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 for traditional cultures and is a treasure trove of tribal diversity. 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 two distinct cultures to understand a vanishing way of life.
Starting in the ‘capital’ Jayapura, we take a series of small flights into ever more remote territory. From Kepi we begin our journey into the lands of the Korowai people. The Korowai live in small clusters of treehouses, built high up from the forest floor to protect them from raiders. They follow a subsistence lifestyle based on hunting and gathering. Having trekked to their villages we spend a couple of days with them as they go about their daily lives in the swamps and jungles, immersing ourselves in a culture very alien to our own.
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 on ancestor worship and the veneration of spirits, we’ll be lucky enough to meet a 250-year-old mummified warrior. We’ll see their traditional war dances and explore simple mountain villages that have barely changed in centuries – if not millennia.
Our final stop is the tropical island of Biak off Papua’s north west coast, where we snorkel in clear blue seas and discover the heritage of Papua’s turbulent role during the Second World War.
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.