Madang is often called "the prettiest town in the Pacific." It has lovely harbor islands and a jagged coastline. Most visitors arrive in Madang either to begin or to end a cruise on the Sepik River or Milne Bay, but it's an interesting place in itself (with good tourist facilities). It isn't the best place to see traditional tribes, though; it has a strong European influence (it was colonized by Germany). But it's a nice introduction for first-time visitors to PNG, and it's one of the safer places for independent travelers to explore. The hotels are experienced in catering to tourists, and the people of Madang seem to have grown accustomed to Westerners. Visitors to Madang will feel a relief from the pressures of constantly being an object of curiosity to the local people.

Take the walking tour and visit the market (best on Saturday) and the Cultural Centre (nice collection of local artifacts). Note the population of fruit bats that congregates in a large tree near the center of town—the tree is literally colored black by the squawking bats roosting in the hot afternoon sun. Flocks of these bats, also known as flying foxes, can be seen flying near the coast during the evening hours as they begin their nightly patrol of the area.

Outside of town, go scuba diving or snorkeling along the coast (coral canyons and World War II shipwrecks), explore some of the wildlife sanctuaries (home to hot springs, sulphur caves and birds of paradise), or just lie on one of the isolated beaches. You can also walk around the nearby coastal villages: Siar (traditional houses) and Bilbil were two of our favorites. A longer trip can be made to the black-sand beaches and wrecks of Kranket Island. 300 mi/485 km northwest of Port Moresby.

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