How a Nature Park and its extraordinary wildlife can change perceptions of Papua New Guinea as a travel destination.
In Papua New Guinea, 2018 has been a big year for business, as the country has hosted a year of APEC meetings. With three Senior Officials Meetings checked off the list and the final Leader’s Summit right around the corner, there is a mood of enormous excitement about what the high-level discussions on tourism, food security, women in the economy, and SMEs – all along the ever-popular theme of “Embracing the Digital Future” – can bring.
With so many new travellers arriving in Papua New Guinea, often for the first time and with little knowledge of what the country has to offer, MDF has partnered with the Port Moresby Nature Park to help market its extraordinary animal and cultural attractions to local and international tourists alike.
Epe Vila has been a Wildlife Officer at the Park for almost three years. “The part I love about my job is seeing the animals up close. In the wild you won’t see them like this. Most kids here in Port Moresby don’t really know about the animals that are found in the wild. And most of the locals back in the villages don’t really know their story; how to look after them.”
The Park has taken a pro-active approach towards attracting the 5000 plus APEC delegates, distributing colourful brochures to all the major hotels in Port Moresby and setting up a direct phone-line so that hotels can organise Park bookings and pick-ups.
And they are arriving by the bus-load – literally.
“We do educational programs for school kids and guided tours for the public,” explains Epe. “We must learn to appreciate that we have these animals here, unlike in many other countries, where they don’t have such beautiful creatures.”
Once inside the Park, the visitors from APEC’s 20 other economies are treated to a guided tour under the fruit bats, through the aviary, over the cassowary boardwalks and are then introduced to the resident salt-water crocodile, the very relaxed cuscus, a Pesquat’s parrot (a.k.a. vulturine parrot), spirited tree kangaroos, and Olga the Brolga.
Just when they think they’ve seen it all, visitors continue through an orchid-walk to a model village with exhibitions of traditional weaving, shell money, song and dance, wood carving, fire-starting and a sample of traditional dishes cooked in a ground oven known as a mumu. The tour ends at a gift shop filled with traditional artefacts and souvenirs.
Michelle McGeorge is the General Manager of Port Moresby Nature Park. “The feedback we get from international and local visitors is their surprise at how amazing this park is,” she says proudly. She and her staff have worked hard to make it so.
This week, Michelle’s team will celebrate the launch of their new website, which will make it easier for tourists to plan their visits to the Park and discover more about Papua New Guinea’s incredible plants and animals. And from October, visitors will be able to walk through a grand new seven-enclosure aviary, housing nine different Bird of Paradise species.
Behind the scenes, the Park is also developing new attractions including a state-of-the-art reptile house and a model village where groups from all around the country will come to showcase their cultural heritage.
Improving Papua New Guinea’s global profile, attractions like the Park – offering spaces for visitors to learn about the natural environment – can contribute positively towards national identity and create a sense of well-being in urban communities.
MDF has partnered with Port Moresby Nature Park to develop and market new products to strengthen tourism in Port Moresby. Visit the Park’s website here. For more on this partnership visit our partnership page here.