Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby has what you might call a bit of an image problem…
It has a reputation as a violent and dangerous place, particularly in Australia where the media seem to love nothing more hyping up a story – but only when expat Aussies are involved.
Unless your final destination is Loloata Resort in nearby Bootless Bay, all scuba diving trips to PNG involve either transiting through, or overnighting in Port Moresby, as the capital is the only international gateway in to the country.
In my experience this is probably the most intimidating part of any journey to PNG, because there is an element of danger in Port Moresby, plus it’s also an expensive place and personally I don’t find it very appealing.
The danger is principally from the Raskols that have become a permanent and very negative feature of Port Moresby, and some other major cities in PNG such as Mount Hagen & Lae.
Virtually every expat I have spoken to in Port Moresby seems to have a “near miss” story and some have stories that are really scary…
But I really don’t think the place is the “near death” experience these stories and the media tend to make it, and in reality I believe it is actually the local people that suffer the most from the Raskols.
A violent crime against an expat will usually bring severe retribution from the police, whereas similar crimes against the locals appear to be much more common and not a lot seems to be done about them.
Apparently very few, crimes against expats are planned – instead they tend to be random & opportunistic occurrences where a Raskol seizes the chance that has suddenly presented itself.
For visitors to Port Moresby being involved in such a random event is probably the biggest danger you will actually face, and that is only likely to happen if you are particularly careless, such as walking around unaccompanied with an expensive looking camera or wrist watch, or maybe a visibly bulging wallet.
Local people in PNG tend to sit on the ground and watch the world go by when they have nothing to do, which can be very intimidating to the uninitiated visitor who will already be semi-paranoid about raskols just waiting to pounce…
While it is unlikely that they will be wearing a T Shirt with “Raskol” on the front to identify themselves, the fact is that you will probably know one should you cross paths with one – or more…
So the trick is to use your common sense and get out and see the things Port Moresby has to offer (see below), but use the guided tours offered by all the hotels to do that.
The guides will know the potential trouble spots, who the possible trouble makers are and steer you well clear.
Just in case you are wondering what a Raskol actually does looks like, check Australian photographer Stephen Dupont’s image gallery.
Dupont is quite a guy – he specializes in what he calls fragile cultures & marginalized peoples and in 2004 he managed to get to the “Kips Kaboni” (Red Devils) Raskol community and Papua New Guinea’s oldest gang, to allow him to spend time in their midst and document the individuals in the gang.
Apparently it took him several trips to Port Moresby to build the trust needed, but eventually he was able to set up a makeshift studio in their squatter camp in which to photograph his subjects.
Diving Papua New Guinea: Where to stay in Port Moresby
If there is no other option, and you have plenty of money, the Airways is very close to the airport, very secure and will pick you up on arrival.
Alternatively the Lamana is also close to the airport and looks good on it’s website, but I have never stayed there myself.
The last few times I have had to stay over in Port Moresby I used the Ela Beach hotel which is “moderately” priced by local standards, but still expensive.
All accommodation prices have gone through the roof since ExxonMobil announced they would proceed with the PNG LNG project.
I guess this is what happens when Big Oil comes to town…
Diving Papua New Guinea: What to see in Port Moresby
Most of the Port Moresby hotels will offer guided tours to the National Parliament (Parliament Haus), the Botanic Gardens and National Museum plus a stop at PNG Arts, which is a great place to see and buy traditional PNG arts & crafts.
A stop at the local markets is also well worth making and the picturesque Koki village & market at the eastern end of Ela Beach is very interesting, as is Hanuabada village.
Koki is a stilt village located over the water and you will need a local to take you there, which your hotel may be able to arrange. Hanuabada is a similar stilt village and again you will need somebody local to take you around.
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