West Papua – The Last Frontier

A thrilling adventure to one of the world’s last wild frontiers. The island of New Guinea is one of the richest places on our planet in terms of traditional cultures, and a treasure trove of tribal diversity, and for many groups first contact with the western world was made within living memory. This unique trip explores the western half of the island, visiting distinct cultures in an effort to understand a vanishing way of life.

We start in Jakarta and from here take an overnight flight to the paradise island of Biak, with its beautiful landscapes and remnants of the Second World War. After our ‘easy’ introduction to Papua, we continue on to Jayapura on the mainland, taking a boat trip on Lake Sentani, seeing the old Dutch settlement and exploring local markets.

 The highlight of this trip comes next as we fly on to Wamena. In the Baliem Valley live the Dani, a highland people who were first ‘discovered’ in the 1930s by the outside world. With a culture centred around ancestor worship and the veneration of spirits, we’ll be lucky enough to meet a 250-year-old mummified warrior, see their traditional war dances and explore simple mountain villages that have barely changed in centuries – if not millennia.

Travelling in Papua is far from easy, with limited infrastructure and a comfort level that can sometimes be lacking, but it offers rewards that other destinations just don’t. Although the island is modernising, it is still in many ways a window to our own past, to a world that has disappeared from most of the globe. Papua is an adventure like no other….

West Papua – The Last Frontier

Highlights

  • Explore the remote Baliem Valley
  • Witness traditional Dani rituals
  • Immerse yourself in indigenous culture
  • Visit the tropical paradise of Biak

Day 1 - Jakarta

Arrive in Jakarta and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel Mercure Batavia or similar.


Day 2 - Jakarta – Biak

This morning we explore Indonesia’s lively capital, visiting the historic quarter of Kota Tua, the old port of Sunda Kelapa and other sites. Later transfer to the airport for an overnight flight to Biak. (B)


Day 3 - Biak

Arrive in Biak and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to rest after your flight, but you can explore Biak if you wish, with its fishing harbour and old colonial houses. Overnight Asana Hotel Biak or similar.

Biak

The island of Biak has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world, with palm fringed shores, turquoise waters, limestone caves and lush forests – a real tropical idyll. Although the people here have largely shunned traditional dress these days, thanks in no small part to the effort of missionaries, local culture is still strong here, particularly in the smaller and more remote villages. The Biak islanders are a seafaring people, and traditionally follow an animist religion with an emphasis on the importance of ancestors – evidence of this can still be found in the few ancestral sculptures that survive, although the Dutch colonialists that arrived here in the late 19th century did much to attempt to suppress it. The island played an important part in the Pacific theatre of World War Two, with the Allied Forces eventually beating the Japanese and using Biak as an air base for raids further afield.

Days 4-5 - Biak

Spend two days exploring the island of Biak. Biak was the site of several battles between the US and Japanese forces in World War Two and there are numerous reminders of this time, from caves that served as hiding places for Japanese troops to old military hardware. We also visit see traditional woodcarving, and explore some of Biak’s impressive landscapes including the picturesque lake of Negeri Dongeng, a waterfall and Biak’s idyllic beaches. Overnight Asana Hotel Biak or similar. (BL)


Day 6 - Jayapura

Leave Biak behind and fly to Jayapura. We visit the museum in Abepura with its fine collection of art from all over Papua, as well as local markets and the old Dutch settlement. Overnight Swiss Belhotel Jayapura or similar. (BL)


Day 7 - Lake Sentani

Head to Lake Sentani, taking a boat to visit Asei Island to see the traditional lifestyles of the local fishermen here. After lunch visit a local market and then continue to the hills of Bukit Tungku Wiri, where we take a short walk for striking views of nearby lakes and mountains. Overnight Swiss Belhotel Jayapura or similar. (BL)


Day 8 - Wamena

The next stage of our journey starts today as we fly to the highland town of Wamena, the gateway to the Baliem Valley. In the afternoon we explore the town including its markets and a coffee plantation, as well as some nearby villages. Overnight Baliem Valley Resort or similar. (BD)


Days 9-11 - Baliem Valley

We spend three days exploring the tribes and villages of the Baliem Valley, a treasure house of traditional culture. In the villages of Suroba and Dugun in the Naoua Hills we first meet the Dani people, and in Jiwika we ‘meet’ a 250 year old mummy – once a renowned warrior his body was mummified as a mark of respect. We see the traditional rituals and war dances of the Dani, as well as a typical pig feast, and trek through the area to see some of the more remote villages, returning each night to a comfortable hotel in Wamena. Overnight Baliem Valley Resort or similar. (BLD)

The Dani

The Dani people are an indigenous tribe that inhabit a large and deep valley called the Baliem, situated between four-thousand-metre-high mountains in West Papua (Irian Jaya). They were discovered in 1938 by pilot Richard Archbold and until this time, the area was considered to be uninhabited. The Dani build round or oval huts and enclose their villages with fences. They are farmers and their fields are distinctly bordered, which is what helped Archbold to spot them. He saw recognisable fields in the valley – similar to those he knew from Europe – when flying above, discovering The Dani by chance.

The Dani are an extremely decorative tribe. The men are characterised by boar tusks in their noses, long and thin Koketas – also known as penis sheaths or penis gourds – and headdresses made of the feathers from the birds of paradise. The women wear short skirts woven from orchid fibres, decorated with straw, and woven bags called ‘noken’ across their backs. The tribe is also known for having followed a very odd custom. When important men died in the village or were killed by an opposing tribe, each of his female relatives would have their fingers cut off. The fingers – usually the outer two on the left hand – were tied off with string around half an hour before the cremation ceremony and cut off with an ax during the ceremony. The women were slapped hard in the upper arm with the aim of killing the sensation and the wound was then staunched with leaves. The fingers were dried for a few days, burned and then buried in a special place. The Dani occupied one of the most fertile regions of Papua and as a result they often had to fight for their territory, with frequent wars also breaking out amongst themselves. They used to be the most feared headhunting tribe on the island, but they didn’t eat their enemies, unlike the majority of other Papuan tribes.

Day 12 - Jayapura - Jakarta

Return by air to Jayapura and then connect to the flight to Jakarta, where the rest of the day is free. Overnight Mercure Batavia Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 13 - Jakarta

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)


Please note: This is a pioneering trip to a remote and often difficult region, where tourism is still in its infancy. Although tourism in Papua has already existed for over 20 years, there has been little development in the quality of services provided. Most people who work in the tourism industry have had limited education, have never travelled outside their village and therefore lack the understanding of the expectations from western travellers. For this reason we travel with an Indonesian guide, but it is essential that you understand the limitations that travelling in such a place presents.

West Papua – The Last Frontier - tribal tours
Tribal tours in Baliem Valley - West Papua

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide. As the quality of local Papuan guides is generally fairly low, your guide will be from elsewhere in Indonesia.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • Airport taxes

    If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If, however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves, we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

British citizens can enter Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa. The Indonesian embassy has introduced a new e-visa system for which you can submit your application online. Your passport should have a minimum of 6 months validity after your date of return from Indonesia.

There are 169 other nationalities that can enter Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa, including most European nationalities and citizens of the USA and Australia.

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Travelling in West Papua requires a special permit, which we will obtain on your behalf.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). ATM’S and money changers are widespread across Indonesia’s cities but they are less reliable in remote areas, if there are any at all. Make sure you have enough money before venturing into remote rural regions and if changing money, be aware that banks may not take notes unless they are in perfect condition.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Our trips to West Papua visit a remote and often difficult region, where tourism is still in its infancy. Although tourism in Papua already exists for over 20 years, there has been little development in the quality of services provided. Most people who work in the tourism industry have had limited education, have never travelled outside their village and therefore lack the understanding of the expectations from western travellers. For this reason we travel with an Indonesian guide, but it is essential that you understand the limitations that travelling in such a place presents.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing there are no warnings against travel to West Papua from the FCO – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Updated August 2023

West Papua – The Last Frontier - tribal tours
Tribal tours in Baliem Valley - West Papua
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
20 September 2024
Price (PP) -
£5,299
Single Supplement -
£700
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
19 September 2025
Price (PP) -
£5,899
Single Supplement -
£700
Trip Status -
Available

You may also like…