East Sepik Province (ESP), the second largest province in Papua New Guinea, covers 42,800 square kilometers of the mainland and a number of offshore islands. The region is one of tectonic instability; there are frequent earth tremors and landslides, and an active volcano on Bam Island. The terrain ranges from the broad flood plain of the Sepik River and swamps in the east, through hill country to steep mountains in the west. The population increased from 221,900 in 1980 to 248,300 in 1990. Over 90 languages are spoken.
The provincial Constitution, which was adopted in 1977, provides for a House of Assembly of 33 elected members and three members appointed by the national government. ESP has four districts and headquarters at Wewak. Other towns include Maprik and Angoram. The main products are coffee, cocoa and artifacts such as carvings and pottery which are made for export as well as local use.
The Sepik River, which runs the length of the province, is thought to have been one of the main routes for trade and migration to the highlands from the coast for thousands of years prior to European contact. The Germans controlled the area from 1884 to 1914. The Australians controlled the area from 1914 to 1975, except for the period of Japanese occupation 1942-44. Some parts of the province were severely affected by fighting between the Allied (American and Australian) and Japanese forces during World War II. Villages were bombarded, houses and gardens destroyed and many villagers died in the fighting or from dysentery introduced by Japanese troops. The most successful missions have been the Catholics and the Evangelical Alliance group of Protestant churches.
Things to see
Wewak: Pretty Wewak, at the foot of a high headland, has all services and wonderful golden sand beaches backed by swaying palms. It’s a jumping-off place for travel along the mighty Sepik River. Smaller airlines run services from here to remote parts of the province. The 18-hole golf course is east of town beyond the airport.
Markets: The best is Taun Market, in town at the end of the main street. Kreer market is on the airport road just before it turns inland and Dagua is on Dagua Road near town.
Arts and crafts: Baskets and bilums can be bought at Taun Market and at a stall at Chambri bus stop on Boram Road. There is also a craft shop at the airport.
Cape Wom: The wartime airstrip and memorial where the Japanese signed surrender documents on 13 September 1945 are 14km west of Wewak. Open 7am-6.30pm. There is good swimming and snorkelling on the west side of the Cape.
War relics: Japanese war relics can be seen at Brandi High School, east of Cape Moem army base. Bomb craters are still visible around Boram Airport runway and the unused airport near town. The rusting remains of Japanese landing barges lie on the beach between Kreer market and the hospital.
Muschu and Kairiru Islands: These lie close to Wewak and can be reached by catching one of the small boats from the wharf near the post office. Kairuru Island is almost 800m high and has hot springs, waterfalls and good snorkelling. Both islands have accommodation.
Maprik Area: Maprik town in the Prince Alexander Mountains overlooks the Sepik Basin. Many villages have spectacular forward-leaning haus tambarans and during July and August, when yams are harvested, there are ‘Sing Sings’ and rituals. Woven fibre masks, the region’s most famous artefacts, are used in yam ceremonies.
Angoram & Lower Sepik River: From Angoram, 113km by road from Wewak, you can make trips by motorised canoe to some interesting places. It has banks and trade stores, and there are several places to stay which offer boat trips. Good day trips are to Moim or Kambaramba and nearby lagoons, or to Kambot on the Keram River where there is accommodation. Beyond Kambot there is good forest with plenty of birds. Alternatively, visit the Murik Lakes on the coast and stay overnight.
Ambunti & Middle Sepik River: This section of the river between Ambunti and Tambanum is regarded as the region’s cultural centre with each village having its own artistic style. From Ambunti, reached by air from Wewak, travel is by motorised canoe either down or up-river, staying in houses or village guesthouses. Villages in the Chambri Lakes area are notable for polished carvings, spears and pottery. The Blackwater Lakes on the Korosameri tributary have stilt villages, dense forests and incredible birdlife.
Things to do
Luxury cruises: The easiest way to see the Sepik River is to cruise in luxury on the Sepik Spirit, run by Trans Niugini Tours, or on Melanesian Tourist Services Kalibobo Spirit. Trans Niugini Tours also has a traditional-style haus tambaran lodge on the Karawari River from which it runs tours.
Motorised canoe trips: You can organise your own trip from Ambunti or Angoram. Alternatively contact Sepik Adventure Tours / Ambunti Lodge Ph: +675 456 2525 Fax +675 456 2516 or email [email protected] for trips from Ambunti, or WWF on Ph: +675 456 3926 additional Sepik Tours using the services of locally based tour operators and guest houses.
Surfing: Dolphin Surf Club, Ph: +675 456 2525 Fax +675 456 2516 or email [email protected]
FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces
|Highlands||Eastern Highlands Province||Goroka|
|Western Highlands Province||Mt. Hagen|
|Southern Highlands Province||Mendi|
|Southern||National Capital District||Port Moresby|
|Central Province||Port Moresby|
|Oro (Northern) Province||Popondetta|
|Milne Bay Province||Alotau|
|East Sepik Province||Wewak|
|Sandaun (West Sepik) Province||Vanimo|
|New Guinea Islands||Manus Province||Lorengau|
|New Ireland Province||Kavieng|
|East New Britain Province||Kokopo|
|West New Britain Province||Kimbe|
|Autonomous Region of Bougainville||Buka|