PNG FA are offering a limited number of places for an exclusive, special 5 day/4 night Middle Sepik Expedition in October 2017 to a “Crocodile Clan Initiation Ceremony”. This ancient, traditional ritual, is performed only by the Iatmul people in the Middle Sepik villages approximately every 3 to 7 years and involves many months of tremendous effort and work from the whole village community.
This intimate and secret ritual is about the adolescent boys gaining their status into manhood together with becoming highly respected warrior status by obtaining their ancestral crocodile powers. The Iatmul people of this region do not worship the crocodile, instead they co-share living together on the river and revere the large reptile for its strength and their ancient traditional myths from creation of their people through to power and spiritual guidance. The traditional initiation procedure comprises of a succession of rituals designed to test the physical strength and moral fiber of the young man as well as remove him from the influences of his mother.
The village Haus Tambaran (The Men’s House) is where the initiation rituals are performed. Prior to the ritual event a high leaf barrier is built to surround the traditional structure so that non-initiated males, women and children cannot see what will be performed inside. This temporary fencing barrier represents the crocodile’s nest.
The night before the initiation the traditional flutes and drums are played throughout the night together with the initiated men chanting for calling upon the ancestral crocodile spirits. Other mysterious sounds are made to ward off evil spirits.
Early the following morning the initiates will be pulled into the Haus Tambaran by their maternal uncles and made to lie down. These uncles will calm and comfort the initiates whilst the boy’s bodies are being cut as it is imperative that no sound from the initiates shall be made. They have to endure the difficult procedure without omitting any noise or cries, or their initiation becomes invalid.
The skin is cut on the boy’s back, shoulders, upper arms and chests. After the cutting the cuts are then washed with water then painted gently with traditional lotion of bush antiseptic oils. A few days later the scabs are scraped off and a thick lotion, based on fire ash and natural oils, is rubbed into each mark so that the scars will heal to be raised and dark in color. Then river clay is painted over the initiates’ bodies and face as a barrier over the wounds, representing the crocodile egg, with potential hatchlings inside it.
The initiates then remain inside the Haus Tambaran with the Chief and other older initiated men to recover over a period of weeks or in some villages for many months.
During this time of seclusion, the women of the village cook their sons/brothers the very best village food and place the bowls near the entrance to the Men’s House, as it is strictly taboo for any un-initiated people to see the young men.
Inside the Haus Tambaran, as each young man recovers, the Chief will give him his secret Crocodile name and teach the initiates secrets and powers of their Clan, together with instructing them with their new responsibilities within marriage and the village community.
Only when the Chief is fully satisfied that each of the young men has fulfilled his passage into being a Crocodile Man with high warrior status, does he allow the men to finally emerge out from the shadows of the men’s house and enter back into village life. This conclusion is marked with a ritual bathing to remove the clay from their bodies, thus representing the hatching from the egg of a young crocodile. This is a time of great joy and pride within the village as the completed ritual has brought the young men into their fathers’ and grandfathers’ Clan, formed tight bonds with their fellow initiates and the older initiated men together with the highest respect from all within the village and along the river. The Crocodile men wear their scar marks with great pride and honor for the rest of their lives.THE EXPEDITION
The expedition would probably commence from Wewak on the 2nd October 2017.
A draft itinerary is as follows:-
5 Days / 4 Nights
Arrive in Wewak by air from Port Moresby or Madang. Be met at Wewak airport by our PNG FA representative, and escorted to and checked into a Wewak Hotel.
At 9 am, depart Wewak by private hire car or bus to Pagwi Middle Sepik, (a drive of 5 hours, a simple packed lunch is provided). At Pagwi, board your motorised dugout canoe heading downriver to Kanganaman Village. Sleep at Kanganaman guesthouse.
After breakfast depart Kanganaman, crossing over the river to visit the nearby beautiful villages of Palembei and then onto Kiminindibit and visiting their Haus Tambaran’s (The Men’s Spirit Houses). There will be plenty of opportunity to inspect and purchase many varied forms of artefacts in these villages plus displays of traditional daily tasks such as sago making, grass skirt weaving and other village activities. Return to Kanganaman and visit the initiated men in the Spirit House at night, a great experience when you can almost feel the ancestors in the shadows! It may be possible, as an alternative, to go crocodile hunting in the evening with young men from the village. Sleep at Kanganaman village guesthouse.
Depart Kanganaman after breakfast to travel to the ‘Crocodile Ritual Initiation Location’. Make up a village home base at either the village guest house or in family houses. During the late evening wander around freely to listen to the flute, drum and changing pre-initiation ritual. This continues throughout the night until the first crack of dawn. Overnight in the guest house or family houses in the village.
At the first light of dawn arise and gather outside the Haus Tambaran where the initiation ritual will commence as the proposed initiates are taken in behind the leaf fence into the Haus Tambaran. Witness the start of the skin cutting right through to completion inside the Haus Tambaran. *High respect and great discretion from all visitors is required during this very private and intimate ritual. Overnight for the 2nd night in this village.
The next morning you will motor upriver, to Pagwi where your bus and driver will escort you and your guide back to Wewak to check into your Wewak hotel by late afternoon.
Rise early for the 6.10am flight to out of Wewak back to Madang or Port Moresby
Book yourselves to spend one or two night on Yuo Island relaxing and snorkelling over pristine reefs. See FA04 on the website for further details.
Factors influencing costings include the fluctuation of the PNG currency “the Kina”, the spiralling rise in inflation within PNG as well as the fact that each “Adventure Expedition” is individually planned to suit the client’s wishes and requirements. Other factors which influence costs greatly:
- Transportation transfers to and from Wewak to the river and back.
- High cost of fuel for both the town and river transfers and the motorised canoes.
- Which part of the River you will be travelling - the further up the Sepik, the higher the cost due to logistics and fuel consumption.
- The size of the group to share the costs. For example, one person hiring a guide, canoe, paying for all the fuel etc is more expensive than if 4 people go on the expedition and share all the main costs between them.
Bearing all these factors in mind, below are the approximate prices for (FA 072) dependent on how many clients book for this one-off expedition and experience for 5 days & 4 nights: -
Based on 8 persons approximate price Kina 6,750/person all-inclusive ex Wewak.
Based on 6 persons approximate price Kina 7,250/person all-inclusive ex Wewak.
Based on 4 persons approximate price Kina 7,750/person all-inclusive ex Wewak
Based on 2 persons’ approximate price Kina 8,250/person all-inclusive ex Wewak
•All prices include entry to the Initiation Ceremony
We offer 10% discounted rates for PNG residents and volunteers working in PNG.
Please contact us, without any obligation, for further information and more accurate costings.REALITY CHECKSChange of Plan
PNG Frontier Adventures puts great emphasis on experience and interaction with the village people. To fulfil this experience, you will stay in remote villages and be exposed to the same travel limitations and hazards as the villagers themselves.
PNG Frontier Adventures will do everything possible to organise your expedition itinerary, however, due to the remote nature of the destination and possible sudden changes in the tropical weather conditions and lack of reliable communications when on the Sepik, changes of plans are sometimes necessary. For example, transportation may be, in rare occasions, unreliable or disrupted.
We make plans to cover most problems should they arise, which is very seldom, but the visitor must be aware of the small possibility of plans not working out as per schedule and accept this warning. Please be assured we will do everything in our powers to rearrange the expedition accordingly and find suitable solutions for you. However, PNG Frontier Adventures cannot be held responsible for sudden changes of plan when there is no alternative. Please be aware that any additional costs incurred in rearranging a disrupted itinerary will be your responsibility and/or your travel insurers.Travel Insurance
We strongly recommend that all visitors obtain their own travel insurance to cover forced cancellation of the tour due to unexpected circumstances, eg., bad weather conditions causing stoppage of flights, loss of baggage or personal items, medical emergency, and forced changes to your itinerary due to reasons beyond our control or planning.Food while on the river
While on the Sepik River food will be very basic and simple due to the lack of any refrigeration & power supply along the river. Daily meals will consist of rice with either tinned fish or meat and/or fresh fish and chicken together with fruits. We also pack eggs for the first part of the expedition. There is not any bread or bakery outside of Wewak town. It is important to understand the basic reality of this remote region and the limitations it makes on our provisions.Local Accommodation
We also wish you to understand that due to the remoteness and lack of development at the location that the village guesthouses and home stays are of a very simple, basic standard and in no way comparable to guesthouses in many other countries. For example, the toilets are pit toilets, the same as the villagers use, beds will be mattresses on the floor covered with mosquito nets, washing areas may consist of a bucket and scoop or a dip in the Sepik River.Wewak Town Hotel Accommodation
PNG Frontier Adventures books visitors into a local hotel both prior and post a Sepik River Adventure but does not take responsibility for standard or service of meals and facilities within the local hotel management. Guests are responsible for full payment to cover accommodation, food and beverages in the hotel. Only one hotel accepts credit cards.
The hotels in Wewak town are of a much higher standard of development than village life, with electric power, telephones, WiFi, flush toilets and air conditioning but can only be rated as one star at the most with the exception of the In-Wewak Boutique Hotel.Communications
Lately, mobile telephone communication towers are gradually being constructed along the Sepik River giving reasonable coverage mainly in the Middle Sepik River locations.
PNG Frontier Adventures advise visitors that transportation on our adventures will include dug-out timber motorised canoes and car hire from local rental firms. These forms of transport may not be carrying safety equipment such as life jackets, flares or emergency radios as the law in PNG does not require this standard as yet.Health
PNG Frontier Adventures informs the visitor that medical services are very limited here and rescue services even more limited. With that in mind we ask our visitors to visit your doctor before travelling to PNG and to ensure you start taking prophylactic medication against malaria before visiting PNG to be on the safe side. Please also check on your travel insurance and medical insurance.
Booking Information, Terms and Conditions
Upon receiving an enquiry we design and plan your personal itinerary via email and provide a quotation for your perusal. Once you are happy with the arrangements and wish to proceed with a booking, we ask for a deposit of 50% to be paid 8 weeks prior to the commencement date. As soon as we have the deposit your booking reservation is confirmed. We ask for the final balance of payment 4 weeks before the expedition commences. Cancellation within 2 weeks of the commencement of the expedition incurs a penalty of 100% of monies paid to date.
The reason for this pre-paid booking system is due to the limitations of banking facilities, credit card facilities and currency exchange facilities within Wewak, coupled with the need to purchase fuel and food prior to your intended arrival. In many cases we need to have purchased the fuel beforehand and have it on the river ready, ahead of your expedition. We organise everything needed for your adventure; all you need to bring is your own personal effects and any spending money for the purchasing of artefacts or for extra food and drinks when up the river.
Please note a full breakdown of the tour costing cannot be provided. Please also be aware that while we can reserve a Wewak hotel in your name, we do not include the cost of accommodation or food or drink in the chosen Wewak hotel in our quotation. Guests pay the hotel direct.
PNG Frontier Adventures do not accept liability for and indemnifies itself from any claims for loss, damages, personal injury or sickness from/to the client/visitor and medical insurance. PNG Frontier Adventures reserves the right to cancel wholly or part or revise the itinerary plans due to current tribal situations, bad weather conditions or detrimental acts of nature at the time of, or just prior to the commencement of, the expedition. PNG Frontier Adventures offer these terms and conditions in accordance with the Law of Papua New Guinea.
Payment of the required deposit to PNG Frontier Adventures assumes automatic acceptance of the terms and conditions mentioned above.