Lae may be the birthplace of human settlement in Papua New Guinea. Axe heads found at Bobongora have been dated at 40,000 years, and it is believed early coastal settlements were flooded by rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, destroying most of Papua New Guinea’s prehistoric artifacts.
When German colonists first arrived in the 1880’s, many parts of Morobe were curiously uninhabited, including the fertile Wau and Bulolo valleys. The two dominant groups of people were the Leiwomba who occupied the Lae area, and the ferocious Anga warriors of the central mountains. Morobe Province offers a wide variety of interests for visitors, including a five day white water rafting trip down the Watut River. The Watut tumbles from the 3000 metre Kuper Range to sea level at the rate of 20 metres a kilometre, rushing through 150 rapids. ‘Maus Buang’ and Labu Tali villages are the nesting places for leatherback turtles in late November until early February. The turtles dig deep nests in the sandy beaches and lay up to 100 eggs each, which hatch about two months later. These reptiles weigh up to 500kg and measure two metres in length.
To the east of Lae are the towns of Finschhafen and Sialum, sites of the first German occupation of the area. Offshore are a number of magnificent islands merely 12 kilometres from the coast. The Tami Islanders are renowned for their beautifully carved wooden bowls. Other islands include Umboi Island, which is the largest in the Siassi Group.
All these islands are in the volcanic belt which extends through New Britain and down to the north coast of New Guinea. Other attractions in Morobe include the Research Institution, the Wau Ecology Institute, which is a privately funded centre dedicated to soil regeneration and the investigation of seed dispersal by birds. The institute also has a museum and zoo, open to the public. There are numerous walking tracks in Morobe, especially in the Wau area. Old gold mining routes reveal interesting relics and wartime fighter planes can still be seen in the jungle. Experienced guides are sometimes necessary on the more difficult walks.
The McAdam National Park in Wau is a 20 square kilometre flora and fauna sanctuary founded in 1962 to preserve the last virgin stands of Hoop and Klinkii pine and over 200 species of birds native to the area. Menyamya and Aseki are in the heart of Anga country, which is now a coffee plantation centre. Traditional dress can still be seen, and mummified bodies are one of the more macabre attractions of the Anga’s primitive past.