Goroka Festival, Madang & The Sepik River

12 Days
from AUD$ 12,018


  • Witness a ‘Cane Swallowing’ initiation ceremony
  • Experience the Goroka Cultural Show
  • Snorkel over a WWII plane wreck in Madang
  • Homestay on Yuo Island and swim in natural springs
  • Explore the remote Sepik River & visit a Spirit Haus
  • Birding in the Sepik River
  • Engage with remote communities

Join us for an entwinement of culture, nature, birdlife, history and tribes.

Experience one of the largest tribal gatherings in the world, the Goroka Cultural Show, with more than 100 tribes participating in traditional dress delivering an insight into hidden customs. Performing extraordinary displays of traditional song, rituals and dance whilst decked out in unique costumes, glorious colours and stunning face paintings, the tribes show off their distinct cultures with an undeniable passion. Continuing on, venture north to Madang – embrace the pristine underwater world and introduction to coastal based village life, before heading into the Sepik River, where life is raw and primitive. Home to a fascinating lifestyle and time frozen communities only accessible by water, as well as exceptional birdlife, the tangle of tributaries and ribbon of river will take you through swamplands, tropical rainforest and mountains. Dotted with eerie lagoons and traditional stilt villages, this is home to master carvers who create the most potent art in the Pacific.

Journey map

Fitness level



Day 1 – Arrival Goroka

Welcome to Papua New Guinea. Upon arrival in Goroka, you’ll be greeted at the airport and taken to your hotel.

Following lunch at the hotel, head to Keiya village for some incredible cultural performances. Among these is the ‘Cane Swallowing’ initiation ceremony, which is a ritual for boys at puberty and young men. During this ritual, they swallow up to 30 centimetres of a small cane before pulling it out. There is a sacred understanding that this ritual clears the mind and enlightens the heart and body. Known as Dring Kol Wara (Drink Cold Water) by the Bena people of Eastern Highlands, this initiation is practised only by young men. Traditionally, women were never allowed to witness it, let alone know about it.

The cane is carefully carved to achieve a smooth surface to allow easy ingestion. After carving, it is bent into a U-shape and hung to dry in kitchen huts. It is dried for about one month before being used. Every now and then the dried cane is taken out and left in water to regain moisture to maintain its outer covering. Its length may vary from a metre upwards.

The initiation period may last for two to three months, depending on the amount of pork available for meals in the ‘haus man’. Mothers of young boys cry for their sons, as they are taken away to learn their custom and embrace manhood.

During this initiation, initiates must sleep on their back, facing up, as it’s believed to straighten and elongate the intestines in preparation for the Neheya. They’re served meals consisting of only pork fat and boiled kaukau (sweet potato), believing that this dish, known as hosamaya, ensures the smooth passing of the cane along the digestive tract. This dish is exclusively prepared by elderly women who have gone past menopause. Witnessing this ancient practice is a rare experience.

Return to your hotel for dinner. (L,D)

3 nights at the Emanuel Lodge or similar

Day 2 – Goroka Festival

Enjoy an early breakfast, as you depart at 7:30am to get your bearing at the festival. Sing-sing groups start arriving from 9am. You will be in awe at their body decorations, colourful traditional costumes and vibrant face painting. Learn about the different types of costumes and their cultural significance.

Experience a sensory feast of colours, kundu drums, and chanting as thousands of warriors, all dressed in their very finest traditional regalia, perform and dance and sing-sing. Each group, with their own cultures and languages, vow to outclass the other groups. Walk among the dancers, shake their hands and meet them.

Following the festival, you’ll be transferred to the Tumbuna market for the opportunity to purchase locally made handicrafts, before returning to your hotel late in the afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – Goroka Festival

This morning you’ll join your guide for another day at the festival arena. A picnic lunch will be provided, so you don’t miss any of the action.

After the festival, at approx. 3.00pm, you’ll visit the McCarthy Museum near the showground.

The museum’s main collections feature artefacts and specimens from the Highlands region, including wooden dishes, stone mortars, stone blades, magic stones and sandstones for making stone blades. Additionally, there are WWII relics on display, including a P-39 Airacobra. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Goroka to Madang

After breakfast, drive to Madang on the north coast. The roads are bumpy but the scenery is spectacular. Pass by plantations and villages until you emerge on the fringe of the coast. Enjoy a packed lunch along the way. Upon arrival at your resort, the rest of the day is yours to relax and explore at your leisure. (B,L)

2 nights Madang Resort or similar

Day 5 – Madang

Today, it’s time to hit the water and head out to Pig Island. Cruise past some small islets with stilt houses and witness the simple lifestyle of these fisherman villages. Enjoy diving (additional cost) or snorkelling in the turquoise waters of Pig Island. If it is clear, you can see the remains of a bomber plane. Lunch is included today. Lunch is included, so why not bring a book and unwind on the pristine white sand beach?

This afternoon, you’ll visit the Madang Museum. A small but incredibly fascinating museum, you will learn about the 1660 eruption of Long Island. Look for the ceremonial headdress from Bosmum village on the Lower Ramu River. These are worn during the ‘cleansing of the blood’, the time in which blood is drawn from a boy’s tongue and penis during initiation to manhood. Enjoy a village visit where you’ll have a glimpse into the traditional yet simple coastal life. (L)

Day 6 – Madang to Wewak

This morning, you’ll transfer to the airport for your flight to Wewak (flight not included), the gateway to the mighty Sepik River. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at leisure.

Overnight Wewak Boutique Hotel or similar

Day 7 – Yuo Island

This morning, take a one-hour boat ride from Wewak to a delightful small island, home to about five families. Enjoy a true castaway experience, as you engage in island family life. Join in cooking delicious seafood meals, discover the best snorkelling spots from the locals, and learn spearfishing tips from the children. This afternoon, venture over to lush Kairiru Island and visit the hot springs. Spend your night in a palm thatched bungalow right on the beachfront, as you sink into life with the Marek family, who have lived on the island for over 80 years – certainly an experience that money can’t buy. (B,L,D)

Overnight Naigboi Guesthouse or similar

Day 8 - Ambunti

This morning, farewell your local hosts, as you head back to Wewak. From there, drive to Pagwi and continue on to Ambunti. The main Sepik River can become monotonous, meandering through floating logs and islands until you reach Ambunti. In the evening, it transforms into a vast environment of herons, cormorants, wild ducks, egrets, kites and over 1000 species of water birds. (B,L,D)

Overnight Ambunti Local Guesthouse or similar

Day 9 – Eastern Sepik River

Today you will enjoy a tour to Meno, Tongijamp Yesan and Mayo, remote communities within the Eastern Sepik. These communities have had limited interaction with outsiders until recently, offering a fascinating glimpse into their unique lifestyle and culture.

You may have the opportunity to visit the Haus Tambaran, or ‘Spirit House’, which is – as the name implies, the home of the spirits; of ancestors, progenitors, crocodiles and other animals. Upstairs in these houses, carvers and other artisans sit quietly next to their creations – an astonishing array of figurines, half-bird, half-mammal; or half-human, part-animal and so forth. (Women require permission to enter the spirit houses). (B,L,D)

Overnight Local Guesthouse or similar

Day 10 – Middle Sepik

Today following breakfast, enjoy a full day excursion to the Middle Sepik. Visit Palimbe, Yenchan and Kanganamun. These villages have stood firm against the invasion of Christianity. They still have their Haus Tambarans and practise their customs, including the initiation and scarification of young boys that depict the crocodile as a symbol of power and strength. The villages are also famous for their skilled artists who carve intricate bird-headed sculptures. (B,L,D)

Overnight Kaminibit Guesthouse or similar

Day 11 – Wewak

Return to Pagwi today, where you will meet your vehicle and transfer back to Wewak. (B)

Overnight Wewak Boutique Hotel or similar

Day 12 – Departure

The day is yours until it is time to transfer to the airport for your flight back to Port Moresby. (Flight not included). (B)

Don’t have time now?

Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!

What’s included

  • Meet and greet service on arrival in Goroka
  • 11 nights accommodation
  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • English speaking local guide
  • All activities as per itinerary
  • Private transportation
  • Entrance fees, sightseeing and permits
  • International & Domestic flights (flight from Madang to Wewak is required)
  • Drinks unless otherwise mentioned
  • Visas
  • Travel Insurance
  • Tips
  • Inoculations
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Anything not mentioned in the itinerary

**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.

* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.

* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure. Group size is maximum of 12 adults.

A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.



Start Date
End Date
Start Date
13th Sep 2024
End Date
24th Sep 2024
12 Days
$12,018 AUD
Start Date
12th Sep 2025
End Date
23rd Sep 2025
12 Days
$12,618 AUD