We initially discovered this tour operator through previous reviews on Trip Advisor. My wife and I just returned from a trip up the Sepik River with this company, followed by a brief hiatus at the Wewak Boutique Hotel; and then on to Mt. Hagen for the big Cultural Show/Sing-Sing. I would say, however, that my time on the Sepik River was my favorite part of the trip - even though it was an afterthought arranged around the big event in Mt. Hagen.
PNG FA is owned by a Brit, Sue Baker and a native of a Sepik River Village, Chris Karis. We almost cancelled because we had heard so much about the dangers of robbery and inter-tribal violence. I’m glad we didn’t and I would credit Sue’s many emails back and forth with us so I felt fully informed about what we were getting into. Actually, we found the people, particularly on the River, to be very friendly - constantly waving to us, shaking our hands and greeting us wherever we went.
Another thing Sue did well is prepare us for what to expect in terms of staying in local villages, and eating their diet. This trip is not for everyone, as you average four hours a day, sometimes longer, in a dugout canoe.
We slept in villages where we had a pad and a mosquito net, sometimes in a large room with everyone else; sometimes in separate rooms with thin woven palm walls. There was no plumbing, no electricity, no Internet, and although generators were used for a few hours. We washed in the River, and were constantly soaked through our clothes with the heat and humidity. It’s harder for women with an outhouse, sometimes with a seat, sometimes with a slit trench; whereas for men it’s culturally okay to pee anywhere.
So here is the awesome part: we were in a village when the Chief (or “Big Man”) returned from a hunt with seven crocodiles. The whole clan clambered to the riverbank, and then laid out palm leaves, and proceeded to skin and dress the crocs to prepare for a feast. It was quite an experience. Because we’d given the chief coffee and sugar, and sandpaper for his mask making (as Sue’s suggestion); he gave us a crocodile tail which our cook prepared for us over a small fire inside the hut where we stayed that night. It was the best meal of our time on the river. The Chief also showed us a carved board that once held skulls, and told us a story about how his grandfather tried to defend the village and killed four men from a neighboring clan. He and six other men were arrested, and convicted of murder. They spent seven years at hard labor, and then were publicly hanged. Inter-tribal warfare, and paybacks was a part of the culture until then; and the hangings were an effort to stop these practices. So we got a fascinating first-hand look at their cultural history.
We also attended the Crocodile Festival - which I ended up enjoying even more that the big Mt. Hagen Sing-Sing. It is much smaller, attended by only a few dozen tourists.
So if you can put up with the primitive immersion it is a rich cultural experience. My wife and I being a group of two, we were accompanied by our own guide, a boat driver, a cook and a bowman. There were times we were doubled up with other guests, but Sue made an effort to give us a more personal experience with the locals by not having us be part of a large group of tourists.