My wife and I went to Papua New Guinea in 2008 with Greg Stathakis and were completely taken aback by how important an escort played in our adventure. Greg blended us westerners into the local society with great confidence and ease. He was not our guide, he was our mentor. Since there are so many different languages, and barriers between the wide variety of locals, a local guide was necessary for each segment of their complex society. Greg was the mastermind over all the variety of guides we had. I might mention that we thought that if we traveling to the other side of the earth, we would make it a worth while adventure–make our experience a grand adventure of a lifetime. a learning experience that we would never regret one iota of it. In our group of fifteen, we all felt this was one of the top, if not the top trips of our lives. And I might add, having been to well over a hundred countries, the outstanding group of intrepid travelers you will be in the company of will inspire you to seek out more adventures–would it have been a surprise that all six of us at our breakfast dining table had been to Bhutan. We just returned from another hot horizon–Ethiopia–recommended by others on this trip. Spots such as Mongolia and Antarctica were on their bucket lists.
An amazing group to be with, in an amazing country to visit, and with an amazing escort in Greg.
If you are inclined, I have written a chapter of my life about Papua and Greg, that I would certainly share with you.
With kind regards, -LARRY KRITCHER

I saw your request in ITN for suggestions for Papua New Guinea, and I wanted to answer right away.
As you probably saw the lead article for October’s issue of ITN, written by Knox Bell, he wrote glowingly about his recent trip (May, 2013) to PNG, with Greg Stathakis, a retired teacher living in Santa Barbara, CA.
I, too, was in that group with Knox and 11 others.
It was probably the best trip I have experienced, and I travel all the time.
After I expressed interest in going to PNG, Greg was recommended to me by a couple who live in Napa, CA (I live there), and they raved about him. I immediately contacted Greg, and was very impressed by his personal responses, quick replies, willingness to help, please, ensure that I had everything I needed in order to make my decision whether or not to go with him.
I am so happy that I did.
His personal relationships with the nationals (locals) made the trip so much more meaningful. The talks he set up, nightly, with some of the national staff, for example, offered us such insight into what it is like to live in PNG… with all of its “warts”… no sugar-coating… realism, honesty, and incredible.
Greg is an amazing tour leader… He has a heart so big for the PNG nationals; it is amazing.
So, after having concluded this experience, I whole-heartedly recommend Greg Stathakis as the tour operator to create a magical experience in PNG.
By the way, this is the ONLY tour that he conducts.
Only to Papua New Guinea.
He has been conducting tours for over 30+ years there!
If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me.
Warm Regards, -DONNA ALTES
P.S. Re: festivals, as Knox mentioned in the article, we went to the Tumbana Festival, which we all loved, because there were so few of us (30ish) and hundreds of the nationals and performers!!

Greg’s trip to PNG was fantastic! The lodge accommodations are beautiful, the Sepik Spirit boat luxurious, the people friendly, and Greg, our U.S. guide, extremely helpful. There was just a bit of “down” time on the trip, so I was most grateful for all the articles which were supplied to all participants on a day-to-day basis in preparation for what we were about to see. 
I also appreciated the opportunity to hear from local people about their lives and to be able to ask them questions.
Greg supplied us with snacks between meals, which happens on my treks to Nepal, but not elsewhere. However, what really astonished me was that Greg foresaw our needs. 
For example, he brought extra cameras in case anyone had camera trouble, which in fact happened to one of our party. He also was a walking bank, helping out with money when we ran out. On shopping forays he advised us on artifact purchases, letting us know what was rare, what was authentic old style vs what was the new style of carving.
He looked after our well-being and nothing bad befell anyone on this trip. What a pleasure to re-live it as I pour over hundreds of beautiful pictures and slides! PNG is a photographer’s paradise! 
For those who want to visit PNG in security and comfort, this is the way to go.
 -JM, CHICAGO

Every single aspect of this trip was terrific. We couldn’t have asked for a more well planned and fabulous time. I must commend Greg for his perseverance in organizing what was an amazingly trouble free trip. I know there must have been a lot of behind the scenes work all along the way. The accommodations were unbelievably atmospheric and more than comfortable. That was a big surprise. The food was also much, much better than expected. Management at the lodges and on the Sepik River was superb.
 At Ambua, the Spirit Dance, the Sing-Sing at the lodge, and the visit to the wig school were simply outstanding. What an opportunity for picture taking and getting to know the people! The excursion to the widows was rewarding in that they were certainly dressed to the nines, and very friendly. The talks at the lodges were very informative. I think every single thing was well chosen, well timed and fabulous.
The Sepik was amazingly comfortable, simply superb. The Sing-Sing was fabulous…especially the second day when things really heated up! The Highlander Hotel was good. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime! 
The planning was outstanding in every respect.
We would recommend the trip to anyone.
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Our trip to New Guinea is still high in our minds. We still can’t comprehend all we saw or experienced. You’re right the juxtaposition of the Chimbu Players the same day we left for Sydney and saw Des Rheingold at the Sydney Opera House was mind-boggling. We have had such a good time with our artifacts. much thanks for helping us bargain for them. 
-JESSE AND NAOMI TAUB, NJ.

I didn’t have a chance to tell you how very special I thought your tour was. P.N.G. would probably have been wonderful under any circumstances, particularly with such a good group selected. Nevertheless, a good deal of the credit belongs to you, your planning, concern, caution, knowledge, and appreciation of and enthusiasm about the country and its people and the culture. I think we all felt, and I know I did, that you made the trip an extraordinary experience, and that I’m grateful I was able to get to see P.N.G. in part through your eyes. The two weeks we all shared were ones I’ll always treasure.
 -H.S., WASHINGTON, D.C.

We thought our trip was fantastic and would certainly recommend it to anyone interested.
 -MR. AND MRS. F. READ, CALIFORNIA

This country is without a doubt the most interesting spot I’ve encountered. Good service, spectacular beauty, many spoke English, there were smiles everywhere, friendliness, Karawari is heaven on Earth, and I can hardly wait to share this experience.
 -K. UNRUH, L.A.

Exciting itinerary. We’ve traveled the whole world and this tour is one of the most interesting. All the people we’ve had contact with have been terrific. Overall, the trip was a fantastic experience, and we will be glad to suggest it to people, and we will be back ourselves. The Sing Sing was a thrill of a lifetime. 
-ED & CYNTHIA, LA MESA, CA

I thought you would like to know that all the clients you looked after – Tryggvadottir and the Browns and Foster on the Highlands Show Tour – have either called in at the office or written to say how very much they enjoyed the tour and all spoke very highly of the way they were looked after. So thank you! 
-BILL WIGLEY, VOYAGES JULES VERNE, LONDON

LATimes Readers Recommend: Tour Guide for PNG