The Sepik region is a wonderland of islands, beautiful coastlines, river systems and mountain ranges. Along with the stunning scenery, the area also has a rich history and was the site of Japanese surrender in September 1945. The Sepik region was first colonised by Germans in 1885 and the area soon attracted mercenaries, explorers, traders, labour recruiters, and missionaries. Yet it is the timeless history of the Sepik people themselves which provide the mystery and exotic folklore of this fascinating area.
Sepik fishermen in their dugout canoes wave to visitors on the great white catamaran, the Melanesian Explorer, as it plies its way down the mighty Sepik river, taking passengers on an unforgettable journey.
The Sepik River runs 1126 kilometres from its source in the central mountains to the sea. Its volume of annual water flow makes it one of the world's largest waterways, but to the people who inhabit the rivers area, its importance as a cultural link to their past is incalculable. There are numerous different language groups and clans dependent on the river as a trade route, and the river is also a symbolic focal point for artistic expression.
Wewak, with its palm fringed beaches, is the main town of East Sepik. Not far from Wewak is Cape Wom, the site of the Japanese surrender where Lieutenant General Adachi signed the surrender documents and handed his sword to Major General Robertson on 13th September 1945. A war memorial marks the site and the wartime airstrip is still in place. Another memorial in town has been erected at the site of the Japanese war graves and nearby is the Japanese/PNG Peace Park.
Things to see
Markets: The best market in the region is Taun Market, in town at the end of the main street. Kreer Market is on the airport road just before it turns inland and Dagua Market is on Dagua Road near town.
Arts and crafts: Baskets and bilums can be bought at Taun Market and at a stall at Chambri bus stop on Boram Road. Traders also sell jewellery and other pieces outside the Windjammer Hotel after 4.00pm. Masks can be bought inside the hotel and a craft shop features at the airport.
Cape Wom: The Wartime Airstrip and Memorial, where the Japanese signed surrender documents on 13 September 1945, are 14km west of Wewak. The museum is open 7.00am – 6.30pm. There is good swimming and snorkelling on the west side of the Cape.
War relics: Japanese war relics can be seen at Brandi High School, east of Cape Moem army base. Bomb craters are still visible around Boram Airport runway and the disused airport near town. The rusting remains of Japanese landing barges lie on the beach between Kreer market and the hospital.
Muschu and Kairiru Islands: The Muschu and Kairiru Islands lie close to Wewak and can be reached by the mission boat Tau-K or by one of the small boats from the wharf near the post office. Kairuru Island is almost 800m high and has a range of activities, including, hot springs, waterfalls and good snorkelling. Both islands have accommodation.
Maprik Area: Maprik town in the Prince Alexander Mountains overlooks the Sepik Basin. Many villages have spectacular forward-leaning haus tambarans and during July and August, when yams are harvested, these structures become the location for ‘sing sings’ and rituals. The region’s most famous artefacts, Woven fibre masks, are used in yam ceremonies.
Angoram & Lower Sepik River: From Angoram, 113km by road from Wewak, you can make trips by motorised canoe to some interesting places. It has banks and trade stores, and there are several places to stay which offer boat trips. Good day trips are to Moim or Kambaramba and nearby lagoons, or to Kambot on the Keram River where there is accommodation. Beyond Kambot there is good forest with plenty of birds. Alternatively, visit the Murik Lakes on the coast and stay overnight.
Ambunti & Middle Sepik River: This section of the river between Ambunti and Tambanum is regarded as the region’s cultural centre, with each village having its own artistic style. From Ambunti, travel is by motorised canoe, either down or up-river, staying in houses or village guesthouses. Villages in the Chambri Lakes area are notable for polished carvings, spears and pottery. The Blackwater Lakes on the Korosameri tributary have stilt villages, dense forests and incredible birdlife.
Things to do
Luxury cruises: The easiest way to see the Sepik River is to cruise in luxury on the Sepik Spirit, run by Trans Niugini Tours, or on Melanesian Tourist Services Discoverer. Trans Niugini Tours also has a traditional-style haus tambaran lodge on the Karawari River, from which it runs tours.
Motorised canoe trips: You can organise your own trip from Ambunti or Angoram and there are a number of Papua New Guinea Tour Operators available.
Wewak has a pier for overseas and costal shipping. With 32 airstrips, much of East Sepik is accessible by air and Air Niugini has daily flights from Port Moresby to Wewak.