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The Journey to Paradise Photos of great cultural and natural beauties of Papua New Guinea

 
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Old 23-09-2002, 11:19 PM
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Bird watching in Tari

Bird watching in Tari, Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea by Steven Mago

The morning was cool and fresh and immediately I knew the rest of the day would turn out perfect. From the lodge, we were looking down over the Tari Valley in Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. It was an incredible feeling. I mean, how many places on earth give you the unique opportunity of looking down on cloud formations. It was like looking down over the pages of National Geographic. The clouds looked like flat-lying cobwebs, occasionally punctuated in places by protruding mountain summits. Normally, you would be looking up to the sky and across the horizon to see incredible cloud formations in the mornings or evenings.

It was December 2001 and I was on this early morning bird watching trip with three American bird watchers, husband and wife, Bob and Penny and Sharyl, a lone traveller who later turned out to be a cross between a bird watcher and a diver. Reason - apart from being excited about seeing the birds in the wild, she couldn't stop talking about diving at her next destination - Alotau in Milne Bay Province, situated south of Port Moresby and an hour's plane ride away.

Our starting point was world famous, Ambua Lodge, a luxury bush material accommodation in the form of village huts, set on a hillside of flowering gardens with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest.

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Old 23-09-2002, 11:20 PM
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The design of the huts is based on traditional architecture. Just being here is an experience in itself. The crisp mountain air is perfect for taking advantage of the many guided tours, especially bird watching. You can also take moderate walks along rainforest tracks to go bird watching, see the waterfalls cascade into crystal-clear pools or drive to one of the local villages and watch a traditional singsing (group dancing and singing).
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Old 23-09-2002, 11:27 PM
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Back to birds, the rule is to set out to the forests as early as you can, in time for the morning choruses and courtship displays on tree branches and tree tops. Too, for birds in the wild like Papua New Guinea's bird of paradise species, they perch on tree tops in the morning when it's cool and where they can drink water drops from leaves and tree branches.

When the sun is up, it gets a little bit hot for them, their sources of drinking water dry up and they are gone and it can be a difficult waiting game. Out of the 43 known bird of paradise species, Papua New Guinea has 38 species and Tari has ten species including the most exotic species, Brown and Black Sicklebill, Superb Bird of Paradise, Blue Bird of Paradise and its close cousins, the bower birds.

After driving for about twenty minutes, our tour bus came to a stop and the guide, Joseph told us to get out. He was first out with his tripod and a pair of binoculars. Hardly had Joseph set up his tripod when Menzies, the driver jumped out of his driver's set. He looked towards us, did a hand sign, gesturing us to come to him while whispering in some English that I hardly understood. He pointed in the direction of some tall trees and said, "Look, there!."

Raggiana Bird of Paradise
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Old 23-09-2002, 11:28 PM
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Without the aid of his binoculars, Joseph, being the expert that he was, looked in the same direction, nodded in agreement and said, "Yes, Princess Stephanie! Three of them". Bob took no time catching the bird in his binoculars while Penny and Sharyl struggled. Penny, with her own pair of binoculars pointed in the same direction, slowly whispered, "I can't see anything. Can you see anything Bob?" "Mmm, mm", came the reply. "Maybe it's my eyes or maybe it's my binoculars," said Penny. "Stay focused, you'll see 'em. Wait until they jump," said Bob, almost in angry tone.

Sharyl, closely following Joseph the bird guide, was having the same difficulty spotting the birds. "I can't see either." "There, look, it's on the tree," said Joseph. "Which tree?" "There, on the right, under the tall tree," said Joseph, and by this time, Sharyl was about to give up, saying, "There's an awful lot of tall trees out there Joseph. What have you got double vision?" No reply from Joseph, obviously not understanding the remark. Even I was confused and it took me a while before I saw the birds.

We had left the lodge at 6.30 am and an hour later, the sun had risen and it was time to go back to the lodge. We had seen three different species of the bird of paradise and three species of parrots. It was only an hour and the observed bird list was not long enough, but for Bob, Penny and Sharyl, they had seen the exotic birds in the wild, and that was all that mattered.

Penny said to me back at the lodge, "I am satisfied seeing only three species. My God, they are wonderful creatures. Up till now, I have only seen them on books. This is why I came and I like birds. There's something special about them that I can't explain. They are such lovely creatures and they should be protected."

I thought I would give the last word to Sharyl. She said to me over watercress soup at dinner time, "I would have loved to have seen them closer but then again, I shouldn't complain. They were where they should be, in the wild and on tree tops. At least I didn't see them in a zoo and that's the beauty of coming to a place like Papua New Guinea. You have rainforests that are still pristine. You should not let logging to come here because they destroy a lot of the habitat.

"You have such a lovely country and you still practice your culture which is great. I am really looking forward to dive in Alotau - at least there, I can see the fish and lovely corals right in front of my eyes."
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Old 23-09-2002, 11:30 PM
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ABOUT TARI:

Tari is in fact a Basin and situated in the Centre of the island of New Guinea. Clans in the Southern Highlands have a strong and intricate social system little affected by change. The Southern Highlands is a land of lush, high valleys wedged between impressive limestone peaks.

Tari is one of the few places in Papua New Guinea where the traditional way of life can be seen in everyday living. Ceremonial rituals are strongly observed. Men and women can still be seen wearing traditional dress, tending their gardens and pigs and building their bush material huts.

Visitors to the tribal wonderland of the Southern Highlands can stay in a variety of accommodation from basic guest houses to luxurious mountain lodges.

Porgera Wigman
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Old 23-09-2002, 11:32 PM
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Tari is known all over the world for its Huli Wigmen, famous for their elaborate and colourful traditional dress, body decorations and facial paintings in vivid colours.

These proud warriors have great reverence for birds, especially the bird of paradise. They imitate the birds in ceremonial dances and decorate their mushroom-shaped human hair wigs with bird feathers, flowers and cuscus furs.

The wigs, woven from human hair, are donated by wives and children. Everlasting daisies are especially cultivated for use in the wigs, while their faces are painted with yellow and ochre. The women, by contrast wear black for their wedding and coat themselves with blue-grey clay when mourning. The women's traditional dress, like those of their men folk, has not changed over the years.

Huli Wigman
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