The Asmat region is located in the southwestern part of Papua province on the western island of New Guinea and is named after the Asmat tribe who inhabit the area. The region boasts flat plains, lush mangrove forests, and the largest alluvial swamp in the world, providing a habitat for crocodiles and other large reptiles along the riverbanks. The waterways are home to freshwater dolphins, shrimp, crabs, sea snakes, and even grey nurse sharks. Lorentz National Park, the largest protected park in Southeast Asia, is located in the Asmat region.
The park is a world heritage site and one of the most biodiverse reserves in the world, encompassing a wide range of environments from snow-capped mountains to tropical marine environments, lowland wetlands, mangroves, and montane rainforests. Puncak Jaya, the tallest mountain between the Himalayas and Andes, offers stunning landscape opportunities for exploration and photography. The park remains largely undiscovered, with many areas unmapped and containing numerous species of plants and animals yet to be documented by Western science. The region is also home to hundreds of bird species, including the long-beaked echidna, the short-beaked echidna, and four species of cuscus, as well as wallabies, quolls, and tree-kangaroos.
A visit to the Asmat tribe, once known for their head-hunting and cannibalistic practices – accused of killing and eating Michael Rockefeller, is a unique opportunity to experience their intricate designs and wood carvings, which are highly regarded by art experts and enthusiasts. Trips to the tribe’s village can be arranged through experienced guides to introduce visitors to their spiritual practices and the creative process behind each piece of artwork, which is imbued with history and energy from their ancestors. The dense tropical rainforests of the region make walking difficult, but transportation between villages is typically by dugout canoe with an outboard motor.
In addition, many of the numerous rivers can be navigated by yacht, offering a unique way to explore the landscape and experience the Asmat tribe’s way of life and survival. Bird enthusiasts will be amazed by the variety of bird species, including the Birds of Paradise, parrots, lorikeets, and many others, that can be found in the region, although bird-watching can be challenging.