Paradise. There’s stuff all over the Port Moresby airport that refers to PNG as paradise and they’re not kidding. This country is stunningly beautiful (the parts that haven’t been logged). Certain aspects are strongly reminiscent of Cameroon -the oppressive heat and humidity of an un-air conditioned airport terminal; the smell of collective body odor; the poor roads and the roadside stands with some cigarettes, betel nuts and a few pieces of fruit for sale. But the jungle is comprised of different plants, the bird calls are unfamiliar and the smell of the countryside is tangier and lighter, fruitier with none of Cameroon’s chocolaty mysteriousness.

PNG is hot and sticky; filled with the sounds of invisible birds and insects and the smell of flowers, brine and decay; punctuated by native hibiscus and orchid blooms. There are so many shapes and sizes and kinds and layers of vegetation here! I don’t know if it is richer than Cameroon’s biological heritage but it certainly seems so. Bromeliads, ferns, palms, orchids, vines, leaves of every shape, size and color imaginable…

Tawali itself, two flights, a bus and boat ride from Cairns, is an utterly picture-perfect, idyllic rainforest haven on the shores of Milne Bay. We arrived mid-afternoon and were immediately offered fresh juice and a late lunch before being shown to our room. The room is a semi- detached pole-built cabin nestled in the rainforest, with a tree-broken and bird-sound-filled view of the Coral Sea only about 100 feet away.

I’m not much of a “resort” person and could take or leave many of the niceties, but the location alone is worth the price of admission, and I’m just as excited about the birding opps as I am about the diving!

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