The Sepik is one of the world's great rivers, whose origins are in Indonesian West Papua and whose water catchment is the northern slopes of New Guinea's Central Range. Tropical rainforest dominates this catchment and upper reaches, whilst downstream swamplands take over which are prime habitat for crocodiles - an animal worshipped by many as the water spirit and a symbol of strength and power. This river system is probably the largest uncontaminated freshwater wetland in the whole Asia Pacific.
Our focus on exploring this area where the Central Range comes to an abrupt end, with limestone cliffs and forest covered slopes meeting the wide sweeping Karawari River, huge lakes and flood plains. Rainforest is the dominant vegetation here, with vast areas of unbroken habitat spreading into the mountains and across seasonally flooded plains.
Over 200 species of bird can be found here including the parrots, cockatoos, hornbills, cormorants and the 12 Wire Bird of Paradise. The 12 Wire can often be seen at dawn and dusk, performing highly visible display at favoured sites. These sites are usually dead tall trees which stand above the wider forest canopy.
Motorised canoe is a must for exploring the rivers and lakes, passing as you go local people fishing for their dinner, or going through a painstaking process of using river water to squeeze the starch out of sago palms to make edible sago. Sago is a staple food which when toasted is like a very plain and particularly dry flour biscuit. Breadfruit is another naturally occurring staple, which most will find tastier.
In the foothills of the Central Highlands, there are some excellent forest trails we can take you along, exploring the primeval forest and walking into friendly villages. There is usually a Spirit House worth visiting, where you can find classic tribal wood carvings. Via your interpreter, locals can tell you how teenage boys from the village go through their initiation ceremonies. Further down river, this involves painful skin cutting designed to create scars the texture of crocodile skin across a boy's back.
Villagers will be more than happy to walk us through their small plantations, or to some incredible viewpoints from which to admire the mountains, forest and plains around you. Each village has a different story to tell of bygone days of cannibalism and sacrifice, which for older members in the region took place when they were boys. Apparently humans taste a bit like chicken!
Journeys to the Sepik Province a dramatic step into a seemingly calm tropical world where natural forces dominate and anything plastic is almost impossible to find in most villages. We can either provide a focus on seeing as many types of bird as you can find, many of which you won't find anywhere else. Equally, we can add scenery and tribal culture into your mix of experience and even incorporate the deeper adventure of trekking to more remote villages, staying overnight, free of any modern amenities if you wish.
Photographs kindly provided by Ralph Pannell
Papua New Guinea Wildlife & Marine Life Travel Holidays Safaris - Rainforest Adventure tours - Bird of Paradise Birdwatching & expert guiding - Tribal Cultures - Photography - Riverside hotel & lodge - Sago Palm