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Home > Adventures > Beyond Bali > Papua Adventures
 
Papua Adventures
 
 
West Papua forms the western half of the large island widely known as New Guinea. Administratively part of Indonesia, West Papua is officially known as Irian Jaya.
West Papua is home to the most ethnologically primitive cultures on Earth. No less than 25% of the world's languages are spoken here and obviously you will find a vast display of tribes and tribal customs. These are people largely unaffected by the strictures of the modern world as we know it; a race adapted to daily life solely through their basic survival elements.
 
The Guides
Papuans live far away from the day to day realities of western cultures and in that sense can seem very remote and inaccessible to visitors. It is therefore vital to have the right guide. Kelly Woolford, American by birth but internationally bred, is a true explorer and adventurer by trade. In his early forties, Kelly has travelled and trekked the globe seeking out the mysteries of different cultures and faraway places with sensitivity and respect. He has received warm welcomes from many people in many different lands.
 
Travel Logistics and Bali
Your guide, Kelly Woolford, resides in Bali which many travellers find to be the most convenient and straightforward entry-point into Indonesia. From Bali, there are daily flights to Jayapura in West Papua via Makassar on the island of Sulawesi. Therefore the usual travel logistics for a West Papuan visit involve meeting up in Bali. Kelly will arrange your internal flights from Bali to and from Jayapura or elsewhere in Indonesia if you wish.
 
Jayapura and Lake Sentani
Lake Sentani is a famous primitive arts centre. Bark paintings, sago bowls and small-carved items are amongst the local handicrafts found here. Kelly is a private collector of primitive Papuan art and therefore he has the depth of knowledge and connections to ensure that you pay the right price and that all items purchased are genuine.
The port city of Jayapura sits on the coast and has a population of around 250,000 including many people from other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. It is not an unattractive city and you will find museums, hotels, an assortment of restaurants, banks and markets for shopping. From Jayapura it is easy to take guided overnight treks to primitive villages and it is a 45-minute flight to Wamena, the main town of the famed Baliem Valley.
 
The Baliem Valley
The Baliem Valley was once dubbed Shangri La and it is easy to see why. The Valley is incredibly lush and fertile and is surrounded on all sides by towering peaks of 2,500 to 3,000 metres. The fertility is such that the valley has been farmed for 9,000 years but it was only discovered by westerners in 1938! There are three mains tribes inhabiting the Baliem Valley: The Dani in the base, the Lani to the west and the Yali in the south-east. Each tribe has a distinct culture. One sure and interesting way to distinguish between the tribes is from the Koteka, or penis gourd, sported by the male members. The men of each tribe tend to the growing of the gourds with the three tribes each cultivating a different style. The Dani use a long, thin Koteka, the Lani sport a medium sized, wide cannon-like gourd, and the Yali wear the longest of all.
 
The Korowai and Kombai
The Korowai live in tree houses usually built between six and 25 metres above ground but they can be as high as 50 metres in times of tribal conflict. Stone and bone tools are the standard here - surely one of the last remaining cultures in the world which use these instruments as a matter of course. Any serious primitive art collector heavily prizes a Korowai stone-axe. These people also make heavy use of Flying Fox, Dog and Pig bones for body decoration. They subsist by hunting and gathering in a similar fashion to The Asmat Tribe. Here are a people usually completely naked (maybe a leaf), fully immersed in nature and with no apparent interest in anything other than what they already are.
 
The Asmat
The Asmat tribe resides in the tidal swamplands of West Papua's south coast. They are renowned amongst tribal art experts world wide as woodcarvers of the highest order. They were previously notorious as head-hunters and cannibals.
The Asmat Wowipit (ood carver) has a truly spiritual approach to carving and each piece made is imbued with the spirit energy of their ancestors. An Asmat carving can therefore be regarded as a bridge between the material and spirit worlds. The Asmat believe that their creator - FUMERAPITJS - carved their ancestors from trees and gave them the blessing of life, so from the very beginning the relationship of carver to wood is totally sacred.
 
Biak and Yapen Islands
Biak is one of the better known areas of West Papua and it formerly served as a major air-stopover on trans-pacific flights from Indonesia. At that time there were clearly plans to develop this pearl of an island for tourism but that never really happened and the stop-over flights ceased. That being said, a visit to Biak, sitting off the north-west coast, is certainly one of the easier options in West Papua. It is a small island only 50 M across and averaging about 18 KM wide. Regular flights from Jayapura serve the island.
 
Mamberamo River
The Mamberamo River is the Amazon of Papua. Weaving its way through vast territories of virtually unexplored terrain. Within it's watery reaches there live tribes, who to this day remain almost completely un-contacted by the outside world.
 
First Expedition
This “first contact” trek is not just another adventure travel tour, but a full-on exploratory expedition. In this “first contact” expedition we will be exploring one of the most beautiful and pristine rainforests in the world. We will be traveling into area where there are no roads, air-fields or helicopter landing pads. Where the challenges and treasures of total nature are experienced.
In this manner, there is no describing what can felt and realized on an expedition such as this. This “first contact” expedition requires extreme sensitivity and thus the exploratory party will be limited to only four people.
 
First Contact Summary
There was one porter/guide who had spotted a man in the forest several months before and this is where we wanted to go. We set up camp along a small river. Our guide told us that on the other side of the river was another tribe's territory -- a territory where none of our porters had ever visited even though it is only a few days walk away from their village. This tribe still uses bone and and stone tools and has never seen a white skinned or Indonesian person. This new tribe, Waira is very territorial and outsiders are not welcome. If you want to see them, you have to go into their territory because they never leave the area. We proceded to make a basecamp there, cutting down trees and making a pondok (bush shelter) for our porters to sleep under.
 
Flora and Fauna
West Papua is home to an amazingly diverse flora and fauna. The immense variety is determined by the sheer variety of ecosystems present: from shallow coral reefs, through coastal swamps, altitudinally differing rainforest and heigths rising to alpine glaciers.
Savannah Forest, dominated by Australasian Acacias and Eucalypts, is found only in the south-eastern corner of West Papua (Wasur National Park), Similar Savannah occurs in the Port Moresby area of Papua New Guinea.
 
Travel Tips
When a client confirms a booking, a full, detailed list of what to bring and travel tips will be forwarded and this list will be tailored to the specific trek which has been booked. However, the following section can be used as a general guide.
Passport must be valid for at least six months after your date of DEPARTURE from Indonesia
Four additional passport photographs and two photocopies of your passport will be needed for the special permits as soon as we arrive in West Papua
Credit cards are rarely accepted in West Papua so please plan appropriately
Recommended inoculations (see your local travel clinic) and malaria prophylaxis
 
Trips Schedule
Korowai - Tree House People
"New Korowai Territory"
19 Days, February 2006
Waira Tribe - "Second Contact" 16 Days, March 2006
Korowai - Tree House People and Asmat Tour 18 Days, April 200
Korowai - Tree House People
" New Korowai Territory"
19 Days, May 2006
Korowai - Tree House People and Asmat Tour 18 Days, July 2006
Expedition - Waropen/Mamberamo
"Land of The Unexpected"
20 Days, August 2006
"First Contact " - Expedition 17 Days, October 2006
Kombai - Tree House People   7 Days, November 2006
 

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