Inspired by the world’s first national park, the Varirata National Park is part of a national park development scheme in Papua New Guinea. In 1966, then politician Dirona Abe visited the Yellowstone in the United States and came back determined to give life to a similar concept. That same year, the National Parks and Gardens Act in the country was passed.
Upon arrival in Port Moresby’s Jackson Airport, travelers will able to see the country’s first ever national park. Covering an area of over 1,000 hectares, the park sits at 600 to 800 meters above sea level. A leisurely drive from the capital to the heart of Varirata takes about an hour along the Sogeri highway. Along the way, travelers will be able to cross narrow flatlands before reaching the breathtaking steep slopes of the Laloki River Valley.
The park exists today due to the goodwill of its traditional landowners, the Koiari people of the Sogeri Province. The Koiari agreed to allow the National Parks and Gardens Board to manage the land they owned, which is now known as Varirata. When it officially opened in 1973, the Koairi people were pleased with such efforts as the land that their ancestors used to wander and hunt wildlife and gather food in will be preserved. The ultimate advantage was to let the later generations come see the park and let it be something to be proud of.
The climate in the park experiences a tropical humid climate with a distinct dry season from May to December. Because of its altitude, visitors of the park will be able to find pleasant relief from the intense heat of the national capital down the coast. Vegetation in the area is abundant with woodland, grassland and a tropical forest as the park is also home to a variety of trees, plants, flowers, animals, butterflies and insects.
A number of lookouts around the park provide visitors panoramic views of magnificent scenery. A camping site can be found half a kilometer past the welcome site, while picnic areas are to be found all throughout the park. Well-defined walking tracks for a pleasant bushwalking experience are made easy for even the most inexperienced hikers.
A tree house found within the national park ground still stands atop a tree that overlooks the entire park. The structure has played an important role in the lives of the Koiari people as it was known to be used as a place of refuge during the times of tribal warfare. The Koairi people decided that the national park was the ideal place to preserve such an important structure and to serve as a testament to their culture as well.
Today a small fee is charged for entry to the park. Because of its location up in the mountain region, it provides great views over the capital city of Port Moresby, most especially in the morning when mist spreads over the mountain ranges. As the Varirata National Park offers a breath of fresh air to all those who come to see it, it then repays them with a wealthy outdoor experience for its visitors.