Jonathon C. TripAdvisor

“I was on a tour of PNG with David Howell as the organzer.
Unfortunately, the trip did not go well.
The trip was very poorly planned and the itinerary changed on day one.
When I voiced my concern to Mr. Howell, he became defensive and confrontational..
He cancelled the trip on me on the 4th day and left me to fend for myself.
Although David agree to a reimbursement, he later changed course alleging it was me who canceled the trip.
A mediator at the bank determined that in fact David had canceled the trip and awarded the refund.
Please be careful when planning with Kokoda, lest you be left alone in PNG!

Dan T
PNG Boys hungry on “Kokoda Historical” trek April 2019
Apr 2019 • Solo

‘I’ve just completed the Kokoda Track in April 2019 (3rd time) and in doing so, I crossed paths with many other trekking groups associated with various trekking companies.

‘Sadly, I came across PNG Boys working for KOKODA HISTORICAL who were not provided nearly enough food by KOKODA HISTORICAL – their employer. The Boys were hungry and unable to complain in fear of being terminated from employ. It’s a classic case of worker exploitation in a 3rd-world country. The owner of Kokoda Historical, per their web site, is DAVID HOWELL.

‘For the record, all 13 Aussie trekkers in my trekking group contributed days worth of their own food to these KOKODA HISTORICAL boys – just to get them fed. We did what we could in the brief cross-over window and hope it was something to ease their starving bellies whilst performing such arduous work. Shame on KOKODA HISTORICAL.
I encourage all future trekkers to put Mr HOWELL and KOKODA HISTORICAL out of business by not using this company. To treat “The Boys” this way is a disgrace and must not be tolerated by Aussies who are forever grateful for what the PNG Boys do and their Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel ancestors have done for Australia.

‘Any protestations by KOKODA HISTORICAL at this point is too little too late and any “promised” remedial action near impossible to monitor/measure. KOKODA HISTORICAL has been negligent in providing the most basic of care for The Boys. There is no excuse that will exempt KOKODA HISTORICAL from this appalling neglect. Our diggers would not stand for this, nor should we.

‘Please show your support for The PNG Boys, of fair working conditions, for providing the most basic care for our PNG guardians – and vote with your feet by picking another trekking company. I’m not commercially aligned to any trekking company. Many are good – some outstanding. Whatever you do, don’t pick this crowd!
Thank you for your consideration.’

Kevin Hawthorne
Melbourne, Australia18 contributions
Kokoda track non Trekking
Nov 2019

I have been on a mat McLaughlin battlefield tour AND it was okay so when he marketed THE kokoda track tour without Trekking, I thought I would give it a try, IN summary THE experience was disappointing FROM a valve perspective as THE modus operandi appears to be one OF volume not QUALITY, with a heavy focus on celebrity for their marketing. THE tour was UNIQUE AND I felt honored to be at kokoda. Maybe the walk to Huggins Roadblock when we lost 6 old pensioners in their 70s AND 80s in the jungle for 5hours was a negative but I am sure measures have already been put IN place to a reoccurrence happening. I hope. There was people on tour who were not physically able to complete activities without inconvenience to everyone. 4 WHEEL drive very uncomfortable for little extra to see, it was very hard journeying to get to destinations. Lot OF time with meals, market visits AND other activities not related to military history aspects meant less time doing what WE came for. “Basic accommodation” perhaps not described well enough before HAND, avoid staying IN kokoda AND sanananda if POSSIBLE, arriving to often in failing light with no sufficient lighting IN washrooms AND toilets, it was an expensive trip for what you get as a SERVICE. Be fussy with your company AND scrutinise their claimed provisions, do your research AND prepare,train AND train and prepare, prepare, prepare!

‘Dear Charlie,

‘This e-mail concerns David Howell of Kokoda Historical. But firstly, allow me to introduce myself.

‘We have in fact met and had a reasonable discussion when you addressed the Sep 2012 Kokoda conference at the AWM and at that time you very kindly provided me with your card. I would understand however if you might not remember me amongst the masses.

‘Like yourself, I am an Army officer with 20 years plus service who has served overseas and on operations, and I am a graduate of the Australian Command and Staff College. I have also had the privilege in recent years to lead a number of Australian Defence Force Academy battlefield study tours to locations such as Vietnam (2009), Gallipoli (2010) and Greece / Crete (2011). In particular, I have a great affection for the country and people of Papua New Guinea and have trekked there many times. My first PNG experience was the Wau – Salamaua walk in 1986 with Reg Yates, a walk I subsequently led two ADFA groups on in 2009 and 2010. Most recently, earlier this month, I completed the East New Britain eight-day Tol Plantation / Lark Force walk – again with Reg. 

‘We met and had a reasonable discussion when you addressed the Sep 2012 Kokoda conference at the AWM and at that time you very kindly provided me with your card. I would understand however if you might not remember me amongst the masses.

‘Given my background and experience, I think I have a reasonable view of what a good battlefield study tour looks like and a fair understanding of how to do things in PNG. So, when I see something which I view as counter to the best interests of PNG and tourism in general, I feel obliged to say something about it. Which brings me to David Howell.

‘After the Tol walk I joined a Kokoda Historical group in Rabaul to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANMF defeat of German forces at Bitipaka. Although David is to be commended for putting this tour together, after seeing him in action as a tour director (assisted by Reg) my initial impression was that he was simply a bit of a clown who didn’t actually know how to run a well organised tour. This impression changed however when I was part of a follow-on group (now led only by David without the mitigating influence of Reg) visiting Milne Bay.

When, for some reason, we could not board our planned flight from Port Moresby to Milne Bay, David wanted to stage a sit in protest in the office of Air Niugini management and proceeded to harass the airline staff (who were doing their best to help us), asking things like how much security was at the management office. This, what could only be called unseemly performance, made most of the group, myself included, quite uncomfortable. In many countries the airline staff would simply have called the police.

‘On our arrival in Milne Bay I heard David say to the local driver that one of the clients was carrying a lot of gold and wanted to buy young children. Later in the day, I heard him say to a local woman that he had been sent to Milne Bay by Jesus and that tourists with other groups had been sent by the devil. From these comments, together with his general incompetence as a guide – he clearly knew very little about the Milne Bay action and his method of moving the group around beyond the obvious memorials, was to ask random locals if they knew where any war relics were – I developed a palatable distaste for him as an individual. I also viewed his conduct as not only lacking in professionalism but potentially dangerous to his clients. What can pass for humour in Australia can, I feel, be easily misconstrued in PNG.

‘After Milne Bay, at the beach heads (now with Reg as our guide after David had headed back to Australia) our group heard many more David Howell stories, two which further particularly deepened my unease about him. On a previous visit to Sananander, he had apparently intercepted a group of locals returning from church and boldly told them something to the effect that “didn’t they know there was no god”. This, quite understandably, precipitated a confrontation. He was also reportedly slapped by one of his Kokoda clients in response to something he said and then, in response, broke the client’s walking stick. While these reports were second hand, I have no reason to doubt their accuracy. Indeed, there was also a great deal more said but perhaps it would be overdoing it to mention too much as I am sure you get the drift of where I am going with this.

‘Noting that you are dealing with David / Kokoda Historical re your Kokoda group that headed off on Sunday 20 Sep, I feel it appropriate to warn you about the type of character he is. As the Kokoda trek is being led by Reg, for whom I have the highest regard, I have no concerns at all for your trekkers on this occasion. However, I would have very real concerns about any activity led by David.

‘As a funny aside to a serious issue, at Sogeri Lodge (which looked after us very well on our final night in PNG) each one of the Victorian based members of our group purchased one of your Adventure Kokoda polo shirts. Their plan is to wear them when they meet with David to formally take him to task on various aspects of his tour performance. At the very least they feel that this might reinforce the point that they were yet to receive the often promised but never delivered Kokoda Historical polo shirts.

‘If you have made it this far, I hope that you feel that this e-mail has been worth your time. Maybe, I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know. Suffice to say that, in my view, PNG and indeed the whole historical tour business, would simply be better off without David Howell’s involvement.

‘With best regards,
‘Lindsay Adams

25 September 2014

The groups distress was evident in an email sent to Kokoda Historical by Barry Mundt regarding Howell’s bizarre behaviour:

‘I feel that I need to make mention regarding David Howell’s totally unprofessional, aggressive and angry conduct on the last day as the Tour finished and the group arrived at Sogeri Lodge.  Such behaviour is totally unacceptable to me and then to add insult to injury David personally and verbally attacked Shae Barrett for what I consider such behaviour to be totally unwarranted, and thus put a huge dampener on the end of what was a very good trip.

‘Then, further David’s yelling and screaming out during the night words to the effect “I’ll kill you,  you bastard”.   A big concern at this time, being in a foreign country and totally intimidated by the actions of David Howell, we three (Barry, Rod & Shae)  actually feared for our safety.

‘To add to this situation, I specifically asked David after dinner at the Sogeri Lodge what time we would need to be ready the next morning, as our flight out of Port Moresby was to leave at approx 6.00am.  I was informed by David that 4.30am would be early enough.  In my mind, this was not early enough for an international flight.  Of course, I did not sleep well, and heard someone up early about 2.30 or so in the shower and shortly thereafter a vehicle departed.  Once we had all got ready, and at about 4.30 am it became apparent that David Howell had been the one to depart earlier for the Airport.  We all became very very concerned that we would not make our flight.  We alerted the Manageress of Sogeri Lodge and she quickly arranged for a driver to be woken up to take us to the airport in her Bus.  The airport was a 40 minute drive from Sogeri.  Fortunately, we arrived at the airport in time and were able to meet our flight.’