Visiting Papua New Guinea’s land of Eden


Kayla Reimann ventures into a Jurassic-like jungle landscape where Tuke villagers have their hopes pinned on a new eco-tourism venture.

One of the swimming holes near Tuke village. Credit: Kayla Reimann

Nestled in the Nakanai Ranges of New Britain Island, Tuke village is a wild Eden. Think tremendous landscapes and cliffs carpeted in white wildflowers, elaborate and uncharted cave systems boring into the sides of mountains and bright-blue crystal cascades raging downstream.

Under the threat of logging, the people of Tuke asked my father, Riccard Reimann, founder of the eco-conscious Baia Sportfishing Lodge, to help establish an eco tourism model in their mountains.

By arranging helicopter day tours into the area for small, managed groups, it’s hoped this model can bring much-needed revenue to the locals to improve community health care and education, without them losing their land and livelihood to logging.

As a preliminary step, a group of seven scientists and conservationists were recently invited in to survey the region’s biodiversity and document the importance of preserving such a rich eco system. I was lucky enough to tag along as a translator.

Although I was looking forward to the gruelling two-day trek into Tuke from Baia, I was fortunate enough to be offered a seat on a helicopter heading in.

The 40-minute flight provides some perspective to the 1600-metre elevated walls of lush jungle and intact rainforest and the colossal size of ancient sinkholes, large enough to maintain their own microclimate. If ever there is a Jurassic-like jungle, this is it.

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After touching down in a small clearing, we are welcomed by  an excited crowd.

Exploring paradise

Kids scurry ahead to a magnificent series of blue lagoons running fresh with icy rapids. From the rocks, they launch into the narrow channel where the rapids churn.

Then their curly-haired heads bounce up out of the water; overjoyed by the adrenalin, they are ready to jump again.

The lagoons are the main meeting area for the locals. It is where kids play and mamas wash their babies, where men share their stories on the banks, and where we go daily for our morning swim.

Crossing limestone ridges, we are taken to a spot where we see two towering waterfalls plummeting into a network of streams and rapids.

The waterfalls are lined with hibiscus and the impenetrable wall of deep jungle, giving me my first glimpse of this Eden.

Trekking past kunai huts we eventually come across the dark mouth of a cave, 11 storeys high. Bats rush about the entrance and towering stalagmites are covered with moss and broad-leafed, bottle-green ferns.

Venturing towards the cave we are surrounded by limestone walls and climb on all fours up a sheer, rocky slope. Finally at the cave mouth the narrow beam of our head torches reveals a realm of scuttling insects and bats on the hunt for them.

This is an extract of the story ‘In a land of Eden’, which was first published in the May-June edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini. 


  1. Losia Mesa says

    Between 1979 and 1986 French and Swish cafe explorers made several explorations in to the area. They mapped the Matale Cave systems and the Tuke Cae systems and found them to be some of the worlds best caves. A French expedition leader presented me a video titled “MINYE LA FINDU” . It was a very unique video of unexplored very unique and longest and complex cave systems in the world. Minye cave system is located in the same limestone structures and could be linked to Tuke systems. I’ve seen cave entrances and many sink holes connected to underground river systems at certain locations along the undisturbed jungles in Pomio District during my many patrols on official duties. in 1979 – 1992. Pomio district is one of the best caving destinations for cavers.

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