Closer than Bali and cheaper than Tahiti, we give you the forgotten South Pacific paradise.
Madang has earned the reputation of being the prettiest town in the South Pacific. Madang Province has an outstanding mountain range and coastal and island beauty. Its population of 240,000 is broken into four definite groups islander, coastal, river and mountain. They differ physically and it is easy to see the different tribal characteristics in people's facial features.
Hansa Bay was a bloody battlefield during WWII before Australia defeated the Japanese in Wewak, and reminders remain today. Sunken ships provide interesting dive locations and there is an abandoned airstrip complete with plane wrecks to visit.
Madang is a show place of parks, waterways, shady trees and tropical islands. The small town has hotels, department stores, markets and souvenir and artifact shops. There is a Museum and Cultural Centre and displays of traditional seagoing vessels.
Markets with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, clothing, nuts, fish and artifacts are run by local villagers and provide an interesting place to wander, every day except Sunday. There are 179 languages spoken in Madang 816 in Papua New Guinea and giving Pidgin a try will help you along.
Madang is one of Papua New Guinea's most popular tourist spots, but that doesn't mean bustling crowds. Its popularity has increased thanks to it being one of the world's best diving locations, created by warm fertile waters that surge through passages and channels. The waters support a superb range of colourful and diverse sealife. Those who know say it is at least equal to diving places such as the Red Sea, the Caribbean and the Great Barrier Reef. Apart from the old wrecks, it has reefs, shark diving, drift diving and shallow lagoons.
Out of the water, there's also plenty of sightseeing to be done, including helicopter tours to inland villages. There is a beautiful golf course, tennis courts, squash and lawn bowls and you can go game fishing. If you choose to be more low-key, you can drop a line in from a canoe or small boat.
Madang Resort Hotel sits at the entrance of Madang Harbour on 2¼ hectares of lush gardens that feature orchids, palms and other native flora, exotic birds and indigenous animals. Its history is rich and colourful and it's the country's only hotel left from German colonial times.
It offers a good range of accommodation, from reasonably priced rooms to luxurious waterfront bungalows, and the split level Forum Suite that overlooks Dallman Passage and Yamilon Bay. All rooms have bathrooms, air conditioning, telephone and television. There is a restaurant, coffee shop, room service and entertainment provided by the Melanesian Bamboo Bands. They have three dive boats which operate daily under the control of a qualified instructor.
Serious divers like to head to the Jais Aben Resort, around 25 minutes from town. It offers direct access to the area's best dive sites and there are very few places on earth with such quality diving so close to shore. It was established by an American marine biologist, and she gave it its name, which means "resting place".
Jais Aben is a coconut plantation on a private peninsula and has 19 bungalows, built from local timber, spread over 10 hectares. They face the sea and are sheltered by coconut palms, and have no phone or television. Each has an ensuite and drinking water is pumped from a well on the property. It has two eating places and the whole atmosphere is friendly and cosy.
There is a dive-shop in the resort and Aquaventures PNG offers all levels of instruction, trips, equipment hire and is close enough to the action to offer two morning dives before lunch.