Southern Highlands Province (SHP) covers 23,800 square kilometers of mountainous country in the west of PNG. Much of the terrain is very rugged, and human occupation limited to isolated pockets. Rivers are not navigable, and the road system is limited to the northern, less rugged part of the province. The population rose from 236,100 in 1980 to 392,700 in 1990. Over 25 languages are spoken. The Constitution, adopted in 1977, provides for an Assembly of 29 elected and three appointed members. There are seven districts and the headquarters is at Mendi. The only significant economic development is at Hides which supplies natural gas to the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province and, since 1992, the rich Kutubu oil field. Some coffee is produced by smallholders but most commercial agriculture and livestock projects have been unsuccessful.
There is evidence of human occupation 20,000 BP. The first European contact was in the mid-1930s but many parts of the province were not contacted until the mid-1950s. In 1974 Mendi was linked to the coastal town of Lae by the Highlands Highway. Since then most of the road building in the province has been done by a unit of Australian army engineers, with the double purpose of providing training for the engineers and Australian aid to the province.
Things to see
Mendi: Built around the airport in a lush high valley between tall peaks, this small town has essential services. Huli, Duna and other tribes people from this area are famous for their red and yellow face decorations and decorated wigs.
Mendi Market: Fridays and Saturdays locals come to town. The market is located by the main highway north of town across the bridge.
Artefacts: A shop near Mendi Bakery sells weapons, baskets and hand-loomed products.
Lake Kutubu: Butterflies and Birds of Paradise are plentiful around this beautiful, peaceful place and the friendly people live traditional lives. You can swim, visit villages or just enjoy the scenery. The closest airstrip at Moro is serviced by Airlines PNG from Port Moresby and Mt. Hagen.
Tari: Saturday is when most Huli people come to the market. The people are interesting and there are many good places to stay, ranging from up market lodges to village guesthouses.
Wasi Falls Wildlife Management Area: Virgin rainforest here is rich in birds and wildlife. There are several waterfalls including the 100m Wasi Falls, and many caves. Tubo Lodge can organise bird watching and wildlife tours. Contact satellite Ph: +675 275 5778 or +675 323 4224 / 6570.
Things to do
Walking/trekking: Many people go walking from nearby Lake Kutubu and fly out from Pimaga. Alternatively you can walk about 20km from Pimaga to Gesege Village and go by canoe to the lodge at Tage Point. Ambua Lodge and Lakwanda Lodge near Tari can organise hikes and tours. Walkers can also tackle Mt. Giluwe (4368m), an old shield volcano and the country’s second-highest mountain. Kiburu Lodge at Mendi can organise walks and treks. Mt. Ialibu (3465m) and other hikes can be made from Ialibu, midway between Mendi and Mt. Hagen. Ialibu has a cultural centre and museum, and accommodation built by the local people, the Imbonggu. Basket-making is a village industry here.
Bird watching: There is bird watching at Lake Kutubu and Ambua Lodge, surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. Lakwanda Lodge and Makara Bird View Lodge, a newly built lodge, near Tari, also have good bird watching locations.
Sightseeing tours: Ambua Lodge organises a range of guided tours. Walk along rainforest tracks to go bird watching, take a trip down the river to see the waterfalls or go by 4WD to visit a village and watch a traditional ‘Sing Sing’. Kiburu Lodge, on the banks of the Mendi River, has a wide range of activities including cultural tours, mountain climbing and flora and fauna expeditions. Lakwanda Lodge offers orchid tours, skeleton cave tours, trekking, bushwalking and other cultural activities.
FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces
|Highlands||Eastern Highlands Province||Goroka|
|Western Highlands Province||Mt. Hagen|
|Southern Highlands Province||Mendi|
|Southern||National Capital District||Port Moresby|
|Central Province||Port Moresby|
|Oro (Northern) Province||Popondetta|
|Milne Bay Province||Alotau|
|East Sepik Province||Wewak|
|Sandaun (West Sepik) Province||Vanimo|
|New Guinea Islands||Manus Province||Lorengau|
|New Ireland Province||Kavieng|
|East New Britain Province||Kokopo|
|West New Britain Province||Kimbe|
|Autonomous Region of Bougainville||Buka|