West of Port Moresby: Papa Swamp, Lea Lea & Napa Napa

Map showing the roads west of Port Morsby to Napa Napa and Lea Lea.
click to enlarge map

We only made three excursions west of Port Moresby during the 2010 expedition as the area was fairly dangerous due to an ongoing 'war' between the people of Porebada and Boera, over land rights in relation to oil exploration, which had lead to several deaths in tribal fights. One of the visits was to an Exxon Mobile site which did not produce a snake. The other two are to Papa Swamp and Lea Lea, where I went with a Lea Lea elder, and a trip to Napa Napa and up the coast towards Porebada with Steve and Jasper.

The planned trip to look for Papuan blacksnakes (Pseudechis papuanus) in the Papa Swamp was unsuccessful from the start. Due to the first heavy rain in weeks the road leading off from the main highway was thick with black glutinous mud and even with the vehicle in low four it was impossible to either steer or go any distance. Once the vehicle was extricated from the muddy track it was clear that the mud had formed a thick band around the tyres so that they resembled treadless 'slicks'. Rather than risk getting stuck deep in the swamp area it was decided to abort the trip and go to Lea Lea instead, planning a return to Papa Swamp for a dried period. However, from the on until the end of the trip the rains were frequent and heavy so no return was possible.

The muddy road to Papa Swamp.
The wheels soon picked up a thick layer of mud.

At Lea Lea I walked the area with my guide, looking for likely locations for venomous snakes. Much of the surrounding habitat is saltmarsh and mangrove swamp so there is a strong likelihood that inshore seasnakes, filesnakes and homalopsine mangrove and mud snakes might be obtained in the future. Given the available time this visit was viewed as a recce, pending a return at a later date.

Houses in the kunai grass at Lea Lea.
Salt-marshes almost surround Lea Lea.

Steve, Jasper and I drove out to Napa Napa to search for taipans and speak to the local villagers, to see if they had seen any dangerous snakes recently. There was a definate air of suspicion in the villages we visited which we put down to the ongoing troubles between the various communities over land rights. It did not seem a safe place to leave the vehicle and go exploring. We spent time on the Napa Napa Peninsula, and drove down the Porebada road to the village, before returning to the main road and climbing the track to the radio-mast opposite Curtain Brothers yard. At this point the heavens opened and the rain combined with the quarry blasting going on nearby but an end to any herping. We returned without any specimens.

Looking back towards Port Moresby on Napa Napa Peninsula. An inlet of Fairfax Harbour.