The wild rivers of Papua New Guinea


With its mountainous terrain and high rainfall, Papua New Guinea is home to some of the most spectacular and pristine rivers in the world.

Each is vital to the country’s ecology, culture and wildlife, swelling with species of fish, crocodiles and even freshwater sharks.

Here’s an insight into some of the largest, most important rivers in Papua New Guinea, and the attributes that define them.

The Sepik River

Often referred to as the Amazon of Papua New Guinea, the Sepik is the country’s longest river and its third largest in volume. It is also one of the most intact and pristine freshwater basins in the Asia-Pacific region.

This river begins it journey in the Victor Emanuel range in the central highlands and then winds in serpentine fashion 1126 kilometres to the Bismarck Sea, receiving numerous tributaries along the way.

Over 500,000 people depend on the Sepik for their livelihood, while the system is also home to extensive birdlife, 76 endemic mammal species, and some of the world’s largest populations of both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles.

Local villagers have lived along the Sepik for millennia, forging their own unique customs and traditions. The region is home to tribes such as the Chambri tribe, where a reverence for crocodiles is enshrined at the heart of male initiation and ancient culture.

Renowned for their scars which closely resemble the look and feel of a crocodile skin, Chambri people embark on a unique ritual as boys transition into adults.

The Chambri are among more than 100 villages and hamlets which line the banks of this epic river.

The Fly River


The Fly River – Image via Sport Fishing PNG

Due to its sheer volume, the Fly River is considered the largest in Oceania. Globally the Fly is the 25th largest primary river in the world and is the largest without a single dam in its catchment.

Like the Sepik, the Fly River has its origins in the Victor Emanuel Range, and then traverses 1050 kilometres to enter the Gulf of Papua via a 100-kilometre-wide delta.

This vast delta is dotted with 38 islands, many of which feature villages and cultivated areas.

The Fly River is renowned for its fish and is home to over 100 species including the highly sought-after Black Bass. This mighty monster is infamous amongst the anglers who trek to fish these waters from across the globe each year. The Black Bass can weigh up to 22kg and puts up a legendary fight.

The Ramu River

As Papua New Guinea’s third longest river, the Ramu is one of the nation’s most important when it comes to electricity supply. Featuring a hydroelectric plant in the upper reaches, it supplies electricity to much of the highlands.

The Ramu begins its journey in the east of the Kratke Range, then travels about 640 kilometres northwest through the great Central Depression to enter the Bismarck Sea.

Along the way, it takes in numerous tributaries, sustains vast tracts of sugar cane and cattle country and for the last 100 kilometres of its journey, it flows directly north.


The Ramu River – Image via Tok Pisin

About Paga Hill Estate

Paga Hill Estate is a world-class, master-planned estate in the heart of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The waterfront site is the first comprehensively planned multi-use development in Papua New Guinea to be enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike.

The all-inclusive development will include vibrant public spaces and waterfront promenade, luxury hotels, residential apartments, restaurants, retail, commercial space, a Trade, Exhibition & Cultural Centre, restoration of WWII relics, marina precinct and a nearby international cruise liner terminal.

Cover image by Dimitra Stasinopoulou via The Tourist Place

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