In the heart of Papua New Guinea’s highlands lies a mystical land that whispers tales of nature and tradition, a place where the Earth sings and the skies dance with colors. Tari, a hidden gem nestled in the clouds, is not just a destination; it’s a journey into the soul of the wild.
The Flight to Tari: A Gateway to Wonder
Our voyage to Tari unfolds like a dream as we ascend from the lush lowland forests of Karawari, gliding over the Sepik River basin. Aboard a small aircraft, each bend in the river below is a stroke of green on nature’s canvas, a prelude to the enchanting highlands awaiting us. As we descend to the airstrip of Ambua Lodge, the World transforms—from a verdant tapestry below to a misty realm above, where the air is crisp with the scent of adventure.
Ambua Lodge: A Sanctuary Among the Clouds
Perched amidst the highland mists, Ambua Lodge is a haven of tranquility and natural beauty. The lodge is surrounded by a pristine mid-montane jungle, an interlocking canopy of tree tops and shades of green, punctuated by the vibrant hues of high-altitude orchids and rhododendrons. Nature trails meander through this wilderness, leading to traditional vine bridges and secluded waterfalls, creating a serene escape into nature’s embrace.
The afternoon unfolds into a nature hike – a gentle trek where every step is a discovery. The air is alive with the calls of birds of paradise, a melody that harmonizes with the rustle of leaves and the distant murmur of waterfalls that dot the area.
An incredible 217 species of birds have been recorded here, including 13 different species of the Bird of Paradise. Among them are the Beehler’s Crested Bird of Paradise, Loria’s Bird of Paradise, Short-tailed Paradigalla, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Black Sicklebill, Brown Sicklebill, Stephanie’s Astrapia, Superb Bird of Paradise, Lawes’ Parotia, King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, Raggiana Bird of Paradise, and the Blue Bird of Paradise. This diversity makes Ambua Lodge a favorite among birders and nature enthusiasts.
Tari Gap: A Mosaic of Natural Splendor.
The journey to Tari Gap is an ascent into the heart of Papua New Guinea’s avian paradise. Driving up, the landscape unfolds with breathtaking views, unveiling the diverse tapestry of the highland ecology. The Gap, a hotspot for birdwatching, is where the King of Saxony Bird of Paradise showcases its unique beauty.
The adult King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is a spectacle of nature, known for its two remarkably long (up to 50 cm) scalloped, enamel-blue brow plumes that can be independently erected. These ornamental head plumes are so bizarre that they were once considered fakes when first brought to Europe. The male’s courtship behavior is a fascinating display involving a combination of vocalizations and physical maneuvers. The songs the males sing, reminiscent of “radio-static hisses,” are used to attract females, while the dance maneuvers are centered around the movement of their unique occipital plumes.
The Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, with its exceptionally long tail feathers, provides another visual feast in this highland paradise. These birds, along with the possibly glimpsed Papuan Harpy Eagle, create a sense of wonder and awe, reminding us of the rich tapestry of life that thrives in these remote highlands.
Echoes from the Stone Age: The Ethereal World of the Huli Wigmen, the Heartbeat of Tari
After an early morning of wildlife encounters at the Tari Gap, we return to Ambua Lodge for a superb breakfast, before departing to the Tari valley to meet the Huli wigmen. In their presence, time stands still. Adorned with elaborate wigs, their faces painted with colors of the Earth, they are the living embodiment of Tari’s cultural heritage. Each chant and dance is a story passed down through generations, a celebration of identity and history.
Descending into a Timeless Realm
Leaving the serene heights of Ambua Lodge, our journey takes us down to the heart of the Tari Valley. As we traverse this land, shrouded in mists and steeped in legend, every turn in the road is a step back into a time when the Earth and its children were indistinguishable.
The Huli: Whisperers of the Forest
In this green cathedral, the Huli people – over 250,000 strong – are the soul of the land. They are a society deeply connected to their history and folklore, keenly preserving their genealogy and traditions. The Huli landscape, a blend of primary forests, marshes, and mounded gardens, is traversed by rivers and man-made canals, serving various purposes from irrigation to boundary marking.
Clans: The Fabric of Huli Society
The social tapestry of the Huli is intricately woven around clans and subclans, each thread a lineage, each knot a story. This structure, a testament to their resilience, governs land, honor, and the intricate dance of alliances and feuds. The Huli’s clan-centric World is a complex web of relationships, where reciprocity and balance are not just ideals, but the very essence of life.
Sorcery: The Pulse of the Mystical
In the Huli cosmos, sorcery is the unseen current that courses through every aspect of existence. It’s a world where magic breathes life into the mundane, where the spirits of ancestors walk alongside the living. This deep-seated belief in the supernatural shapes their understanding of the World, coloring their every action with a sense of mystic purpose.
The Wigmen: Sculptors of Identity
Amidst this rich cultural backdrop, the Huli Wigmen emerge as artists of the self, their bodies canvases of expression, their wigs monuments to their heritage. These elaborate headpieces, grown and woven over months of isolation and ritual, are more than mere adornment – they are the very essence of identity, the physical manifestation of a journey from boyhood to manhood.
Yellow Ambua: The Color of the Sun
In the Huli’s vibrant palette, the color yellow – or Ambua – holds a place of honor. It’s the color of the sun, the giver of life, a symbol of power and fertility. During their elaborate ceremonies, the Huli paint their bodies with this radiant hue, transforming themselves into living embodiments of the sun’s vitality. This act of painting is not merely decorative; it is a sacred ritual, a communion with the forces of life and nature.
A Day with the Huli: A Tapestry of Life
Our days among the Huli are an odyssey into a living museum. We are privy to their daily rituals, their harmonious relationship with the Earth, and their profound understanding of the cycles of life. In their presence, we are not mere spectators; we become part of a narrative that stretches back through the mists of time.
In the company of the Huli, every moment is a brushstroke on the canvas of the soul, every encounter a deeper understanding of what it means to be truly connected to the essence of life. To walk with the Huli is to walk in a world that is both achingly ancient and vibrantly alive, a world where every leaf, every bird, every whisper of the wind is a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the unbreakable bond between man and nature.
The Timeless Rhythm of Tari: A Journey with New Paths Expeditions
In the enchanting highlands of Papua New Guinea, nestled amidst clouds and ancient lore, lies Tari – a place where time dances to the primordial rhythms of nature. Here, during our two nights and three days with New Paths Expeditions, each moment is a mosaic of awe and discovery.
Mornings of Exploration
Each new dawn at Ambua Lodge is a gateway to adventure. The crisp mountain air invites us to immerse ourselves in the natural wonders surrounding this haven. We venture to the Tari Gap, a sanctuary where the forest’s chorus heralds the day, and the elusive birds of paradise play hide and seek with the sun. These morning excursions are not just walks; they are pilgrimages into the heart of nature.
Then, we delve into the World of the Huli clan. In their company, we traverse the bridge between past and present, witnessing a culture that breathes with the pulse of the Earth.
Culinary Delights and Afternoon Retreats
Each day, as we return to Ambua Lodge for lunch, the culinary delights await – a fusion of local flavors and nourishing cuisine, as delightful to the palate as the surroundings are to the soul.
The afternoons unfold in a leisurely rhythm, offering nature hikes, birdwatching endeavors, and insightful talks with local community representatives. These gatherings are more than lectures; they are windows into the souls of the people who call these highlands home.
The Lodge: A Tribal Masterpiece
In the tranquility of the afternoon, we find ourselves captivated by the panoramas from the lodge’s main house – a structure that is not just an architectural feat but a work of tribal art. It stands as a testament to the harmony between human creativity and the majesty of nature.
Embark on the Journey of a Lifetime
As the sun sets over the highlands of Tari, casting a golden glow on the mists that enshroud the mountains, we are reminded that some corners of the World remain touched only by the hands of time and tradition. This expedition to Papua New Guinea is not just a trip; it is an odyssey into the very heart of the Earth’s unspoken stories.
We invite you to join us on this journey, to step into a world where every moment is a treasure and every experience a chapter in the story of a lifetime. Discover more about the Papua New Guinea 2024 expedition and embark on your adventure at
The highlands await, where the echoes of an ancient past live on in the whispers of the wind and the songs of the birds. Welcome to Tari, where the adventure of a lifetime beckons.
The Papua New Guinea Expedition Tour with New Paths Expeditions is a fourteen-day experience that includes the Tropical Rainforest of the Sepik Basin, home of the Crocodile men, the Tari highlands, home of the Huli Wigmen, Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, and Mount Hagen, where our expedition participants experience not only the local culture and nature but the Mount Hagen Sing Sing, the largest tribal gathering in the World.
Note: This article was prepared by the New Paths Expeditions Team. All images were taken by Jorge Salas, New Paths Expeditions PNG Senior Leader. All images are copyrighted. Any reproduction is an infringement of applicable laws.