Which is the closest country to Australia? If you answered New Zealand, you are wrong. If you answered Indonesia, you are wrong again. Papua New Guinea is the closest country to Australia. Papua New Guinea (PNG), is an independent country that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The western half of New Guinea forms the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. Papua New Guinea achieved its independence in 1975 following almost 60 years of Australian administration. PNG is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. The country has a population of about 8 Million people, has a per capita GDP of $2,283 and is classified as a developing nation by the IMF.
Some interesting facts about PNG:
- Papua New Guinea is only 3.7 kilometers away from Australian soil at its nearest point
- Papua New Guinea and Indonesia share the island of New Guinea which is one of the world’s largest islands.
- It is one of the very few places on earth which lie close to the equator where places at higher altitudes experience snowfall.
- PNG is one of the most ecologically and culturally diverse countries.
- The world’s only known poisonous bird, the Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) is native to Papua New Guinea.
- Even until the 1950’s cannibalism and headhunting were rampant in Papua New Guinea.
- Until 1933 the country used sea-shells as its national currency. Post that, it switched to the Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK).
- 852 languages are listed for PNG, of which 12 have no known living speakers
- The highest point in the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is Mount Wilhelm (4,509 m).
- PNG is fantastic for birdlife with the famous birds of paradise and 750 different species to look out for. There are tree kangaroos, wallabies but no other real mammals.
- Many species of birds and mammals found on New Guinea have close genetic links with corresponding species found in Australia (e.g. kangaroos and possums)
- The Great Barrier Reef extends from Australia to almost the edge of Papua New Guinea
- The Japanese army suffered their first land defeat in the Pacific War (part of WWII) in 1942 in PNG
If you are interested in visiting PNG the following links might be useful to you:
I will leave you with a couple of videos, one of PNG and one on Birds of Paradise.
Note: This post has been written for IndiSpire Edition 116: ‘Choose a country you don’t know much about. Now read up/ research about it. And tell us something interesting about it. Can be anything – history, politics, music or whatever tickles your fancy. #DiscoverACountry’