Expedition to the Treehouse People of West Papua

A Journey into the Stone Age
with Kornelius Kembaren and Ivan Somlai

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $6195  
Length: 17 days
Arrive: Jayapura, West Papua, Indonesia
Depart: Jayapura, West Papua, Indonesia
Lodging: 2 nights hotels, 14 nights camping or simple guesthouses
Meals: all meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: 11-day trek on moderate to strenuous jungle trails, 5-8 hours a day, river travel by canoe, basic camping


  • Live among true hunter-gatherers and experience their fascinating way of life
  • Learn how tribal people build their amazing treehouses, watch them hunt with bow and arrow
  • Meet people who have never seen Westerners before!
  • Witness a traditional sago worm feast, a gathering of tribes from far and wide

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Looking for real adventure travel? This extraordinary expedition transports you deep into the towering rainforests of West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), where you’ll trek through deep jungle, travel by dugout canoe on hidden rivers, and become the honored guest of some of the most amazing and resourceful people on earth: the Korowai and Kombai, the extraordinary tribes of Irian Jaya. These unique “treehouse people” live high up in the trees—in thatched houses as high as 80 feet up—and are among the last hunter-gatherers on our planet. It is a privilege to be their guests for a few days as they share their traditions and culture. As you spend fascinating days talking and laughing and learning from these people, it will touch your life and change you forever. And while you’re here, you will be witness to a sago worm feast, with neighboring clans arriving on foot from far away to dance, sing, and celebrate. Although this trip is one of the most exciting cultural adventures imaginable, it is also an extremely rugged journey. Living conditions are basic and trekking to reach the tribes is rigorous, with hot, humid, and muddy conditions. But this experience will bring you into an enchanting stronghold that holds the earth's last pristine jungles and a vanishing culture where spirits seem to come alive in the trees and in the air. How long have these people existed? How long will their culture last? Join us for answers and a journey filled with adventure and wonder.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2
Jayapura / Yaniruma

Fly to Jayapura, Papua’s capital, for an overnight, then continue by charter flight to the small village of Yaniruma, gateway to the land of the treehouse people.

Days 3-5
Trekking / River Travel

With our porters, guides, and cook, we set out on foot and by river deep into the Papua rainforest, trekking through wetlands, scrambling over rugged trails, fording rivers, and gliding by canoe. Overnights in simple camps.

Days 6-11
Treehouse People / Sago Worm Feast

As we are welcomed by the treehouse clan, we watch the fascinating daily activities of their lives, which can include collecting food in the jungle, fishing, making bows and arrows, or constructing a treehouse. We keep our time unstructured so that we can take advantage of any special events or occurrences that may happen. On one of the days we are here, there will be a traditional sago worm feast, with members of neigbhoring clans coming from far away to dance, sing, and celebrate. Overnights in simple thatched huts.

Days 12-13
Dairam Kabur River / Yaniruma

On foot and by canoe, we returndown the  Dairam Kabur River to Yaniruma village.

Days 14-17
Busiki Fishing Village / Jayapura

Our last few days are spent enjoying the white-sand beaches of Papua at a fishing village before we return to Jayapura and depart on Day 17.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 5, according to the Wilderness Travel trip level system. It is an extremely rugged expedition. Living conditions are basic and the trekking is rigorous, with hot, humid, and muddy conditions. Some days, you may hike for up to eight hours. If you are not reasonably fit, flexible, and a lover of third world travel, this is probably not the trip for you. You should also be in excellent mental and physical condition to withstand the rigors of the trip. However, a positive attitude and willingness to venture out of your own comfort zone will go a long way in helping you enjoy the journey.

The itinerary we have outlined is subject to change. Local weather conditions and lack of aircraft may mean we may not be able to fly our charter flights as scheduled. Our travel on foot and by canoe will be subject to trail and river conditions, which can vary greatly. We plan to hike from five to eight hours a day on hiking days, but it is difficult to predict how long or strenuous a hike will be on any given day. We have built in buffer days to accommodate such events and urge trip members to have a flexible attitude.

On this adventure, we will be welcomed into the daily lives of the indigenous treehouse people of Irian Jaya. In return, we need to return the respect that will be show to us. We are observers and guests. We will not try to influence or change the culture that currently exists (specifically this means we do not teach our hosts our language, games, songs, etc.). We are there only to observe and learn. Additionally, we strongly discourage the giving of gifts to any of the local people. The impact of this is very damaging for the environment, the culture, and for future travelers to the area. There will be no alcohol while we are on the journey. Alcohol consumption outside of the larger towns is strictly forbidden (we may be able to purchase beer in some of the larger towns). We will leave no trace of our presence. The only thing we like to leave behind is smiles on the faces of our hosts.

In Jayapura, we stay in a Western-style hotel. While we are in the villages, we sleep in rooms in local houses. Family members will be using other rooms in these houses. While in the rainforest, we will be camping, sleeping under thatched huts built with local forest materials. The huts will have different functions: a sleeping hut, a toilet hut, a dining hut, a hand-washing hut, and kitchen hut, and a porter hut. A platform by a creek will be provided for bathing. We will provide mosquito nets and plastic sleeping mats. Trip members need to supply their own pillow, air mattress, and blanket (all made from lightweight material that works well in a humid environment). Sleeping bags are not necessary because we are in a very warm climate. Near the end of the trip, when we are on the coast in the Bukisi village, our accommodation is a local village house.
We provide an experienced cook for the journey. In general, we will use canned food, but we will provide fresh ingredients when they are available. Typical breakfasts will be bread (baked by the cook), omelettes, and cheese. Lunch will be fried noodles or potatoes and bread. Dinner will be soup, rice, vegetables, and fruit. Tea, coffee, milk, Ovaltine, and Tang will be provided. Drinking water will be made from filter-purified river water.

On our jungle hikes, we walk over narrow footpaths. The area is mostly flat and the path should be mainly dry, or occasionally swampy if there has been recent rain. We sometimes have to cross rivers and streams, with or without bridges. When we are near a settlement, we usually have to cross clearings, where cut trees litter the forest and make the walking very difficult. Our porters and staff will help and assist as necessary, but you should be aware that this is part of the hiking experience. For river travel, we use local canoes that hold from two to four people, and they will be operated by local people who know the rivers well. To ensure minimal impact on the environment, we like to keep our group size to a 12 person maximum. This allows for a more in-depth experience for every traveler and also lessens the environmental impact.

Please Note: This is a new Wilderness Travel trip for 2014. We have worked closely with our partner and Trip Leader in West Papua in developing the itinerary, but as with all new adventures, the first few departures can be expeditionary in nature. We ask that you make a special effort to bring flexibility and a spirit of adventure to this unique trip.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Nov 4-20, 2014

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$6195 (9-11 members)
$6695 (7-8 members)
$6995 (6 members)
Single supplement: $220
Forced single supplement: $220
Internal airfare: from $2095 per person (depends on number of trip members)
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Services of camp staff including porters and cooks
  • All accommodations as noted
  • all meals included
  • All land transportation, airport transfers for passengers as noted

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

international airfare; airport departure taxes; any meals not specified after each itinerary day; optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff; hotels en route to/from Kathmandu; any additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by international airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations, visa fees, travel insurance; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $250 per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Kornelius Kembaren

Departure Dates: November 4-20, 2014

Trip Leader Kornelius Kembaren, from the Karo Batak tribe, has lived in West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) since 1989. One of the most respected and experienced guides in West Papua, Kornelius is an expert on culture of the Asmat, Dani, Yali, Lani, Korowai, and Kombai tribes and spends roughly six ...
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Ivan Somlai

Departure Dates: November 4-20, 2014

Ivan Somlai, a Canadian, holds an MA in Culture and postgraduate qualifications in International Management. A former Olympian, Ivan has taught mountaineering leadership courses and guided heli-skiing in his home country and also spent two decades working in Nepal, where he taught mountaineering ...
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