Papua New Guinea, where time stands still

  • Cost: US$3,620 per person for 12D/11N (all inclusive from start point to end point) depending on itinerary
    (equivalent to approximately UK£2,680 or €3,190 at time of publication)
  • Start Point: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
  • End Point: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
  • Dates: For upcoming dates, click Join this Adventure on the right or email us.
  • Group Size:  6–8 recommended, smaller groups are possible but at slightly greater cost
  • Bespoke Tour: If you do not wish to join a group tour, we can customise a private trip to fit your dates and interests. Please email us for details and a quote.

This adventure takes in two of Papua New Guinea’s most tradination and interesting cultural areas.

The Sepik River is the ‘cultural heart’ of Papua New Guinea and one of the world’s last frontiers. The remote human outposts along this river are places where time has stood still, where ancient ritual and ancestral customs are still followed in daily village life among some of the most hospitable people in the world. The cultural and linguistic diversity of the region is immense and the wealth of isolated communities have ensured that that fascinating traditional arts and cultures have existed almost unchanged here for thousands of years. This richness is paralleled in the wonderfully diverse local flora and fauna, which ranks amongst the finest in the world.

Here, village people survive mostly by subsistence, living and bartering produce between neighbouring villages and walking for days or travelling by dugout canoe to reach townships when the need arises. Along the riverbank live tribes like the Latmul, where initiated men bear crocodile-skin scarification marks with great pride as a symbol of their status, while mythologies of wayward spirits and animal gods still hold sway over traditional village lifestyles. Further upstream, the communities are even less visited and their artistic expression even more developed, and we enter the realm of tribes renowned for their ancestral ‘Men’s Spirit Houses’ and ‘Insect Culture’ clans.

To the northeast, we visit the rarely travelled Trobriand Islands, where it is taboo to eat in front of one another, and where the bond of husband and wife is entirely different to in the west. Remarkably, trade is still carried out using a currency of scored banana leaves and even kina shells, and wealth is measured in terms of the number of yams owned by female family members. This unique tribal culture exists against a backdrop of white sand beaches, palm trees and spectacular coral reefs with some of the finest snorkelling and diving on the planet. This is Polynesia as it was 200 years ago!

Travel in the region is not easy, and emphasis placed on experiences and interaction with the village people. To this end, you will stay in remote villages and be exposed to the same travel limitations as the villagers themselves. The remote nature of the destination and tropical weather conditions mean that changes of plan are sometimes necessary, thus the trip is an adventure in every sense of the word.

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Sample Itineraries

As a group, we can choose to visit either the Middle Sepik River or the Upper Sepik River. The Upper Sepik is more remote and villages are very traditional.

Middle Sepik Itinerary (6D/5N)

Day 1: Transfer to Wewak from Port Moresby by air and check into a Wewak hotel in readiness for our departure in the morning.

Day 2: Leave Wewak by private hire car or bus to Pagwi on the Middle Sepik. Here we board a motorised dugout canoe and head downriver to Kanganaman. If time allows, we stop off at Korogo village to meet the villagers before arriving at our guesthouse in Kanganamun village.

Day 3: Depart Kanganamun for the beautiful villages of Palembei and Yentchen, both of which are known for their handicrafts and artefacts. Visits to the 'Haus Tambarans' (meeting houses) at these villages are also possible. We return to Kanganamun for the evening and visit the initiated men in the Spirit House. Some members may opt to go crocodile hunting in the evening with young men from the village. Sleep at the village guesthouse.

Day 4: Depart Kanganamun for Kamindibit village before moving on to Aibom near the Chambri Lakes. This village is known for its local clay sago storage
jars and fire pots for cooking; the Aibom villagers exchange and trade these with other villages for food. We travel on towards the Blackwater lakes region where we stay overnight in a family house at Mameri village.

Day 5: Leave Mameri village onboard your canoe and go up a tributary river into the Black Water Lakes to travel around this beautiful lake area and visit the village of Govermas. In the afternoon return to Mameri village for the night.

Days 6: The next morning we motor back upriver towards Pagwi, stopping to stretch our legs at a village en route. Here your driver will escort you back to Wewak to check into your Wewak hotel by late afternoon.

Upper Sepik River Itinerary (6D/5N)

Day 1: Transfer to Wewak from Port Moresby by air and check into a Wewak hotel in readiness for our departure in the morning.

Day 2: Leave Wewak by private hire car or bus to Pagwi on the Middle Sepik. Here we board a motorised dugout canoe and head upriver, passing Ambunti and Wagu Lagoon. We visit Yambon to see their beautiful spirit house and wooden carvings. We then travel further on to Mino where we overnight in a family house.

Day 3: We visit a series of villages with spectacular spirit houses and visit the crocodile men (who make scars on their bodies to resemble crocodile scales). Some members may opt to go crocodile hunting in the evening with young men from the village. Sleep at the village guesthouse.

Day 4: After breakfast we move on to the villages of Yessan and Maio, where the people live by a 'Yam culture' that is reflected in their carved artefacts, before motoring on to the Insect clan people in Swagup village. Here we can see their delicate and intricately carved wooden canoe paddles together with their very particular style of artefacts. Sleep in a village home along the river.

Day 5: Canoe on to Tongujam, meet the village people and visit their distinctive spirit house. We continue along the river to the beautiful Wagu Lagoon and sleep in the village guesthouse.

Day 6: We rise before dawn and cross over Wagu Lagoon to make a short trek in the hope of witnessing the beautiful Birds of Paradise presenting their captivating dawn chorus in the rain forest canopy. After a quick breakfast back at the guesthouse, we return downriver to Pagwi for transfer back to Wewak by late afternoon.

Trobriand Islands Example Itinerary (4D/3N)

Day 7: Transfer from Port Moresby by air to Kiriwina Island, capital of the Trobriand Islands, the most pristine corner of New Guinea, where it is like stepping back 100 years and witnessing Polynesian islands before they were impacted by visitors. We check into a lodge overlooking a peaceful lagoon. Rooms are simple but comfortable and the lodge serves excellent locally fished seafood.

Day 8: We visit a local village called Omarakana where we learn about the local people, their beliefs, history, ceremonies and legends of the giant Dokanikani. We learn about their matrilineal culture and how women are central to society in the islands. We explore remote villages that are home to gigantic, elaborately decorated yam houses (some of the most spectacular carved buildings in all of Papua New Guinea). Watch yams being traded as currency for any and everything, learn open-fire cooking techniques and witness the complex magic- and spirit-based belief system. Magic is still vehemently believed in across the islands, and we discover local legends and stories. Overnight in the lagoon lodge and dine on delicious local cuisine.

Day 9: Today we witness traditional boat making techniques, and join local fishermen to glide across coral rich waters. We take a dip along the beautiful beach of Kalopa Cave and inspect an impressive WWII airplane wreck being reclaimed by the jungle. At sunset we enjoy a traditional Trobiand Island cultural dance on the beach and have a beach BBQ as the sun disappears over the horizon. Overnight in the lagoon lodge and dine on delicious local cuisine.

Day 10: Today is a relaxing rest day on beautiful white sand beaches and azure waters. We can relax on the beach, snorkel in coral waters, and explore the island rainforests. Overnight in the lagoon lodge and dine on delicious local cuisine.

Day 11: After breakfast we leave for the airport for our return trip to Port Moresby.

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Getting there

There are many options to fly to Port Moresby, most of which can be found using flight search engines at better rates than those offered by travel agents.

From the USA & Canada, you can fly to Australia, then on to Port Moresby; or fly to Narita (Tokyo), Hong Kong, Manila or Singapore, then on to Port Moresby.

From destinations in Asia, Air Niugini flies Between Bali (Denpasar) and Port Moresby one day each week. Air Niugini also has weekly flights between Port Moresby and Manila (four days each week), Singapore (five days), Hong Kong (three days) and Tokyo (Saturday only).

From Australia & New Zealand, it is best to fly to either Cairns, Brisbane or Sydney, all of which have regular flight connections to Port Moresby, both with Qantas and Air Niugini.

From the Pacific, Air Niugini flies to Nadi (Fiji) via Honiara (Solomon Islands). The only other way of flying to PNG from the Pacific is via Australia.

From Europe, either fly to Asia or Australia, then catch onward connections to Port Moresby (see above).

Many people find flying to Singapore is the easiest option. From Singapore, there are direct flights to/from Port Moresby with Air Niugini. If you time your flights right, you can fly to Singapore and then continue on to Port Moresby the same day, or of course, break up your journey and have a night or two in Singapore exploring this wonderful city. For those with an overnight connection in Singapore, there is an excellent airport hotel within the terminal building of Singapore Changi Airport.

Adventure Rating: Moderate

This adventure is not generally of a strenuous nature, but long road and boat journeys are required and conditions may be basic, with no proper toilet facilities or electricity in rural villages.

Participants should be capable of walking or clambering on uneven terrain and carrying a day pack with water, camera, weather protection and some snacks.

Possible extensions

Visit the highland tribes around Mount Hagen, including the Huli, a tribe whose Wigmen are famous for their elaborate costumes and ritual dances, not to mention the Chimbu skull men and Asaro mudmen (+1 Day). A visit to the Mount Hagen Cultural Show is certainly possible if it coincides with the August date (+1 Day).

Days of birding, orchid hunting or a trek up Giluwe volcano (highly strenuous but non-technical) can also be added before the start of the main expedition. Please contact us with particular requests.

To get a quote for any extensions, simply mention which extension(s) you are interested in when you apply to Join this Adventure!

What's Included

All transport during the itinerary
Professional guide
Porters for group logistics
Accommodation (twin/double basis, but private rooms cannot be guaranteed in villages)
All main meals during the itinerary

What's Not

International flights
Personal porters (if requested)