Deep in the rainforested, highland basins of Papua New Guinea, the tongues and traditions of tribes as old as time caress the face of a secluded country — still steeped in mysticism and striking color. Join International Expeditions' Papua New Guinea cruise in one of the most remote and intriguing destinations in the world. On our Papua New Guinea tour, you venture into backwaters and lakes of the Sepik River aboard the nine-cabin Sepik Spirit; meet the Huli “wigmen,“ whose first contact with the outside world was in the 1930s; and discover the astounding bird life — birds of paradise, cassowaries, lorikeets and cockatoos. Our Papua New Guinea travel adventure is more than a history and culture expedition — you can also snorkel in the Bismarck Sea, enjoy leisurely walks along the beach and visit remote coastal villages for a true vacation in the exotic!
Discover Untamed Nature & Culture
Our Papua New Guinea cruise adventure takes in one of the most remote and intriguing destinations in the world. A land of startling contrasts and images, where scattered tribes and villages speaking over 700 languages are engulfed by this untamed country of awe-inspiring mountains, lush lowlands and tropical vegetation. Best described with superlatives, the astounding bird life — birds of paradise, bowerbirds, cassowaries, Victoria crowned pigeons, lorikeets, kookaburras and cockatoos — combines with the human spectacles for an astounding display.
A Papua New Guinea Cruise to Magical Mount Hagen
There are few if any human spectacles in the world that can match the gathering of tribes at Papua New Guinea’s highland “sing-sings.” In costumes dripping with beads, decorations and intricate body paint, the people sing out their individual beliefs and rituals. Each year, only a few explorers are lucky enough to visit the show. IE is one of only a few tour companies with guaranteed seating arrangements (and we’re in a nice, shady location!).
Days 1 & 2
U.S. / En Route
Fly independently to Brisbane, Australia. A day of our Papua New Guinea expedition itinerary is "lost" crossing the International Date Line. (Meals Aloft)
From Brisbane, board a group flight to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where we are met and transferred to Airways Hotel. (Meals Aloft,D)
Port Moresby / Embark Sepik Spirit
As we begin our Papua New Guinea adventure, travel via plane to Mount Hagen, in the upper Wahgi Valley on a commercial flight and connect right away with our first private flight. This beautiful flight will take us from the highlands down to the tropical lowland forest of the middle Sepik, where we embark our fine ship, the Sepik Spirit. Our home for three nights, the Sepik Spirit is specially designed to cruise the waterways and tributaries of the Sepik River. Inspired by the architecture of the haus tambaran or spirit houses, the Sepik Spirit has a truly unique design and includes beautiful wood carvings, air conditioning, ample cabins and social areas and a friendly, service-oriented crew. With its shallow draft, it allows travel to rarely visited areas of the Sepik River and its tributaries in comfort. We’ll visit villages along the Sepik and explore some of the backwaters and lakes formed by the river. Our itinerary is kept flexible so that we can take advantage of any special events. Steeped in mystery, the people of the Sepik area have fascinated anthropologists like Margaret Mead since the area was first visited. Part of the mystery and attraction of the Sepik peoples is their amazing carvings, now famous the world over. The people of the Sepik have highly developed traditional beliefs and rituals, and villages are very different from one another. Our Papua New Guinea adventure includes visits to the “spirit houses” that are the focal points of several villages, many filled with carvings that tell the legends of the area. At some villages you may witness a traditional “sing-sing,” the crocodile men and woman, and in each place there is the chance to buy exquisite local art. (B,L,D Daily)
Disembark / Karawari
Disembark the Sepik Spirit and take a riverboat to Karawari Lodge. Sitting on a ridge above the Karawari River, Karawari Lodge boasts a spectacular view over dense tropical jungle. The lodge is resembles a spirit house, and furnishings include a collection of local tribal art. While here, listen to the chattering of lorikeets, eclectus parrots, cassowaries and cockatoos, and connect with the fascinating culture and people in the remote villages. (B,L,D)
Karawari / Tari Gap Region
Take a private chartered flight to Tari, over some of the most rugged and impressive landscapes in the world, and transfer to Ambua Lodge, our home for two nights. At 7,000 feet above sea level, Ambua offers accommodation in nicely furnished rondavels. Thirteen species of elusive birds of paradise have been recorded here, many with long plumes and brilliant colors. On our previous expeditions, International Expeditions’ guests have spotted 11 birds of paradise species on the lodge grounds and at the Tari Gap, just minutes away. This area is also home to one of the world’s largest in-habitat orchid gardens. This afternoon on our Papua New Guinea tour itinerary is spent exploring the surrounding mountain forests and roaring waterfalls. (B,L,D)
Days 9 & 10
Tari Gap Region
Tari is the land of the Huli “wig” men. The Huli’s live their lives inspired by the birds of paradise and practicing ancient sorcery. Some of them choose to avoid contact with females for up to three years to grow their own hair to make ceremonial wigs, under the tutoring of a master sorcerer. These wigs are later decorated with flowers and birds of paradise feathers. During these days we will enjoy morning birding and excursions that will truly allow us to connect with the Huli people as we learn about their customs and beliefs. Included in these excursions is a visit to the “wig school” and enlightening discussion with natives, where you have the opportunity to ask questions. With luck, we may even watch a spirit dance! (B,L,D Daily)
Tari / Madang
This morning take a chartered flight to Madang, where we stay at the Malolo Plantation Lodge. The area is alive with cultural and natural diversity, the last mainly underwater. Because of this we will have the opportunity to snorkel in the Bismarck Sea, enjoy leisurely walks along the beach and visit remote coastal villages. Spend the next three nights of our Papua New Guinea adventure at the Malolo Plantation Lodge. Village visits are the ideal time to gain insight into these rich cultures. Explore Siar villages like Siar and Bilbil, where you can watch a demonstration on traditional potting techniques. Also enjoy time at the Coastwatcher's Memorial Lighthouse, Madang Cultural Museum and simply driving along the harbor. (B,L,D Daily)
Madang / Mount Hagen
Our morning charter flight whisks us to Mount Hagen, perched high on Mount Kuta. Spend our afternoon watching tribes finish their preparations for the Mount Hagen Show before spending the night at the Highlander Hotel. (B,L,D)
Days 15 & 16
Mount Hagen Sing-Sing
Our Papua New Guinea expedition itinerary spends two full days at the Mount Hagen Sing-Sing — also referred to as the Mount Hagen Show — to fully enjoy this renowned spectacle. The “Show” was established in the 1950’s and is a gathering of 60-120 clans from across Papua New Guinea. Thousands of colorfully decorated locals gather, using birds of paradise, various paints and fabrics in their ornate costumes. They dance and sing in an almost cathartic state while being evaluated by judges. Once the judges finish their evaluation, visitors are allowed to enter the filed and mingle with the clans. You will get face to face with the clans and have the most impressive cultural experience of your life, not to mention the superb photography opportunities! Each year, only a few explorers are lucky enough to visit the show. International Expeditions is one of only a few tour companies with guaranteed seating arrangements (and we’re in a nice, shady location!). On both show days, we arrive early for a privileges look at the scene as the dancers prepare themselves for the show. Our knowledgeable, local guide will be on hand to explain each clan and their traditions. We stay at the Highlander Hotel. (B,L,D Daily)
Mount Hagen / Port Moresby
Fly to Port Moresby, where we have an afternoon at leisure. Spend tonight at the Airways Hotel. (B,L,D)
Port Moresby / Cairns
This morning we fly to the resort town of Cairns, Australia, and transfer to the Sebel Cairns Hotel. Lunch is on your own. Then we take an afternoon and evening excursion to the Atherton Tablelands, in search of some of the unique wildlife of the mountain rainforest including the elusive platypus. Enjoy a barbecue featuring Australian wines at a great nature spot before returning to the hotel. (B,D)
Cairns / U.S.
Early this morning, we depart Cairns on connecting flights to the U.S. After re-crossing the International Date Line, we arrive in the U.S. the same day. (Meals Aloft)
PLEASE NOTE: Because of Papua New Guinea’s remote location, travel there necessarily involves some inconveniences. A key reason to visit New Guinea is to see places and cultures that are different from our own, and we will certainly do just that. Please be prepared if things don’t always go 100% according to plan — you’ll enjoy your visit all the more.
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
What’s included in the price of IE’s Papua New Guinea travel package?
- Two full days at Mount Hagen Sing Sing with guaranteed seating arrangements
- Three-night cruise on Sepik Spirit
- Visit to Huli “wig school” with question/answer session
- Excursions to local markets & villages
- Birding excursions in Tari Gap
- Full educational program with lectures & field interpretation
- Afternoon & evening excursions in Atherton Tablelands
- Snorkel in Bismarck Sea
- 42 meals
Are visas required for Papua New Guinea travel?
Visas are required for U.S. and Canadian citizens and must be issued prior to departure for your Papua New Guinea expedition.
What vaccinations are required for travel to Papua New Guinea?
Typhoid and tetanus, hepatitis and polio shots may be recommended, although not currently mandatory — but health requirements are always subject to change. Please consult with your personal physician prior to traveling.
What is the climate like in Papua New Guinea?
Papua New Guinea's climate is tropical and pleasant, as one would expect in a country located just south of the Equator. December to March is the wet season, although occasional rain falls year-round. While Port Moresby, the capital, and other towns on the coast are quite hot in the summer months, temperatures are considerable cooler in the Highlands. You will experience two distinct types of climate: the first in the lowland and coastal areas, where it is 75-95°F with high humidity, and the second in the highlands regions, where the temperature range is 54-82°F with less humidity.
What kind of food can you expect in Papua New Guinea?
Port Moresby, Madang and other larger towns offer some international cuisine (primarily English/Australian and Chinese), but in rural areas, the local food consists mostly of tropical fruit, rice, sweet potatoes/yams, pork (generally roasted) and seafood. The dishes are mildly seasoned and presented in a very attractive manner. Many hotels also offer smorgasbords, barbecues and other special meals.