New Guinea Birding Tours
New Guinea is the second-largest island in the world at 303,381 square miles (785,753 square kilometers) and is located in Melanesia, one of the regions within Oceania. The island is located just to the south of the equator, north of Australia, separated from the tip of the Cape York Peninsula (in the Australian state of Queensland) by the Torres Strait by a distance of 93 miles (150 kilometers) and the Top End (of the Australian Northern Territory) by 370 miles (595 kilometers). The island is practically split in half with the eastern half being the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (“Papua New Guinea” or “PNG” hereafter) and the western half being Indonesia (the provinces of West Papua and Papua). There are numerous smaller islands to the east and west of New Guinea. To the east is the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands, dropping down to Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia, to complete Melanesia. Micronesia is located north of New Guinea with Indonesian islands (The Moluccas) and the Philippines to the west.
The island of New Guinea has had a human presence for a remarkable 40,000-50,000 years, sourced from the oldest human migrations out of Africa and there is evidence of agriculture dating back 10,000 years. Due to the landscape of the country (summarized below) a huge number of tribes occur, and as a result a huge number of languages are spoken (over 1,000), which is more than most continents! Over recent centuries, the peoples of New Guinea have been in contact with, and under the control of the kingdoms of modern-day Indonesia, and various European powers believed to have started with Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, followed by the Dutch, British, and German. Control of some areas was passed from British to Australian rule and during the Second World War Japan invaded the island. In the 30 years following the war the eastern half of the island became independent and called Papua New Guinea (eventually) and the western half became part of Indonesia (being called West Irian and then Irian Jaya).