The Sepik River Tribes of Papua New Guinea are some of the most unique tribes in the world. Their art and culture are very unique and still remain unchanged over many generations. They are well known for their artesian skills and the crocodile initiation. Visitors from all over the world travel thousands of miles to experience the tribes’ culture and the magnificent environment of the Sepik River region. Sepik Tribes depend heavily on the Sepik River itself to sustain their livelihood. For many generations, the river was the main transport route and the source of food supply for the tribes. Most importantly, the river is the source of the Sepik culture and traditions. The tribes have beliefs that are associated with the crocodiles from the river. The Sepik River and the crocodiles are very important to the Sepik Tribes; it’s the source of their identity.   

The Sepik River meanders through the mountainous highlands region and pours into the bays of the Bismarck Solomon Seas and covers a distance of approximately 1,200km. The river covers four highland provinces, three coastal provinces and parts of Indonesia. It has numerous tributaries, sub-catchments and oxbows like the Chambri Lake which is the second largest lake in Papua New Guinea. It is also one of the most pristine rivers in the Asian Pacific Region that is under threat by human activities. It could lose its biological and cultural richness that has been an integral part of the Sepik Tribes.

Sepik Tribe

(IMG: PNG – True North – Sepik. Robert Eime. Flickr. CC BY 2.0. Note: Original image credit to: North Star Cruises. Photography credit: David Kirkland.)

With the need of conservation and preservation of the Sepik River, and supporting the Sepik River Tribes, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and conservationists, along with local tribes, started the Sepik River Crocodile Festival in 2007 as a campaign and awareness event to protect the Sepik River and support the Sepik tribes. Eventually the festival became an annual event on August 5th – 7th  where the Sepik Tribes celebrate their cultures with nature.

There is a strong bond between the Sepik tribesmen and the crocodiles.

Crocodiles are the important highlight of the festival. Hundreds of cultural activities associated with crocodiles are performed during the festival. There is a strong bond between the Sepik tribesmen and the crocodiles. When the men go into crocodile initiation ceremony, it signifies the relationship between men and nature. The body modifications symbolising a crocodile on a man’s body shows manhood and strength in the tribes’ societies.

Thousands of people from around the world attend and experience the festival. The experiences they get from the Sepik Crocodile Festival is very unique, filled with the cultural richness of the Sepik Tribes. Many return home with unforgettable memories, amazing photos and fantastic stories.

To access the Sepik River Tribes and Crocodile Festival is not easy.

To access the Sepik River Tribes and Crocodile Festival is not easy. The journey will be active and adventurous with a lot of travelling. There are daily flights from Papua New Guinea’s capital city, Port Moresby to Wewak. Wewak, the capital town of East Sepik Province, has road access to a government station called Pagwi. Pagwi is the waterfront gateway to the Sepik River Tribes and the Crocodile Festival.

Most of the tribe’s villages and the festival itself are accessible by waterway transportation on boats, canoes, and motorised canoes. The most commonly used mode of transportation are the motorised canoes.

Various travel agents and inbound tour operators always organise motorised canoe trips with recommendations for the Sepik Rivers Tribes and the Sepik River Crocodile Festival as a must see destination and festival in Papua New Guinea.

A journey through the Sepik River is both a cultural discovery of National Geographic proportions, and a retreat into a world where mankind still lives bound by, and at the mercy of, nature.  The Sepik River is one of the world’s last frontiers. A place where time has stood still, where ancient ritual and ancestral customs are still followed in daily village life among some of the most hospitable people in the world.



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