Imagine an extremely long brown snake, gigantic in size that meanders through the heavy forests for about 1,100 kilometers, heading its way to the Bismark Sea for freedom. This is exactly how the Brown River of the Sepik Region looks from the air.
The Sepik region is a large rich grassland reserve that is surrounded by the long Sepik River, one of the world’s greatest rivers. It runs 1,126 kilometers from its mountain tip all the way up to sea. The river actually does not have an actual river delta as it continues to stain the sea a brown color for up to 50 kilometers out.
The river can be navigated for its entire length as it passes through the land resembling a massive, brown and coiling serpent from an aerial perspective. The great force of the river sucks in great chunks of mud and vegetation out to the river banks that turn the river into a brown color, thus giving it its widely known name, the Brown River. At times, these massive chunks form floating islands that drift all the way downstream.
The river reflects the rich culture and history of the Sepik region having gone through missionaries, businessmen, labor recruiters and administrators. Locals that live along the riverside depend heavily on the Sepik River for transportation, water and food supply. Crocodiles have also relied heavily on the river and eventually became an integral part of the lives of the Sepik region inhabitants as well. With such heavy interdependence and the thoroughly interlinked past associated with the Sepik River inhabitants, crocodiles, men and nature have come together to live in existence with harmonious respect to each other.
Many ancient, cultural and spiritual retreats are very deeply associated with the river, one of which is the village’s manhood initiation. This requires a painful carving of the flesh of a young man’s back by use of sharp razor blades and knives. Patterns and artworks of such carvings often include a crocodile that lies along the banks of the river. With crocodiles regarded as being of much importance to the region, it has found a pronounced effect on the region’s art. These kinds of customs and traditions have been passed down through generations and generations and are expected to be practiced for years and years to come.
Traveling to the Sepik region will surely be a remarkable adventure as the arts and crafts of the region are very popular to Western collectors. Many museums that are solely dedicated to the Sepiks exist so it’s best to immerse yourself in them, as it will surely give you an idea of how unique they are.
Aside from experiencing ancient cultures and traditional arts and crafts, tourists will be able to see wildlife, exotic birds and, of course, the heavily respected crocodiles of the river. A popular tourist activity is canoeing down the Sepik River using motor-powered canoes.
Perhaps there is no other region in Papua New Guinea that has a water form more beautiful than the Brown River. With its open coastline, serpentine form and its everyday contribution to the locals’ lives, this Sepik River is truly a remarkable landmark.