There is nowhere quite like the Sepik River! One of the great rivers
of the world, with a total length of over 700 miles, the Sepik is
more than just a waterway. It is an essential cultural link for
the many peoples that inhabit this vast unspoilt area; it is a symbolic
focal point for artistic expression.
Rising in the Highlands at Telefomin, the river heads west into
Irian Jaya before dog-legging east. Dropping down through the Thurnwald
Mountain Range, the river wanders through Ama and Ambuti before
spilling into the Bismark Sea at Watam, south of Wewak.
Wewak is the gateway to the Sepik; location of the Japanese surrender
in 1945, there are ugly reminders of this war near the airport,
where bomb craters dot the landscape. Wewak is now a pretty town
with beautiful palm-fringed beaches stretching along the shoreline.
Off shore from Wewak is Kairiru Island, an active volcano with hot
springs, geysers and mud pools. An enormous Japanese gun, used to
protect the fleet that often harboured here, stands as silent testament
The Upper Sepik is known for its specialised religious cults; the
Maio and Yessan people have a yam cult, and Swagup is home to Insect
people. Their artform incorporates the sago beetle, dragonfly and
praying mantis. The villages in the region are spread well apart,
and each tribe has a separate language which others cannot understand.
This is one of the world's most wild and remote areas.
The Middle Sepik, starting at Ambuti and finishing at Angoram,
is domain of the most artistic of the Sepik tribes. Each village
has its own distinctive style of art, from wood carvings to personal
adornments. The only connection that these people have is in their
Haus Tambaran, or Spirit Houses, in which the artefacts are stored.
These houses, massive constructions of wood and matting, have an
angular gabled front carved in a rich display, generally depicting
scenes from everyday life and the peoples' spiritual past.
Located near Ambarak on the Karawari River, one of the Sepik's
major tributaries, is Karawari Lodge. Operated by the same company
as Ambua, Karawari is built on a high escarpment with incredible
views across thousands of square miles of untouched rainforest,
through which meander rivers and streams, like veins on a leaf.
The Lodge consists of a main building, designed as a Haus Tambaran,
containing the dining area and saloon, which is filled with splendid
wood carvings and artefacts collected from all over the Sepik. Accommodation
is in self-contained bungalows running across the ridge. Each has
ensuite bathroom, and is tastefully decorated. Tours from Karawari
include meeting some of the local people going about their daily
lives, trekking through the forest to see the spectacular wildlife,
and trips on "river trucks", small aluminium boats with
shallow hulls that can easily negotiate the intricate waterways
and channels of the region. The Chambri Lakes region is a vast network
of swamps, waterways and small lakes which flood in the wet season.
The intensity of the rain can dislodge huge chunks of the river
bank, forming "floating islands". The lakes sustain many
fish, and white egrets can be seen roosting in the orchid clad trees
along the shore. The lakes are usually covered in a blanket of lilies
The Lower Sepik, the shortest section of the river, runs from Angoram
to the coast near Watam. Angoram is administrative centre for the
Middle and Upper Sepik, and features a large Haus Tambaran built
for the purpose of selling and displaying many artefacts from the
surrounding area. Masks, flutes, jewellery and the famous Kambot
storyboards can be readily purchased here. Along the shores of the
river can be found small villages where the locals spend their days
carving their wares.
The ideal way to see the Sepik is by canoe. Our trips begin at
Wewak, from where you will take a domestic MAF flight to Ambunti,
one of the largest villages on the river. From Ambunti you will
cruise upstream to the Middle Sepik and through the Chambri Lakes.
At night you will stay in local villages, where your experience
will be as in Tari - learn about the villagers' ancestry and their
spirits. You can either return via a different route to Wewak or
hop up to Karawari Lodge for a spot of over-indulgence! From here
you can catch a plane to Ambua or Mt Hagen. Our canoe trips include
all your equipment, including motorised canoes, English-speaking
guide, all meals and accommodation. You guide, who is drawn from
the local area, will act as interpreter during the trip. While the
canoes are stable, we recommend you take the bare minimum of baggage,
as little is required. To really experience one of the world's last
great wildernesses, there is no better way to than this!