Camera Treks - What to Bring
Papua New Guinea & Fiji
By Photographers – For Photographers!
NOTE: this page is being re-worked for our Milne Bay festival boat tour
In photography negative space often has as much to say as the central focus of your image.
Packing for your photo tour to Papua New Guinea and Fiji is not difficult but does require a serious plan.
REMEMBER: we will be spending the majority of our time far from the safety backups we are used to. You will not be able to run to the nearest store to buy what you either forgot or need! Expense-free airline carry-on and checked-baggage weight limits are reasonable on international flights but our in-country flights use smaller aircraft and your carry-on as well as your checked bags will probably be weighed. I take all my photo gear as carry-on and just pay any over-weight, extra baggage fees. What I try to do is balance what I know I will need with what might be needed in an emergency.
A good rule is to pack once, then try to cut it by 50%!
After you read this important page, please read our Preparations page!
All travelers must have a valid passport at the time of their entry into Fiji, Solomon Islands, Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG). It should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the last day of your stay and have at least TWO blank pages per country for country entrance & exit stamps.
U.S. citizens must obtain a visa prior to travel; visa-on-arrival has been suspended since the beginning of the pandemic.
Bring a couple visa/passport-style size photos. They often come in handy.
Make a color copy on good, 24lb. paper, of the photo page of your passport to carry with you. It can serve as ID pretty much everywhere except for changing money at a bank.
Good shoes are more important than a good camera.
Comfortable clothes that you can get dirty and that are easy to wash in a sink or shower are a must! Quick-drying (a relative term) fabrics are best. While we do not have access to laundromats, the hotels can do your clothes laundry if we are there long enough.
Nights will be cold and days may get up to 64F/18C in the PNG Highlands. This necessitates a variety of clothing. Layering is key. A sweater or light wind-proof jacket that you can tie around your waist or wear over the shoulder as the day warms is a good idea. The Solomon Islands will be breezy tropical.
With the walking we do good socks are a necessity.
Shoes. We will be walking a lot. Every day. If you ordinarily wear tennis shoes that is fine but remember you will also need footwear that provides good support. Your luggage will ordinarily be carried by a porter but you may wish to handle your camera gear yourself. I often wear clogs for flights and in towns because they can look a bit dressy and also give good support. On birding trails, however, I always wear lightweight boots but they are not really necessary except to keep your other shoes out of the inevitable mud. You will not need very dressy shoes.
Clothes that bring attention to your person are not a good idea for any street or poor-country travel photography. You are trying to be unobtrusive, although this is not really possible for most of our travelers in PNG. For women, the shortest of shorts may be your thing, but will certainly bring unwanted attention and danger from local men. Women in Oceania dress very conservatively, often in long, baggy dresses. Dress appropriately!
If you are a light sleeper BRING EARPLUGS and EYE SHADES. You may not need them but in some places your neighbors may arise in the early, dark hours to have breakfast and set out on their treks.
We will be at high altitudes in the Highlands of PNG. Normally, I give a caution about sun radiation in places at altitude as the radiation load is substantial. The Highlands are not called 'cloud forests' for nothing, however. Still, if you are prone to sunburn please bring a hat, watch cap or some other headcover that you can use with a camera as the Goroka Festival can get sunny and hot!
My travel kit includes:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain
While large, hard-sided luggage is great for hauling loads of things in urban, modern, international air travel, it can a problem on the small jets/prop planes we may use in-country. If you are bringing this type of luggage you may have small fees for their large size. A good small duffle bag is a great item to bring. A large suitcase will be handy if you intend to buy lots of curios, tho.
Bring a circa 50mm or wider lens. You will want to get close, perhaps uncomfortably so, during the Goroka Sing-Sing. If you are uncomfortable getting close to your photographic subject we can work on your technique on the tour. A long-ish lens may also be useful to compress views or for wildlife. With any luck we may see numerous birds of paradise!
Accessories: Plenty of SD/CF cards, cable release, extra camera batteries, filters, 3-way adapter plug, multi-outlet strip, power cords, etc. Some kind of air blower and cleaning cloths will really come in handy. Sensor wipes are also a good idea. More specifics will be in your Tour CD.
DO NOT plan on buying any camera stuff in PNG or the Solomons. Pack what you need, including batteries!
Maybe: Dessicant like silica-gel, in a dry zip-lock for drying out the camera if it gets wet. Perhaps a plastic bag of some sort with a cut-out for the lens and rubber bands to hold all in place (in case it rains and you want to take photos in that rain.)
I carry two camera bodies while traveling in case one has a problem. This is not necessary but....
While a bit of a hassle for weight and security, a laptop computer with your chosen software can be handy. You can also use it to maintain contact with home or to upload to your social media sites (if that is your thing.) An electrical plug adapter with the proper configuration is usually necessary. The system is 220-240 volts. Fortunately, all modern cell phones and computers are usually able to accept both this and the U.S. standard 110 volts.
I carry a travel hard drive. Your photos should ALWAYS be stored in at least two places while you travel. It is a good idea to put your fully used SD/CF cards away and use empty ones for your next shots. If you plan on downloading your SD/CF cards soon after use, with the intention of erasing them to use over on the trip, you are engaging in a perfect recipe for disaster. More on this in your Tour CD.
Personal Items (including Medicines)
Obviously, any medications you use on a regular basis. Keep them in the original container with the prescription on the label. Some products and over-the-counter remedies may be hard to find on the trip. Be sure you have an adequate supply for the length of the trip PLUS the travel days! Bring products you may need for headaches, allergies, colds, menstrual symptoms, etc. Check with the PNG Embassy if you are carrying any prescription meds of a narcotic nature. PNG is VERY strict with regard to narcotic drugs whether legal or not in your home country!
We are traveling late summer. Still, the sun can scorch, especially on the coasts. Bring sunscreen and a decent hat or buy one along the way (that you can wear while taking pictures) if you are prone to burning. I carry a $5 plastic poncho that folds up into a tiny package but have never used it (even tho I sometimes encounter light drizzle.)
If you are particular about your sleeping pillow pack an inflatable one. Pillows at most of our lodgings are ridiculously thick and are usually down-filled.
You will not find much in the way of healthy, tasty snacks outside the airports. If you snack bring your own granola bars, nuts, trail mix, etc. If you have special dietary needs talk to me before we go!
Some items to consider:
Face cloth, shampoo, conditioner, comb, hair brush (avoid hair dryers and irons)
If you bring more than the equivalent of $5,000 USD in cash, you are supposed to declare it at Customs.
It is not easy to spend much money/cash in PNG or the Solomon Islands unless you wish to buy art. Vendors have not perfected their sales techniques as much as in other places you may have visited. There is much fine art. No, not the cheesy stuff one finds everywhere in the world (tho that exists, too) but great tribal paintings and sculpture, much of it sold by the artists who created it. Do bargain lightly – but in a friendly and nice manner! Sellers may go down a notch but it is considered impolite to go much beyond this first reduction. They do not start at 300% as in other places. And, if you do bargain, be sure the item is really something you plan on buying if you can reach a genuine price agreement. Nothing infuriates a seller more than coming to a good price agreement only to have the potential buyer then say, "OK, I'll think about it."
When you change money at a legal money exchange or bank you may be required to show your passport, not a copy. Get a receipt of the transaction and count the money at the window. Take your time. It may be better to make several exchanges as needed in Port Moresby and then the rest of your planned spending amount in Mt. Hagen rather than changing a whopping amount all at once. There are transaction fees on either end, that is, when you change your local money back into your home currency! You will need your passport to buy a SIM cell card, too. There are ATM machines in the cities and some hotels (3% fees). Credit cards are readily accepted in cities but they will most like add a percentage to cover their fees. Do not let your card out of your sight. Tipping for Service. You can tip in cities for service and food but it is not mandatory. People seem to be happy with 10% or less, depending on the service. Please do not over tip!
“Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.” — Dalai Lama
Gifts Gifts are optional but anyone you encounter will appreciate the thought – and the gift! Doling out money in the cities to folks in the street and pan-handlers is not recommended. Fortunately, begging is uncommon, tho, children may ask for sweets.
Other Items You May Want to Bring
Moleskin book or similar notepad “Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert
DO NOT BRING Expired medicines Fresh food, live plants or seeds Drugs, other than legal, non-narcotic pharmaceuticals. Do not put your tour companions and yourself in jeopardy. Long-term prison sentences are common for making a silly (and serious) mistake! Leave all narcotics, explosives, pornography and weapons at home! Want to be a better photographer?
There are ATM machines in the cities and some hotels (3% fees). Credit cards are readily accepted in cities but they will most like add a percentage to cover their fees. Do not let your card out of your sight.
Tipping for Service. You can tip in cities for service and food but it is not mandatory. People seem to be happy with 10% or less, depending on the service. Please do not over tip!
“Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.” — Dalai Lama
Gifts are optional but anyone you encounter will appreciate the thought – and the gift! Doling out money in the cities to folks in the street and pan-handlers is not recommended. Fortunately, begging is uncommon, tho, children may ask for sweets.
Other Items You May Want to Bring
Moleskin book or similar notepad
“Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert
DO NOT BRING
Fresh food, live plants or seeds
Drugs, other than legal, non-narcotic pharmaceuticals. Do not put your tour companions and yourself in jeopardy. Long-term prison sentences are common for making a silly (and serious) mistake! Leave all narcotics, explosives, pornography and weapons at home!
Want to be a better photographer?