Logo of Snakebusters PNG snakebite research group
Australian Venom Research Unit.

February 12th to March 25th 2010

On all our other expeditions to Papua New Guinea (PNG) the aim has been to fly out of Port Moresby to carry out fieldwork in distant provinces (Western, Southern Highlands, Oro, Milne Bay, Madang or West New Britain) as soon as possible, the result being that very little fieldwork is carried out in Central Province or the National Capital District (NCD) other than a few cursory excursions and night drives.

For this reason it was decided to combine the author's presence in the capital to milk the venomous snakes in the AVRU-UPNG Serpentarium, with intensive fieldwork around Central Province. There is a gradual improvement of roads leading out of Port Moresby as the black-top is extended to the northwest and southeast and former tracks are graded for vehicular traffic. Evenso, many roads in Papua New Guinea are still often poorly maintained with potholes and unauthorised speed bumps a continual hazard. Even roads within Port Moresby have suffered from the increased number of vehicles now using them.

Map showing the main roads of Central and Oro (Northern) Provinces, PNG.
click to enlarge map

The team.

Mark O'Shea [Research Fellow, AVRU & Consultant Curator, Reptiles, WMSP]
Roger Lowe [Deputy Director, AVRU] (Feb 12th-25th)
Owen Paiva [Post-graduate, UPNG School of Medicine & Health]
Jasper Gabugabu [AVRU-UPNG snake room technician]
Steve Slater [Senior Keeper, Discovery Zone, WMSP] (Mar 12th-25th)

An important few words of warning to herpers wishing to visit Papua New Guinea


The roads around Port Moresby.

The Hiritano Highway (aka Brown River Road) runs north out of Port Moresby across the Brown River and Vanapa River flats, before turning northwest to pass Hisui and Yule Island and continue off this map to Vaifa'a and Bereina, and across the Gulf Province border to Kerema. There are side-roads to Hisui on the coast, and a less well maintained, 4x4 only, road up into the Owen Stanley Mountain Range to Tapini. It is black-top until beyond Hisui and graded beyond that point with some black-top stretches. This is the only road out of Port Moresby that crosses into another province from Central Province. A new part-graded, part 4x4 road goes east just before Brown River, heading towards Mt Victoria. This road is controlled by the village of Edubu and access is very limited.

The Magi Highway (aka Rigo Road) goes southeast from Port Moresby, turning inland and east just before Rigo, passing through Kwikila, across the Mai Kussa River at Bannon Bridge, where, within a few kilometres the black-top gives way to a graded road which continues to Kupiano on Marshall Lagoon. Poorer quality roads continue to Cape Rodney but locations further east (Abau, Amazon Bay and Milne Bay Province) are not accessible by road. There is a turn-off to Hula near Rigo.

Another road goes west out of Port Moresby, around Fairfax Harbour to Napa Napa opposite Port Moresby, as black-top, and as a graded road to Lea Lea where it terminates.

The Sogeri Road leaves the Hiritano Highway at 9-Mile and goes east, gradually becoming steeper and steeper, with several hairpin bends, as it climbs up to the Sogeri Plateau between the two horns of Hombrom Bluff and Varirata. At the top of the climb the road continues to Sogeri and Sirinumu Dam. A side road leads to the Varirata National Park and another goes to Ower's Corner as the southern end of the Kokoda Trail, both being graded tracks. Google Earth shows a road continuing from Sogeri to Efogi and over the Owen Stanley Mountains to Kokoda. This is the Kokoda Trail, it is an arduous walking track that can take 5-days to traverse, it is certainly not a road.

On the other side of the Owen Stanley Range a road links Kokoda with the Oro provincial capital Popendetta and the port at Oro Bay but recent earthquakes have destroyed many of the bridges on this route. The author drove most of the Oro roads in 2006 so for this side of the Papuan Peninsula see Papua New Guinea 2006.

Primary areas of interest.

The areas where we hoped to conduct fieldwork were the following (in order of priority):

1. Hiritano Highway (Brown River Road):
a) Laloki River bridge to Brown River bridge;
b) Edubu road;
c) Brown River bridge to Vanapa River bridge, the Brown River Flats;
d) Vanapa River bridge, Veimauri River and Doa Plantation.

2. Magi Highway (Rigo Road):
a) Mt Diamond;
b) City Mission;
c) Kwikila or Kupiano.

3. Sogeri Road:
a) Pacific Adventist University campus;
a) Sapphire Mine;
b) Varirata National Park, on the Sogeri Plateau.

4. West of Port Moresby:
a) Papa Swamp, Lea Lea and Napa Napa.

Around Port Moresby is followed by Expedition Results - a full life list of herps recorded during the 2010 expedition.