The Country With Most Languages!

Dear world,I write you from a remote remote town in the remote country of Papua New Guinea! (internet is a miracle) I'm here with the International Committee of the Red Cross to explore the country and report back what I see. And the first, most amazing thing I see here is....the insane number of languages! Enjoy this video!! INSTAGRAM: @nasdaily GROUP: Nas Daily GlobalP.S The upload time schedule is all messed up due to time zone differences. Bear with me as I try to get back to normal 9 AM uploads PNG time.

Posted by Nas Daily on Monday, August 13, 2018

Papua New Guinea — the eastern half of the world’s second largest island —is the perfect destination for intrepid travellers. The composite cultures, elusive wildlife and flurry of languages makes Papua New Guinea an adventure like no other. 

We, at The Nas Company, were astounded when we realised that this remote country had not one or two but over 800 languages (850 to be exact) — that’s over 25% of the world’s spoken tongues! This is practically one of the most culturally enigmatic and linguistically diverse countries in the world.

We’ve seen photos of Papua New Guinea’s otherworldly landscapes, we’ve watched videos about their thriving traditions and we’ve heard so much about how friendly the locals are. We just wanted to visit the land where time stood still and where tribes still reigned supreme. We knew that we had to experience this intriguing piece of unspoilt land for ourselves — and so we did. 

We jumped at the chance to visit in 2018, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross. This guide to Papua New Guinea showcases just a fragment of what we’ve taken away from our memorable trip to this lost world, where we pretty much had the country’s wanders to ourselves.

Unique culture, traditions and languages

Papua New Guinea wedding

As one of the most undiscovered countries in the world, Papua New Guinea’s exotic cultures continue to flourish untainted by influences from the outside world. With over 750 tribes calling Papua New Guinea home, you can expect an abundance of traditions and well-preserved cultures to go along. It was a humbling experience, indeed.

We realised that The Highlands region is perfect for tribal encounters, where we noticed unique customs and interesting lifestyles. For example, the colourful Huli tribe inhabits the southern highlands and Hela Province of Papua New Guinea. They don colourful clay as part of their traditional body decorations. 

We could really feel their dynamism and candid love for their community through their impressive dances. Of course, just to be on the safe side, be sure you get a local guide who will help you make a good impression at some of these remote villages.

The cultural shows and festivals, such as the Goroka Show or the Kenu and Kundu Festival, are also a great chance for locals to showcase their traditions. They display their competitive spirits in a good ol’ race (think dragon-boating but South Pacific style) and exemplify traditional customs through “sing sings”. These “sing sings” are performances devised as a way for neighbouring villages to share their traditions. 

We loved how the locals went all out, decked in elaborate feather headdresses, grass skirts, shell and horn necklaces and colourful face and body paint. While we were all dancing together as one, the world indeed felt very small.

Asaro Tribe, Papua New Guinea

We also had the chance to see the world’s scariest tribe — the ghost-like Asaro Mudmen! Hundreds of years ago, the tribe’s ancestors took mud from specific places, went to the river, covered their entire bodies with and built masks out of it. They wanted to scare their enemy and take over their village. Thank goodness this form of fighting no longer exists, but the tradition continues to be celebrated until this day.

Even though Papua New Guinea still suffers from actual tribal warfare (something you don’t really hear on the news), we were glad to know that the numbers have dwindled thanks to the International Committee of The Red Cross’ hard work. Instead of upholding rivalries, the tribes now vividly celebrate their differences. We really cherished our time immersing in the local cultures and practices because we knew that in a world where people tend to conform, this was raw and unconventional — a refreshing change.

Papua New Guinea languages

In Papua New Guinea, we found out that people can speak an average of 3 to 5 languages each. Since the majority of people live in tribes on mountaintops, far away from everyone else, many different languages were developed. You’ll learn a language in one village and be completely baffled by another. 

We broke some language barriers by learning this super cool broken version of English called Pidgin. We were really amused because we figured there’s no need for crazy grammar, crazy long words and crazy sentence structures to communicate with others. The point of language is simply for humans to understand each other — that’s it.

Things to do & places to visit in Papua New Guinea

For the nature enthusiasts

Savannas, dense mountain forests, rainforests and coastal mangroves can all be found here — talk about diversity. If there’s one nature park that you should visit, you should consider the Port Moresby Nature Park. This vast verdant gardens and zoological park is home to an impressive collection (11,000 orchids for starters) of Papua New Guinea’s unique wildlife, tropical flora and fauna. 

Due to Papua New Guinea’s location, there are also plenty of active volcanoes that you can hike around namely Volcano Tavurvur in Rabaul. If you’re really up for a challenge , we reckon you try the 96-km Kokoda Trail — not for the faint-hearted. This famous coastal trek has been dubbed as one of the most technically challenging yet utterly rewarding hikes in the world. This 10-day hike will definitely elevate your experience here in Papua New Guinea.

For the beach bums

If you’re looking for uncrowded waves and a cacophony of water adventures, Papua New Guinea offers gorgeous beaches right up your alley. You can snorkel, swim and scuba-dive while admiring the kaleidoscopic marine life beneath. We really wished we had more time to soak in the lapping waves here. 

The crystalline waters around Madang, Tufi and many of the other island provinces are brilliantly flawless. In Madang, diving opportunities are surreal as you can view underwater wrecks of Japanese fighter planes and submarines with weapons and cargo still intact. In Vanimo and Kavieng, you can expect some of the best reef breaks. 

Some top beaches to head to include Buka Island, Bramble Haven and if you’re willing to take a short connecting flight… the idyllic Panasia Island. We might have just missed a glimpse of paradise. 

For the animal lovers

Papua New Guinea is really a sanctuary for bird watchers, thanks to its lavish and diverse ecosystem. There are species of tropical birds here (708 if you’re wondering) that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. We were trying to keep our eyes peeled for the elusive birds of paradise. Moitaka Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular attraction in Papua New Guinea where you can find these exotic birds. There is also a mini zoo inside which features tree kangaroos, parrots, bandicoots, possums and cassowaries. 

For the history buffs

One of the highlights here in Papua New Guinea is to witness a World War II Aircraft in the middle of the jungle. Rabaul was a key base for the Japanese in World War II. The area is steeped in history and you can still see vestiges of the past through the plane wrecks, ammunition, old base buildings. If you’re in the capital of Port Moresby, you can visit The Parliament House as well as the National Museum with an attached Art Gallery. Here, you’ll witness over 25,000 archaeological collections and over 20,000 war relics.

Papua New Guinea is the ideal place to switch off and disconnect. With Wifi being a luxury here, we could really just immerse ourselves in real encounters with real individuals. The allure of Papua New Guinea is a rather indescribable one. With unrivalled views, amazing wildlife, vibrant cultures and a melting pot of languages, this country deserves global recognition. An experience in Papua New Guinea will be an experience like no other — our trip can bear testament to that.

This guide to Papua New Guinea barely scrapes the surface. The Melanesian atmosphere, hospitable locals and well-preserved heritage is not something you can witness just anywhere in the world. We were mind-blown by the unaltered human diversity and how pristine Papua New Guinea’s natural landscapes remain. Because of that, we’ve agreed that a visit to one of the world’s last great frontiers is an absolute must. Holidays are meant to be rewarding but a trip to this undiscovered island can be life-changing.

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