Caving in Papua New Guinea
The National Geographic published an article in its 2006 September issue about the river caves of New Britain island.
The article described the 2 month cave-exploring antiques of 11 adventurers from the U.K, France, and the United States who ventured into the Nakanai Mountains of New Britain – more particularly, one of the island’s largest dolines called Ora.
The goal of the expedition was to map as much of Ora as possible and to follow the river boring through it.
The team were successful in doing so and in the process highlighted a number of important points – most importantly the uniqueness and fragility of New Britain’s river caves and the possibility of getting the caves listed as a World Heritage site.
Here is an excerpt from the National Geographic article:
“In the end, the team discovered nearly eight miles of river caves. Gill hopes the expedition’s work will help persuade the Papua New Guinea government to create a conservation area protecting the Nakanai Mountains. The Malaysian government did something similar on Borneo—with instrumental guidance from Gill—at Gunung Buda, another region of giant caves, which was declared a national park in 2001”.
However, the Nakanai mountain ranges aren’t the only places in PNG where extensive cave systems exist. Papua New Guinea’s deep cave systems boasts massive chambers, cascading waterfalls, and underground streams, providing challenging opportunities for professional cavers. There are also many smaller caves suitable for general expeditions.
East New Britain
Muruk Cave was recently discovered by French caver, Jean-Pean Sounvier, and is one of the world’s most traversed caves. At 1123m deep and 17km long, it is thought to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the limestone regions of the Southern Highlands the Mamo Kananda (54.8km) is reputed to be one of the world’s longest, caves while nearby Atea Kananda is the country’s second longest at 34.5km. There are also many caves in the Wasi Falls region at the eastern end of Lake Kutubu, some of which were used as ancient burial sites.
This steep, jungle-clad island in the North Solomons is home to Benua Cave on the Keriaka Plateau, which is said to have the world’s largest cavern (4,500,000 cubic metres).
There are several burial caves near the provincial capital of Kundiawa which house warriors killed in tribal battle. The Nambaiyufa Amphitheatre near Chuave has ancient rock paintings and the nearby Keu Caves can also be visited with a guide.
A scenic drive along the Bulolo highway, turning off at Mumeng, will lead to the Avilu caves and Avadedu burial ledges, above the Gangwe River. These have been proclaimed a National Cultural Reserve and are well worth a visit.
The Lukwi Caves, 18km along the Okma Road, make an interesting excursion. A small waterfall covers the entry to the main tunnel, which opens into a narrow gorge.
A cave near the village of Lufa has interesting cave paintings and the village also makes a good base for climbing Mount Micheal (3380m).
To watch a short video on the system of underground caves on the island of New Britain click here.