Twelve day expedition deep into the jungle of Papua
The Korowai tribe
Papua, the largest and easternmost province in the Indonesian Republic covers the entire western
half of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland. (The eastern half of
New Guinea is known as PNG, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea which became
independent from Australia in 1975.) Papua covers 410,660 square kilometers (158,510 square
miles) and makes up 22 percent of the total land area of Indonesia. Its population is less than
Papua is a huge expanse of tropical rainforest. It has the tallest tropical trees in the world and
immeasurable and largely unexplored biodiversity. There are regular reports of scientific expeditions
discovering new and unknown animal and plant species. The province also contains the highest
mountains between the Himalayas and the Andes, rising up to almost 5000 meters and covered in
snow. In the north and the south the rainforests fuse into extensive wetlands and swamps that
stretch for hundreds of kilometers. The people of New Guinea can be divided into more than 250
groups; they are an incredibly diverse mixture of cultures and languages.
The Korowai, are a tribe in southeastern Papua about 150 kilometers inland from the Arafura Sea.
They number about 3,000. The Korowai are hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists who practice
shifting cultivation. Until their discovery by a Dutch missionary in 1974, the Korowai had hardly
any contact with the outside world. Until 1970, they were unaware of the existence of any people
Amazingly, the Korowai people live in tree houses ten to thirty meters above the ground, an
intelligent defense against swarms of mosquitoes, annoying neighbors, enemy tribes and evil
Important Notice: Papua is the last place in Indonesia where foreign tourists still need a special
permit (“surat jalan”) to travel around. We will arrange this permit for you and in order to obtain
the document you must bring 2 passport pictures. Indonesian regulations also stipulate that a
visitor’s passport should have at least six months remaining validity from the day of arrival and a
minimum of two empty pages for immigration and visa stamps. Should you wish to visit Papua
immediately upon your arrival in Indonesia the procedure would be as follows:
Day one : Jakarta - Arrival
Upon disembarking at Jakarta International Airport, you purchase “visa on arrival” at USD 25 per
person. Then you line up at an immigration desk to get your passport stamped. After you have
retrieved your luggage you will meet our tour guide at the main exit where he will be holding a sign
with your name. He will then take you to the hotel. It is most convenient to stay overnight at the
Sheraton hotel near the airport.
Day two : Jakarta- Jayapura (B)
At the appropriate time our guide will check you in for the flight to Jayapura, the capital city of
Papua. The distance from Jakarta to Jayapura is 3778 km or 2347 miles but most airlines flying
there make an intermediary stop in Makassar and schedule the route as an overnight journey.
Day three : Jayapura- Wamena (L,D)
Arriving in the morning we stay in transit at the Jayapura airport till we can board a small plane for
the flight across the Rouffaeren-Mambramo basin to the small town of Wamena at 1,600 meter
above sea level in the Baliem Valley.
When you step out of the plane you immediately realize that you have arrived in one of the most
remote corners of the planet, unlike any other place you have ever seen. We walk through
Wamena to visit the local market where the locals sell their vegetables and fruit, a place so
colorful that it will overwhelm your senses. We have our lunch in a local restaurant in Wamena.
Your hotel, The Baliem Valley Resort, is located on the flanks of the valley at 2,000 meter
http://www.baliem-valley-resort.de/englisch/main_e.htm . Here you will make an attempt to
recover from the world girdling miles and the jet lag. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day four: Wamena - Yakohimo - Patipi Dibawa (B,L,D)
After an early breakfast we drive back to the airport of Wamena to catch the regular flight to
Yahokimo (Dekai) located at the upper reaches of the Brazza River in the remote lowland area of
South East Papua. This one hour flight out of the Baliem Valley, again into a different world, gives
us the opportunity to grasp the vastness of the dense and (almost) uninhabited jungle. Upon
arrival in Yahokimo we visit the local market to stock up on provisions for the further voyage.
After our lunch in a local restaurant we drive to the river harbor to find the long boat that will
take us into the land of the Korowai and Kombai tribes. When we reach the small village of Patipi
Dibawa we pitch our first tent camp on the river bank.
We have reached Korowai territory. These forest people are among the most remote tribes that
have been discovered in Papua and live high up in the treetops. Their small houses are perched up
to 35 meters above the ground both to protect them from insects and enemy tribes. Living in small
communities deep in the humid rainforest they occupy small patches of land in the middle of the
jungle. Still living in a very traditional way, foraging the forest for food, hunting and fishing they
hold on to their own beliefs. Being cannibals till the late 70’s they now are being converted to
Christianity by missionaries. We spend the night in our tent at Patipi Dibawa.
Day five: Patipi Dibawa - Mabul (B,L,D)
Early Breakfast. Today we are in for a whole day on the river. By longboat we go all the way down
the Brazza river and up to the mouth of the mighty Siret river. At a simple settlement along the
way we stop for lunch. When we go further upstream, even deeper into the jungle, we see the
Siret river change into a much wilder one with rapids and pebble banks. Mighty trees are
surrounding us and at some spots dams of driftwood nearly block our course. To get through here
smoothly requires enough daylight and a well experienced coxswain. Around dusk we reach Mabul,
where several Korowai families are living. We put up camp at an empty dwelling where we can use
the fireplace to prepare our dinner. Overnight in our tent at Mabul.
Day six: Mabul - Korowai (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we break up camp, leave Mabul and start trekking to find another settlement of
the Korowai. The Korowai are semi-nomadic horticulturalists and practice shifting cultivation so we
will have to search for them in the humid and muddy environment. Immediately we are in a true
jungle environment that we will not leave for the following days. On occasion we need to cross
single log bridges called "monkey bridges" and we hack our way through dense vegetation. We get
into the habit to take precautions against insects. We prepare our lunch along the way. It will
take about 5 hours to reach today's destination; a beautiful clearing in the rainforest where we
will find 6 tree houses. These families will be excited to receive visitors and will keep us company
the whole time during our stay. We make our camp beside the tree houses but if you like, we may
also pitch our tent inside one of the tree houses, from 6 till 25 meters above the ground!
Day seven: Korowai (B,L,D)
Breakfast. Today we accompany the Korowai families into the nearby Sago woods and experience
a spectacle from another world. With stone axes these forest nomads take down a huge sago
palm tree and smash the inside to gain the pure sago, the principal staple food of the Papua
lowlands. The women wash the pulp to extract the flour. It is an experience to watch the whole
process! In the afternoon we head back to the tree houses and in the evening our cook makes us
a real jungle dinner; papaya veggies, fried fern spears with sago pancakes! Every day the kitchen
surprises us with different exotic treats! Overnight in our tent.
Day eight : Korowai (B,L,D)
We stay at this settlement for another day to absorb what the daily life is like for the Korowai .
Maybe they show us how to repair one of their tree houses or how to make and use bow and
arrow to go hunting. Or we can come along when they go foraging for food in the forest and
experience firsthand how early men survived as hunters-gatherers. Overnight in our tent.
Day nine : Korowai - Mabul (B,L,D)
After breakfast we break up camp and start trekking back to Mabul. We leave behind people and
land we shall never forget. In Mabul we have time to look at some of the primitive art made here
and perhaps find something to take home as a souvenir of this memorable trip. Here we say
goodbye to our team of porters. We put up camp again for the night at Mabul.
Day ten: Mabul - Patipi Dibawa (B,L,D)
After breakfast we take the longboat downstream back to Patipi Dibawa. First we go as swift as
an arrow on the strong currents of the Siret river but of course we slow down going upstream on
the Brazza river again. Late in the afternoon we set up camp in the familiar settlement in the
upper reaches of the Brazza river. Overnight in our tent at Patipi Dibawa.
Day eleven: Patipi Dibawa - Dekai - Wamena (B,L,D)
This morning we start very early and follow the Brazza River further upstream till we reach the
harbor of Dekai again. Here we say goodbye to our boat crew. We immediately go to the airfield to
take our flight back to Wamena round noon time. Transfer to the Baliem Valley Resort for a nice
hot shower and a good rest after the experience of a lifetime.
Day twelve: Wamena - departure
After an early breakfast we take the flight with Trigana Air back to Jayapura from where you start
your return trip or fly to the next destination.
End of Service