is dry, dusty and brown, while summer is wet, humid and overgrown. The area is a place of stark contrast. Ramshackle huts sit alongside glistening glass towers, dusty plains turn corners to expose a glittering harbour and fearsome frowns turn to welcome smiles. Port Moresby opens the door to the land of the unexpected.
It is the South Pacific’s largest city and while the sprawling capital isn’t currently listed among the world’s great metropolis, it does have big plans for the future.
Port Moresby is located on the southern coast of the country, surrounded by part of the Fairfax Harbour. Port Moresby was named by Captain John Moresby in 1873 and in 1874 a mission station was established at the village of Hanuabada, a traditional Papuan village and home to the Motuan people.
During World War Two, the small town of Port Moresby was transformed into a large military camp, accommodating tens of thousands of troops during the Pacific campaigns. At the end of the war, Port Moresby was the only town of any size left standing in Papua New Guinea and was chosen by the governing Australian administration to be the seat of government.
The selection of Port Moresby as the seat of government for Papua New Guinea saw the start of urban drift that brought people from almost every tribal group to the city, as well as attracting a large population of foreigners.
Remnants of the colonial days can still be found in downtown Port Moresby and elements of traditional life have been maintained in the nearby villages. After being destroyed during the war, Hanuabada was restored in the traditional style with its houses perched on stilts over the water.
Port Moresby is now a cosmopolitan city, embracing 20th century technology and development, while trying to retain the traditional values of its varied population.
Port Moresby Nature Park is the country’s only combined Botanical and Zoological Park and Gardens. It is a haven of greenery, with two kilometres of boardwalk threading beneath a jungle canopy, green lawns, excellent wildlife displays, and a huge collection of orchids.
The Government of PNG has made significant upgrades to facilities in the past year with a further commitment to this event and more.
In addition, both the National and Provincial Governments are investing more in road upgrades, beautification projects, and providing security, cultural, educational, and health initiatives tied to the recent international activities.
The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is the latest in a series of events in PNG, culminating with the APEC 2018 conference also to be held in Port Moresby.
The city will become a stage with activity that complements the sporting programme, enhancing the spectator and visitor experience to help foster a sense of buzz and excitement in the city while the world is watching.
A visit to Parliament House, PNG’s most impressive building, and cultural displays at the National Museum and Art Gallery are recommended. The National Botanical Gardens, when the orchids are blooming, is perhaps the city’s most charming spot.
Outside town, Variarata National Park is heaven for birdwatchers and the drive there is rewarding. Bomana War Cemetery, thousands of young Australian and Papua New Guinean soldiers are buried in this carefully tended WWII cemetery, which is a heart-wrenching reminder of the horrific campaigns in the region.