The Sepik is a region of Papua New Guinea, consisting of two provinces, East Sepik and West Sepik.

A Haus Tambaran at a village on the Sepik River.


European contact on the river began in 1885, when the Germans explored the area. Tourist trips up and down are possible. It is best visited in June to November when there are less mosquitoes. For the truly adventurous it should be possible to rent dugout canoes with outboards and boatman at the river villages closest to the province's capital, Wewak. The people living along the river are noted for their carvings and elaborate manhood initiation ceremonies. Many villages use garamut drums, which are long, hollowed-out tree trunks carved into the shape of totem animals. Many villages have a Haus Tambaran which is a traditional ancestral worship house. The most recognizable forms of this are found around the village of Maprik. The Sepik people are renowned for their superb artistic ability in painting and carving, which is often exhibited in these religious structures. Papua New Guinea's first prime minister, Michael Somare, came from the Sepik region and it is perhaps no coincidence that the design of the country's parliament building in Port Moresby was based on a Haus Tambaran.

A traditional carving from the Sepik Region

The capital of West Sepik is Vanimo, which is a stopping off point for those heading for Indonesia and for expats in Indonesia wanting to renew their Indonesian visas. It is also becoming a popular destination for expert surfers. Also on the coast is Aitape, a town developed around a catholic mission. Close to there is the Sissano Lagoon which was devastated by a tsunami in 1998, killing 2000.


Other destinations


The Sepik has the highest concentration of languages in all of Papua New Guinea (and therefore by extension, in the world). Many people speak Tok Pisin (pidgin) to some extent, few speak English. It facilitates your stay quite a bit if you try to learn some basic pisin words and phrases (locals will be all too pleased to help if asked, and will take great delight in teaching you). When traveling away from Wewak, it is very worthwhile to get a guide to help you in the villages. Conflicts between villages and different language groups is common, and it is a good idea to quiz your guide about current events, his origins and affiliation with the villages you intend to visit.

Get in

Get around

The provinces depend heavily on Mission Air Fellowship (MAF), which operates twelve planes throughout PNG both supplying mission stations and supporting local communities. It is sometimes possible for tourists to fly with MAF.




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