Geographically, Papua New Guinea is considered one of the last strongholds of virginal rainforests in the world. Culturally, it is one of the least explored, even if they are now part of the Commonwealth. The myths of old tribal traditions mixed with the promise of undiscovered territories lure many global explorers and adventurers to this part of the world.
Papua New Guinea Facts
1. It is home to the world’s most number of spoken languages estimated to over 850
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has 3 official main languages such as English, Hiri Motu, and Tok Pisin. However, with a diverse group of ethnicity scattered to its 600 islands, it has over 850 distinct languages. Being home to about 12 percent of the world’s languages is quite a feat even if most of those languages have less than a thousand speakers each, an interesting fact about Papua New Guinea.
2. Papua New Guinea has only one-fifth of the population living in urban areas
With a total land area of 462,840 sq. km, which is about the size of the state of California in the United States, only about 14-18 percent of its residents are living in the urban areas. Tribal living is still predominant in Papua New Guinea. The mountainous terrain can be difficult to traverse and contributed to this slow progress.
3. It is a tropical region but has snowfall
Generally, Papua New Guinea enjoys a tropical weather as it is located near the equator. However, it is one of the very few tropical countries that can boast of snowcap peaks on its highest mountain with a 0°C climate at any time, an interesting Papua New Guinea fact. This climate quirk does not have a direct impact on the general weather of the country. The heat is still on all-year round, although a very comfortable weather with less rain can be experienced from the months of June, July and August.
4. The world’s only poisonous bird, the Pitohui, resides in Papua New Guinea
The animal world is full of venomous creatures but there is no such thing as a venomous bird. The closest to its description would be Papua New Guinea’s Pitohui. It is the only known poisonous bird in the world. Compounds of a deadly toxin called batrachotoxin can be found on its feathers and skin. These birds do not produce the toxin themselves, and for that reason, they are not categorized as venomous but poisonous. Experts believed that they acquired it through its diet of Choresine beetles. The poison can cause tingling and numbness for those who touch and eat the bird.
5. The country features almost 600 airstrips
Papua New Guineans are fortunate to have one of the most beautiful, natural landscapes in the world. It has incredible marine diversity, enchanting lagoons, undisturbed rainforests, and pristine beaches waiting to be explored by tourists from all over the world. However, its mountainous terrain can be a deterrent to fully enjoy each visit. To boost local tourism, the government built 600 airstrips around the whole country. By foot or by air is the most common way to travel around the different tourist spots there.
6. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State of Papua New Guinea.
In 1885, Germany and Britain divided the Eastern part of the island of New Guinea between them. By early 1900s, the British gave the governance of their territory to Australia. After the victory of the Allied forces in World War II, the separate territories merged and the United Nations gave the supervision of the island back to Australia. They named it, Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which later changed to Papua New Guinea. When it gained independence on September 16, 1975, it has become a Commonwealth Realm and Queen Elizabeth II continues to serve as its head of state.
7. Seashells were once its form of currency and some locals still use it as money
Before 1933, the people of Papua New Guinea regard the shells as means to trade goods and services. The shells will undergo a tedious process of drying and sterilizing before they are hanged in strings. It is an interesting fact about Papua New Guinea that even up to this day when cryptocurrency is fast becoming a trend, some locals particularly that of the indigenous Tolai tribe are still using them to buy goods in their community. Shell money is deeply rooted to their culture such as buying a bride, mourning ceremonies, inheritance gifts, or even settling disputes.
8. Papua New Guinea has the world’s largest butterfly
The flora and fauna in this country are quite rich. The lush rainforest is home to a wide variety of species and one of its most popular residents is Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing. The world’s largest butterfly has a wingspan of 11-12 inches, which is about 28-30 centimeters. The females are larger than the males, but the latter are more colorful. An English wildlife collector, Albert Steward Meek, discovered this rare butterfly and named it after King Edward VII’s wife, Alexandra, in 1906. Due to low egg input and natural calamity occurrences in their habitat, they are now considered endangered species.
9. Endangered Tree Kangaroos can be found in its tropical rainforest
Largely untouched tropical woods are home to endangered species such as the tree kangaroos. Papua New Guinea’s undisturbed rainforest is the perfect habitat for them. An interesting Papua New Guinea fact is that six out of ten species can be found there. They are similar to regular kangaroos except that they also look like lemurs. They have shorter legs and sturdy forelimbs that they can use for climbing.
10. In the past, cannibalism was rampant in remote areas of Papua New Guinea
Remote areas, undisturbed jungles, mountainous terrains, and isolated tribal living are perfect conditions to practice cannibalism. This is the darker side of Papua New Guinea. Those that were suspected of sorcery or witchcraft were killed and their bodies were eaten except for the hair, nails, bones, teeth, and penis. While it was said to be rampant in the past, the practice has declined recently. Some experts said that it is a dying tradition, but some tribes are still doing it up to this day.
11. PNG has one of the best diving sites the Coral Triangle has to offer
As part of the Coral Triangle in the western Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea has a wide array of the best diving sites in the world. If the Amazon Rainforest is regarded as invaluable because of its significant role of being a global greenhouse, the Coral Triangle in the ocean is highly treasured as well for having a massive network of coral reefs, which holds the most diverse marine life on earth. However, it would be better for beginner divers to get diving experience first from other places before trying it out there.
Many parts of Papua New Guinea are still untouched by modernization. A fascinating experience awaits adventurers here in the 54th largest country in the world that has just a little bit over 7 million residents. Scientific and religious missionary expeditions each year have revealed evidences that Earth has still many secrets waiting to be discovered even in this millennial age.
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