Though no longer home to the cannibals and headhunters it was once famous for, the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea still offers plenty of opportunities to go where few have gone before among some of the most exotic cultures, spectacular scenery and challenging trekking terrain in the world.
The adventure journey, to this undeveloped region of Indonesia begins at the freshwater Lake Sentani, in the mountains not far from the capital, Jayapura. From here, travellers make their way up into the highlands to meet the Dani people, an ethnic group who maintain many of their old ways of life, including their tribal dress, accessorised with penis gourds and animal-bone jewellery. Welcoming guests into their homes, the Dani pass on skills such as how to use a bow and arrow, and how sago- the starch from palms – is used in cooking.
Next it’s on to the Baliem Valley, where travellers will trek along the gorge, crossing rope bridges and the mighty Baliem River. Guests not only witness incredible scenery as they pass from village to village but will also be among a privileged few able to live among the Dani and Lani people, staying in their traditional huts.
The last stop is the village of Jiwika, to join a pig feast prepared by villagers. There’s also an opportunity to see the preserved mummy of the former tribe chief.
For a really rare experience, visit during the Baliem Valley Festival (8-11 August). The festival is the only time the Dani, Yani and Lani peoples come together in celebration with traditional music and dance. A re-enactment of the past inter-tribe fighting commemorates those that died in the fierce battles.
We can also extend and customise trips to Papua, adding destinations such as nearby dive haven Raja Ampat.
How to get there:
The majority of tourists will fly into Sentani, the town where the airport is next to the capital, Jayapura. It is also possible to arrive at Timika and Merauke. Airlines such as Garuda, Lion Air and Merpati all fly to West Papua daily and Pelni has a few ships running here from other parts of Indonesia too.
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