Lake Kutubu

Overview

Introduction

This lake, which lies southwest of Mendi in the Southern Highlands Province, is a good place to visit with traditional tribespeople and to see colorful birds of paradise (the birds, not the flowers). A road to a Chevron oil development continues to push its way through the jungle, connecting the remote tribes of Lake Kutumu to the Highlands Highway and the rest of the outside world. The development is rapidly taking away the charm—get there sooner rather than later.

To get to Kutubu, you fly from Mendi and then hike along a dirt road to a village on the lake. The village has a tractor that they can use to help transport you and your belongings from the airport to the lake, and they can take you by boat from the village to a lodge built for travelers by the community. The lodge offers private cabins as well as backpacker accommodations, including a kitchen.

The community conducts boat tours in a large dugout canoe. The tours include a visit to a typical Highlands longhouse, where you can learn about the complex social structure of the Kutubu tribes and witness customs that are rapidly disappearing among other tribes along the Highlands Highway. For example, the Kutubu tribes still store the remains of their ancestors in sacred caves (they can only be viewed from the lake). Local guides can also take you from the lodge to see the elusive birds of paradise that flourish in the rain-forest canopy along the shores of the lake. 235 mi/375 km northwest of Port Moresby.

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