Arcadia Expeditions helps travellers immerse themselves in Papua New Guinea culture and customs by spending time with local tribespeople. Rose Dykins reports
Arcadia Expeditions has launched “Voices on the Wind: 60,000 Years of Culture and Trade”, a 16-day itinerary around Papua New Guinea, where travellers enrich their understanding of the country by hearing first-hand from its citizens.
The island nation of Papua New Guinea, situated in the south-western Pacfic Ocean, is home to hundreds of diverse communities. Specialising in immersive historical cultural journeys, Arcadia Expeditions is known for curating trips centred around the expertise of local guides and leading academics, that educate travellers as they go, “like joining the making of a documentary but without the camera crew”.
Led by archaeologist Dr Ben Shaw, who has a specialised interest in Papua New Guinea, the journey has been curated by Arcadia Expeditions to help travellers get to know one of the most culturally diverse countries on the planet, following its ancient trading routes.
The tour takes participants to three of the island nation’s regions – the Sepik River, the Highlands and the Coral Sea. It features interactions with local academics and communities, who share their insights and experiences of innovation, resilience and adaptation, so travellers understand more about what life is like for those living in Papua New Guinea.
In a world-first, Arcadia Expeditions has organised this tour so that travellers can witness two communities – part of the ancient Kula Trading Ring exchange system – to conduct negotiations and a Kula ceremony for the groups on idyllic Dobu island. The Kula Ring is an invisible circle that binds islands together through the exchange of rituals.
Travellers will visit the Huli Wigmen in a highland village and enjoy a traditional mumu feast – prepared in a pit filled with hot stones – learning more about the people’s history and traditions.
The “Voice on the Wind” tour also grants participants special access to a new archaeological dig site on the Sepik River. Here, they are joined by the curator of Papua New Guinea’s National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby for a behind-the-scenes look at some of the museum’s rarest collections.
Arcadia Expeditions co-founder David Mannix, says: “Trade amongst the various cultures of Papua New Guinea has taken place over 2,500 generations. Our expedition visits some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes to bring together a fascinating anthropological story that has never been told to travellers.”
He adds: “We have limited our group size to 12 for this expedition, allowing for a more intimate experience with the remote [communities] we will visit.
“We stay in Papua New Guinea’s best luxury lodges such as Rondon Ridge and Tawali Resort, and have incorporated a wealth of unforgettable experiences, from seeking out Birds of Paradise with expert nature guides to snorkelling the crystal clear waters of the Massim Archipelago.”
Archaeologist Dr Ben Shaw has undertaken research throughout Papua New Guinea for 14 years and is a lecturer of archaeology at the Australian National University in Canberra, the premier institute of Pacific history. Shaw his interests include the development of traditional maritime trade networks, the influence of agriculture on past societies, and people’s response to rising sea levels since the last Ice Age.
The expedition is priced from £12,600 per person (a “moderate” fitness level is required) and has set departures from November 3-18, 2021 and 2022, as well as November 2-17, 2023. The expedition is also available for private departures with a flexible range of dates available in 2021 and 2022.
What about Covid? How will Arcadia prevent infection to local people in Papua New Guinea? And how will trips avoid exploitation?
Mannix tells Globetrender: “Regarding what Covid measures will be in place, like all of our trips, our expedition will follow the Arcadia Health & Safety Guidelines, which are in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation and the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
“At this stage, our policy does not state that our travellers need to be fully vaccinated to go on one of our tours, although it’s something that we as a business will decide upon over the coming months.
“We have chosen a local, well-established ground operator to work with in Papua New Guinea, who have specifically selected communities for our tribal visits that are off the tourist trail. Our purpose is to spend time in a village to promote intellectual exchange, not to come in for a show and then leave.
“For example, we are visiting a remote Huli wingmen village that rarely sees outside visitors. We spend a full day at the village, helping them prepare the feast and learning about their customs.
“A further example is our experience of the Kula ring trading ceremony. We sent out a local person with contacts in these remote islands to negotiate with the local villagers how our visit can unfold. This has been done a year in advance, in person. By consulting with the local chiefs and people, we are ensuring the visits are done as they want, not us.”