Most of the course flows through the provinces Sandaun of Sepik River New Guinea of Papua and East Sepik. Only small portion of the river runs via the Papua province of Indonesia. Along most of its course, about 5 to 10km active meanders wide belt were formed by the river. This has caused floodplain of about 70km wide with broad backwater swamps. Almost 1,500 Oxbow and some other lakes in the floodplain were found. But among them, Chambri Lakes is recognized as the greatest. The local villagers have been using the river since their inception till date for water, transportation and fishing. Up till now, there are still some villages along the watershed of the river that have not experienced a stranger.
Where is the Sepik River Located?
Despite that this place host a number of visitors every time, many people have not heard about this river. Merely hearing it for the first time will surely bring up this question in you. Where is the Sepik River located in this particular world? Is it part of the tourism? With this new technology and jet age, can this kind of the people living there still exist? Anyway, the answer to this is not far-fetched. It is located on the island of New Guinea, making it a beauty to behold by most travelers.
After German Empress Augusta, the name Sepik was called Kaiserin Augusta River by the colonial explorer of German Otto Finsch. The river springs up from the Victor Emanuel Range at the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. It goes from north-west from the headwaters of the mountain very close to Telefomin. The river bequeaths the mountain suddenly almost close to Yapsei. From this place, it enters Indonesia Papua. Then, retrace its course to north-east because most of its travel abiding by the Great Depression. Along its movement, it gets large tributaries from Bewani and Torricelli Mountains through north and Central Range to the south.
Interestingly, the longer part of the length of Sepik River winds in snakelike fashion just exactly like that Amazon River. It travels in that manner to the Bismarck Sea that is off northern Papua New Guinea. This is absolutely contrary to some other big rivers. The reason is that Sepik lacks delta, rather runs straight into the sea which is 100km east of Wewak town. Also, it is passable for most of its length.
Exploring the Sepik River
One of the two huge tropical rivers in Papua New Guinea that ramble via the thickly afforested lowlands of the world longest and second largest island is the Sepik River. Along the river’s banks are found most remote villages. Many of its tributaries are sparsely scattered and it is hardly contacted by the outside world. In this place, people live the kind of lifestyle that has transformed little for a long period of years.
The indigenes of Sepik have certain customs and traditions that cannot be found anywhere. They have big building and complicated houses to house their good spirits. The houses are referred to as tamboran. Some time, the village men will produce complex wood carvings to fend off evil spirits. The crocodiles that inhabit the rivers are highly revered and worship.
The Sepik River cruise via the Sepik Basin is a cultural insight of National Geographic dimensions. Also, it is a great drawback to habitat where mankind still dwells bound by. They are always at the mercy of nature.
At the course of your adventure, you will have the opportunity to visit and have nice time with the village people residing at the Sepik Basin. Also, one will have the chance to explore the systems of the river. It debilitates some of the thickest and most untouchable rainforests in the entire globe. You will as well encounter Birds of Paradise and some other bird species. Another interesting thing you will do is collecting some of the dainty wood carvings that people are well known for.
The best places to stay in Sepik River if you truly want to enjoy your exploration period are Kawari Lodge and MV Sepik Spirit. These two places will give full access to all the mysteries and atmosphere of the remote area that the river can offer.
What You Need to Know About the Sepik Tribes
Ecologically speaking, the Sepik tribes diversely speak over 250 languages and are connected to cultural interaction and trade in their systems. Based on the genealogy and historical knowledge, what differentiate one group from another and maintains the eminences that bring about trade is ritual. In the Sepik River, their lifestyles revolve round the river.
As their men specialized on tottering dugout canoes that contain goods for trade, their women go for fishing or making sago. The children are not left out as they are delighted in dangling from trees and splash down into the Sepik River. When talking about tribal art gallery, Sepik cannot be underrated. The reason is that every village is fond of boasting an unparalleled style and each of the villagers is an artisan.
The cultural practice in Sepik River area is head hunting. What suggests how ceaseless warfare could have been was the fact that their young men only come of age by taking a head. In battle, the Latmul people of the Sepik tribes take the heads. Then, boil the flesh away, hang the skulls, painted and decorated as their trophies in the houses of men. Inevitably, the head hunters were not man-eaters but majority of them were. They eat human flesh but just of recent some of the older men who have tasted it will tell you that the human flesh tasted like chicken.
The place where important decisions concerning the village are taking is in the men house. In this place, their boys are inducted to become men. Ceremonies are conducted so as to please the spirits. Also, crocodile is recognized as the water spirit and worshipped. During the initiation, the backs of the young men are cut at the ceremonies to look like the crocodile markings. These young men will be wallowing in excruciating pain. The markings are known as the symbol of power and strength.
The basic food stuffs in Sepik River include sago flour that is extracted from the sago palm pith. Another interesting food stuff here is fish. Sago flour is just like substance harvested from sago tree pulp, mixed with water and steamed or fried to a pancake-like dish. Sango is a very strong element in the culture off Sepik. By witnessing the harvesting of a sago tree is indeed a worth walking into the swamp. If you are not brave enough, you will not be able to eat one of the biggest sago grubs found inside the tree.
Yam is another food that Sepik people love to eat. It is a root crop centralized to their culture. The Sepik farmers do compete so as to know who can produce largest yams. Besides, considerable ritual is associated with the yam planting and cultivating. This involves very rigorous diet rules, ritual cleansing and avoiding sexual intercourse.
How to Get In For Sepik River Tours
It is possible to make Sepik River Tours overland from Jayapura in Indonesia to Vanimo. This is over the land border by crossing the Sepik River New Guinea of Papua.
Also, a weekly ship between Wewak and Madang is available. Students are given discount but it is usually night journey. In other way round, you can take a PMV to Angoram on the river where the popular buai boats plies to Bogia. Even though, it is a long journey but the Sepik River Tours are usually at night and this is magical.
However, if your boat is overloaded, when it gets to Watam (last village to Sepik River), the cargo and the passengers will be splitted into two boats before the boats proceed to Bogia on the sea. Even though many people called this boat “boats to Bogia, yet majority of them do drop the passengers off in Borai. This is the first village on the road to Madang or in Awar (second village).
Another bigger or the next village is Bogia. There is possibility that you will find PMVs that will take you to Madang in any of the three villages. Many boats that are carrying betel nut will surely have a standby truck awaiting them at anyway they get to. The trip from Madang to Angoram in reverse could be a little bit tricky.
That is, the boats of buai leaves Bogia, Awar or Borai and one might not know where the next boat will depart. Whichever the direction you may take, just have it in mind that you have long waits, long travel times. All these is at least in a night trip. Sepik River tours are popular way to tour.
In Angoram, buai boats always refuel on the eastern bank of the river. This is at the other side from where the PMV from Wewak will alight you. At this place is a small community from Kambaramba. All you need do is to get a ride across the river. But remember that being the largest settlement of the Sepik River, Angoram as well has its own part of little crime. It is just like majority of the towns or transit points do in Papua New Guinea.
How to Tour Around Sepik River
The provinces of Sepik River depend basically on Mission Air fellowship that operates twelve planes across Papua New Guinea. They are supplying the mission stations and as well supporting the local communities. At times, they work for the tourists who are flying with Mission Air fellowship.
There is a logging road that is used by Malaysian company that goes from south to Green River from Vanimo. This is the greatest altitude on the Sepik River that can be accessible by the road. The Sepik people do hire land cruisers that help to bring their smoked fish to sell in Vanimo. The hiring price is very costly but it is advisable for a tourist to get a vehicle ride.
There is a road to Aitape from Vanimo where river crossings are involved. This alone can cause delay or make travelling impossible after rain. Majority of the people prefer to travel by banana boat over the sea. Just prepare for a rough ride and ensure you take your sunscreen along with you. This journey takes minimum of five hours. From Aitape to Wewak and V.V, the road is usually unsealed. The reason is that the travelers travel in a cramped land cruiser PMV for 5 to 6 hours.
Right from Wewak, at least three points are on the Sepik River that is accessible by the road. The biggest river station on the lower side of the river is Angoram. At the upper Sepik is Pagwi. Timbunke is on the middle Sepik and has a road link that gets flooded during the raining season. There is another logging road to Kanduanium which is further downstream from Timbunke. This is the least famous access area and not always possible.
On getting to Maprik, you will find PMVs that are going from west to Nuku in Sandaun province. From this place, you can travel to Aitape. The fact that there is bad road in the part of Papua New Guinea, yet there is high tendency to move from Aitape to Wewak, Maprik, Nuku and then back to Aitape. Travelling with PMV takes much time. However, there is possibility for the driver to wait or drive around the streets for some hours before his final leaving. The driver leaves when the PMV is full.
Some of the tourists usually come to Sepik based on organized tourisms. They either fly in or come through chartered boats. This option could be costly but yet perfect if organized travel independently for those with flexible time and basically on budget. There are some motorized canoes that work just like PMVs in some areas.
It is possible to travel from Pagwi daily up the stream to Ambunti. Hardly could you find regular traffic down the stream but there are many offers to charter a boat. It is very costly when compared chartered to sharing. At the lower side of the river, there is always regular traffic between Kambaramba and Angoram is very common. Buai boats at times stop in Moim when going down to Angoram to refuel and then continue its journey down the river.