Southern Highlands Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Southern Highlands Province has lush, high valleys sandwiched between limestone peaks. Most of the natural vegetation is rainforest, with alpine woods and grasslands above 3000 metres. Swamps occur at all levels.

The roaring Mubi River, downstream from Beaver Falls. The province has spectacular waterfalls.

Economic overview

The Southern Highlands has oil and gas sites that are part of the PNG LNG project, which is producing over six million tonnes of gas per annum. Gas is being extracted from the Moran, Kutubu, and Gobe oil fields. Frozen vegetable processing is being undertaken in the province, but most agricultural activity is informal. There are geographical limitations; 72 per cent of the province’s land is not used for agriculture because it is either too high, too cold, too cloudy, too steep or it receives too much rain. Agriculture is accordingly concentrated between 1200 and 2400 metres above sea level – 54 per cent of the land in use for agriculture is found in this altitude zone. Most of the farming is subsistence. Coffee production is significant in the east, close to Mt Hagen. Small coffee gardens exist at Tari and in the Mendi and Lai valleys.


It is a place where the traditional way of life can be seen in everyday living, with ceremonial rituals and traditional dress strongly observed. Men and women live separately in the Foimena tribe. Geographic highlights include 4368-metre Mount Giluwe, the second-highest mountain in PNG, and Lake Kutubu, the second-largest lake. The lake, which is in the Kikori Basin, is a UNESCO Heritage site because of its biodiversity and distinctive landscapes. The Mendi area is the most developed region of the Southern Highlands, but the Tari area has more attractions for travellers. The Southern Highlands Province has several waterfalls, including the 100-metre Wasi Falls. The Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival is held in September at Daga village beside Lake Kutubu. This festival acknowledges the importance of the kundu drum and the Digaso oil, which are both significant in Southern Highlands culture.

Where to stay

  • Tubo Eco Lodge has a view of Lake Kutubu and is good for birdwatching. Norman Ba’abi is the owner (
  • Kiburu Lodge (+675 549 1350) is a wilderness retreat in the rainforest and is only 10 minutes from Mendi.

Southern Highlands Province in brief

Province name: Southern Highlands

Capital: Mendi

Population: 515,511

Area: 15,089 square kilometres

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Distance from Port Moresby: 1088 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Mendi regularly. The flight time is 1 hour 30 minutes.

Sectors: Oil and gas.

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