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PNG: Sefoa adventure

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Sorrel Wilby is always in her element when she visits Papua New Guinea. She loves to explore the culture or nature of every place she visits, and the Sefoa Adventure Tour allowed her to do both.

First she had to go to the village of Tufi in the country's east. Like many villages, it can be reached only by plane or boat. Rugged terrain doesn't allow roads to be built, and the very isolation is what keeps village life sheltered.

Sorrel's guided tour included visits to various villages which all benefit from the tourist dollar. Visitors benefit from the beauty of the area. Volcanic fjords, amazing waterfalls, rainforests and cheap accommodation on a beach are the rewards. The tour destination was the Sefoa Fjord, the largest in the area.

Fjords and Papua New Guinea don't seem to go together, but the spectacular fjords jutting into the Solomon Sea put paid to that. They were formed by fast-flowing lava from three volcanoes, and unlike the fjords of Scandinavia, their waters are always warm. Sheltered bays are home to coral formations and tropical marine life.

Fjords are more than 90m deep and rise out of the water to more than 150m. Wide entrances are protected by reefs and they funnel into the mountainside where mangroves form a canopy over waterways. Gorge faces are covered with moss and orchids, and waterfalls cascade into the sea.

Villagers cultivate their gardens and everyone is welcome to take what they need without paying. No-one works for anyone — they just work the hours they want to. With no gas or electricity, meals are cooked over wood fires in clay pots. It's exactly as life is today — not centuries ago.

Seafood is always on the menu and the local specialty is freshly caught crayfish cooked in a variety of ways such as boiled in coconut milk and lime, barbecued and curried. Meals always feature local vegetables and seasonal fruits including sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, pineapples, and local oranges.

Guest toilets at village stays are usually private pit latrines discreetly located a short distance from the bungalow. Water is also available in containers outside the guest bungalow for washing hands and brushing teeth. Toilet paper, and soap are provided, or you may prefer to take your own along.

Sorrel went to Kamoa Village on the shores of a white, sandy beach in Tufi. She met the village head Luke — also known as Sharkman — who wears a shark tooth mask. He caught the shark with his bare hands!

Kamoa Villagers performed a live theatre show telling an ancient cultural tale of rival clan warfare. Women looked like exotic birds in costumes with wings made from palms.

Villagers show how they make sago string bags, fishing nets, canoes, tapa cloth and rope and then you enjoy lunch served on the beach.

In the next bay, Gariva Village Guesthouse will give you the experience of living like a Tufi local. The guesthouse is on a beautiful white sandy beach lapped by the Solomon Sea.

Accommodation is basic but adequate, and with so much beauty outside you probably wouldn't spend much time indoors. Beds are either on a raised bed frame or laid out on a beautifully woven mat on the floor, protected by an insect net. Rooms have a table and chair and somewhere to hang your towel and clothes.

While some villages have piped water, most rely on water carried from a nearby stream. Guests can wash in the stream or scoop water over themselves in a private outdoor bathroom. Alternatively, they can paddle to the nearest fjord waterfall and stand under nature's shower.

The guesthouse is nestled on the top of a small rise and your host will introduce you to his extended family. He may even take you into the sea to catch your own dinner.

Sorrel's guide, Ramsay, took her deep into the jungle to witness a rarely seen female tattoo initiation. Ink is made from coconut husks and sap and is applied with thorns. It's a very painful process and can take months, depending upon the woman's pain threshold.

Further into the jungle, Sorrel witnessed locals making sago, one of the main food staples. The time-consuming process involves chopping the trunk of a 10-year-old tree, pulping and filtering it to extract the starch.

Location

Papua New Guinea's east.

Cost

Sefoa Adventure Tours cost $100 per person and include cultural displays and visits to villages. They leave from the Tufi Dive Resort, a one-hour flight from Port Moresby.

Tufi Dive Resort accommodation is $170 per person a night. Meals are included.

Pacific Blue flies to Port Moresby. Airlines of PNG connections to Tufi are available.

Fares from:

  • Brisbane $199
  • Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra $279

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are subject to change.

Prices correct at March 25, 2010.

For further information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789
www.virginblue.com.au

Sefoa Adventure
www.tufi-experience.com

Visas: Sixty-day tourist visas are applied for on arrival. Passports must be valid for at least six months after entry.

Electricity: 240V at 50Hz using flat-pronged plugs in inverted V shape.

Time zone: GMT +10.

Currency: Kina.

International dialling code: +675.

It is recommended travellers to Papua New Guinea see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smarttraveller.com.au.

To find out more about the hot deals mentioned on the show, check out Holidays for Sale.

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