Paradise Lost, and Found

My husband and I met as a result of serving in the Peace Corps in Africa, so it should come as no surprise that our honeymoon would be somewhere off the beaten path.  As much as we love relaxing on a beach with pina coladas, we also enjoy the essence of traveling and getting down and dirty with the local culture—so we wanted to find a destination where we could have it all.   We had a few criteria in selecting a place: 1) Neither of us could have been there before  2) It was far,  far, FAR  away  3)  It might be a difficult place to travel (i.e. lack of infrastructure:  hospitals, roads, nice hotels, etc).

The last two criteria were set because  having children in a few years or so may curtail our travel plans to certain countries with those criteria.  We fully plan on traveling with our young children to countries with shorter transit times and better access to healthcare  however.  When deciding on our honeymoon destination, we asked one another to compile a list of our top 5 destinations (of which we shared 3) and slowly crossed off each of the more developed and closer countries until one remained:  Papua New Guinea–a country just north of Australia, east of Indonesia, and west of Fiji.

Although many people have never heard of Papua New Guinea, it’s been one of our must-see destinations for a while.  I first learned about it in Anthropology 101 back in 1999 because of their dubious former cultural practices. Since then, I’ve had friends visit and come back with tales that would blow your mind.  In this day and age, it had all the features we were looking for in a honeymoon:  culturally interesting, exotic hiking, abundant nature, endemic wildlife, tropical beaches, first-class diving, and last but not least, remoteness from our Blackberrys and internet for some much-needed TLC and romance.

Our honeymoon was divided into two distinct parts:  1) Visiting the Western Highlands to revel in PNG’s unique culture and 2) Diving and relaxing on PNG’s spectacular coast.

All pictures in this post were taken by me  :)

Left:  Part 1 of the trip–Enga men in Goroka, PNG, Right:  Part 2 of the trip–PNG’s spectacular coast

Our primary reason for postponing our honeymoon three months after our wedding was due to work schedules, followed closely by the timing of an annual festival in Goroka, Papua New Guinea that occurs each September.  The festival in Goroka attracts thousands of traditional and painted warriors displaying  Papua New Guinea’s incredibly rich and diverse culture for a weekend of music, dancing and tribal rituals.  I literally had tears of happiness dripping down my face as I entered the show ground the first day–it was unreal to be there and a dream come true.

Reveling in the culture of the Highlands, PNG.

It looks like I am wearing a headdress in this one.

Adapting to the culture is easy for us :)

Our new friends in PNG

In addition to cuture and advenuture, there was plenty of time for romance on this trip :)  We spent the latter half of our honeymoon in beautiful Tufi–a world-renowned tropical scuba diving destination. We had a private bungalow overlooking the only tropical fjords in the world where we watched giant butterflies, admired a myriad of exotic flowers and drank fresh fruit smoothies watching the sun set each night.  Our days were filled with first-class diving where we saw countless sharks, turtles and exotic tropical fish, lounging on our own private beaches, and we even overnight-ed for one night in a local village accurately described as “honeymooners paradise.”

Left: Sunset (seriously, the whole PNG coastline is satiated with undisturbed coral reefs–its insane, but a sign of little contact.  As soon as there is more development, the reefs will probably disappear :( ) , Right: Spectacular Sunrise– Both near Tufi, PNG

Inside our bungalow at Tufi Dive Resort, PNG (Amazing resort: service A+, meals insane–we had Lobster for dinner twice, diving was the best I’d ever done, nature was to die for–hundreds of exotic birds and animals abound, drinks were made with fresh fruit, the ambiance was romantic and unforgettable, as you are surrounded in a jungle that extends for hundreds or thousands of miles around without another town nearby).

Hubby lounging on our private terrace.

View of tropical fjords from our bungalow’s terrace

Near our hotel in Tufi, PNG

This is the romantic guesthouse (guest hut) we stayed in on our overnight in this village.

Our own private beach in the village.

Sailing away in crystal clear waters alone with my hubby, literally watching tropical fish and giant sea turtles swim by.

The “Tufian” locals gathering on the airstrip watching our plane depart, one of only 3 flights a week to land in Tufi.

PNG might not be for everyone, but it certainly was a reflection of us, just as our wedding was.  Both exceeded our expectations :)
What sets your honeymoon apart from others?  How did you choose your location and timing?

Next Up: It’s a Boy!