Asmat and Korowai, People of Irian Jaya, Inland territories of Papua
The experience of a rudimentary way of life, lost in the dawn of time and humanity, is the best definition of what the traveler will try if he decides to explore and discover the lands of the people of Asmat and Korowai. Cruising Indonesia organises expeditions in Asmat and Korowoi territories. Would you arrange your expedition now?
The Asmat live in the southwest of Indonesian Papua, on the coast of the Arafura Sea, in a region of freshwater and mangrove swamps. Their territories arrive at the border of Lorentz National Park, the largest protected area in the South Pacific area, recognised by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Site".
A population of about 70,000 inhabitants, once cannibals and headhunters, the Asmat are now famous for their skill and tradition of woodworking sculptors, probably the best in the Pacific area.
The fact of not having communication routes, even to this day, make it difficult to see the lands of Asmat, and it is the reason for their isolation and the continuity of their traditions and primordial lifestyle. The large rivers, the only communication routes, provide the surrounding jungle with the sources of livelihood for this hunter/gatherer population. The sago, extracted from la palma is the main food of the Asmat, supplemented by fish, small animals, birds, larvae, fruit.
The canoe is therefore their main mean of transport in Asmat territories. Amazing the war canoes, sculpted and coloured that can carry more than 20 warriors standing up and paddling.
Because of the periodic flooding of the land, Asmat's houses are built on stilts high up to two meters above ground level. In fact, Asmat territory is also called the land of a thousand rivers, because the Asmat people live along the vast system of rivers that flow into the Arafura Sea.
The cult and the veneration of the ancestors, in particular of the great warriors, is part of the life of the Asmat, in the villages you can see carved poles, dedicated precisely to the veneration of their ancestors.
The Korowai, a small ethnic minority, composed of about 3000 people, lives in the Papua New Guinea border region, hunters/gatherers, nomads, live in small family groups, in the jungle and along the waterways. The first documented contact between Korowai and Western dates back to 1974.
The character of this population is to build huts on the foliage of large trees at heights of 10-25 meters above the ground to protect themselves from enemies and the dangers of the jungle.
Like the Asmat people, the Korowai follow a rudimentary way of life and primordial lifestyle in the jungle of Papua, leading a traditional life in families or clans, and living in tree houses, with a diet based on sago and almost no material objects, other than what the forest offers.
The visit of the Asmat / Korowai regions involves a demanding journey, due to the total lack of structures, the hostility of the environment, the effort. It is not a journey suitable for everyone, it requires a spirit of adaptation and the determination to go and discover this isolated world lost in time. Cruising Indonesia organises expeditions in Asmat and Korowoi territories. Please contact us for further information.
- Credits and acknowledgments:
- All photos on this web page, with the exception of the cover photo, are copyright of Gianluca Afflitti, award-winning National Geographic photographer
- First expedition organized by Cruising Indonesia in September 2018