Papua New Guinea - Of Huli Wig Men, Ancestral Spirits, and the Sepik

Journey into a land forgotten by time, where ancient tribes still own the land and people commune with nature as a way of life. Papua New Guinea is an enclave of rare life, from the endemic flora and fauna, to the customs and traditions that make this island nation thrive. Over 850 distinct languages are spoken today in Papua New Guinea, making it the most linguistically diverse place on earth. Take a leap into the unknown as you cross vine bridges in the rain forest, discover the fascinating world of the highlands and the decorated Huli wigmen of Tari, and boat along the great Sepik River, stopping off to interact with unforgettable tribal locals. Discover New Guinea, the last bastion of traditions and ancestral spirits.

Degree of Difficulty - Three Paws

Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.

Weather Reports - When to Go

Papua New Guinea's climate can be described as tropical with coastal plains averaging 80 degrees F, the inland mountain areas high 70s and the higher mountain regions low 70s. The country experiences a long wet season between December and March. Shoulder season is April and November and it is generally hot and humid with increasingly unpredictable rain patterns. The best time to visit is during high season, which is May through October. There are more festivals offered during this time, and the crowds are larger, but the weather is cooler and drier.

DAYS 1/2/3/4 USA/PORT MORESBY/MOUNT HAGEN/WAHGI VALLEY

Depart the USA and crossing the international dateline, you arrive in Port Moresby two days later, where you will be met and guided to your domestic flight to Mt Hagen. A picturesque drive then takes you through highlands gardens to your accommodation, a luxury lodge perched high above Mount Hagen, with mist filled views of the Wahgi Valley below. Next day will be fully devoted to experiencing the unique cultural offerings of Papua, specifically in the Wahgi Valley. Enjoy a guided journey through the traditions and customs of the Melpa People, the most prominent group of people in the valley, though several other cultural groups live nearby, each with their own set of “bilas” (body decoration,) customs and traditions, and their own language. From your accommodation on Mount Hagen, you have a view of the Western side of the valley, covered in lush rainforest, limestone bluffs, and local homes and farms. RONDON RIDGE. (Meals Aloft, D; B, L, D)

DAYS 5/6/7 MOUNT HAGEN/KARAWARI/SEPIK RIVER

A short flight takes you to Karawari, where you’ll meet your luxury riverboat, the Sepik Spirit. Enjoy lunch on board the Sepik Spirit as you cast off onto the mystical Sepik River, the longest river in New Guinea, whose banks are home to many local villages. Inspired by the local architecture of the "haus tambaran" or spirit house, the Sepik Spirit has a truly unique design. For the next three days you will explore the many villages lining the Sepik and learn of the different tribal customs. They’ll dance for you, interact with you, and you’ll be able to shop and enjoy the beauty of the Sepik along the way. On the first full day, leave the ship in the morning for a full day tour and a picnic lunch to the remote Black Water Lakes to visit villages where the people are prolific carvers. Here you can purchase many interesting items such as masks, elaborately carved hooks, ancestral figures, hand drums, baskets, bilums and gourds. On the last full day, visit the village of Mumeri, where the women are well known for the ornate gourd phallocrypts. Enjoy a jet boat ride to meet with the Sepik Spirit at the Krosmeri Junction for lunch and then tour the Mindimbit villages, seat of the Iatmul people occupying the middle Sepik, known for the muted colors that are typical in the masks they produce. You will meet up again with the Sepik Spirit while cruising back to the Karawari area. SEPIK SPIRIT. (B, L, D Daily)

DAY 8 SEPIK RIVER/KARAWARI

Enjoy a full day of excursions along the jungle-fringed waterways of the Karawari River, where boatmen, standing upright, paddle their slender dugout canoes with sculpted silhouettes of crocodile masks. Village life including carved totems, drums, woodcarvings, and different expressions of art will surround you today. See bountiful bird life along the rivers and nearby lakes. Excursions will enhance your understanding of traditional village culture in the Sepik region. Sail through remote jungle waterways where huge lichen and vine-festooned trees, masses of brilliant flame flowers, and a profusion of orchids thrive. The soft dawn glimmers on these waterways and the vast plain erupts with a myriad of birds - the raucous jungle music. Dug-out canoes glide close by the river banks - stilt villages suddenly spring in sight along the flowing waters. Here you will see man and the environment as it has been for thousands of years. KARAWARI LODGE. (B, L, D)

DAY 9 KARAWARI/TARI VALLEY

Board your charter flight to Tari, where you’ll fly over some of the most rugged and impressive landscapes in the world. Ambua Lodge is an inspired mixture of local architecture, spectacular views and modest luxury off the beaten track. Located at 7000 feet (2100 meters) in the PNG Southern Highlands, this is the homeland of the Huli clan. Spend the afternoon exploring the area near the lodge with guides to lead you along forest paths, past roaring waterfalls, and over traditional bridges as you begin to develop an appreciation of the close relationship between nature and the Huli people. AMBUA LODGE (B, L, D)

DAY 10 TARI VALLEY

The Ambua area is home to numerous orchid species as well as an incredible 13 species of birds of paradise. You will be offered the opportunity to do some pre-breakfast birding. Then, enjoy the day of cultural and ecological touring as you visit Huli compounds and sacred places. Learn how the Huli live and how they interact with and use their environment in the magnificent Tari Valley. You’ll walk through the forest canopy, a dense mass of interlocking tree tops of all shades of green and the occasional bright splash of color, and cross traditional vine bridges, discovering secluded water falls. Your expert guide will point out the spectacular array of exotic flora around you and offer insight as to how the Huli people use these natural resources in their daily lives. AMBUA LODGE. (B, L, D)

DAY 11 TARI VALLEY

Learn more about the fascinating cultures, traditions and beliefs of the Huli people. In contrast to the Sepik people, whose art is manifested in ceremonial and decorative carvings, these Highland people employ as their art, body decoration, face painting and human hair wigs decorated with feathers, flowers and moss. Only known to the world at large since 1935, ancient traditions have a strong hold over the modern Huli. You will meet these proud people and learn much of their traditions and way of life which are still governed by their belief in ancestral spirits and sorcery. AMBUA LODGE. (B, L, D)

DAY 12 TARI VALLEY/PORT MORESBY

Bid farewell to the highlands as you transfer toTari airport for your short domestic flight to Port Moresby where you will be escorted to your hotel. This afternoon, explore Port Moresby, the capital and largest city in Papua New Guinea, followed by a farewell dinner. AIRWAYS HOTEL (Bacchus Wing). (B, L, D)

DAYS 13/14 PORT MORESBY/BRISBANE/USA

Fly to Brisbane, where you’ll spend the evening. Next morning, return to the airport for your flight home. (B, Meals Aloft)

PRE-EXTENSION TO LAKE MURRAY

Visit some of the remotest villages in Papua New Guinea as you embark on this pre-extension to Lake Murray. You will be welcomed into the homes of villagers along this spectacular waterfront, breaking bread with them and learning about their lives and culture. Perhaps if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the mythical Murray – a sea beast said to resemble a tyrannosaurus that reportedly lurks beneath the depths.

Prices starting at $9,495. For further booking, date, and pricing info please contact info@classicescapes.

Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.