The Asmat region is a massive, remote, low-lying area of muddy, snaking rivers, mangrove forests and tidal swamps, where many villages, including their streets, are built entirely on stilts. The Asmat people, formerly feared for their headhunting and cannibalism, are now most celebrated for their woodcarvings – the most spectacular of Papuan arts. It’s a fascinating area to explore but it requires time, money and patience.
Most visitors who do make it here spend time boating along the jungle-lined rivers to different villages, seeing and buying Asmat artefacts, and maybe seeing a traditional dance or ceremony.
Villages to visit for their carving and ceremonial canoe welcomings and races include Atsy, Ambisu, Jow and Amborep, all of which are south of Agats, or Sawa Erma to the north. These traditional celebrations are costly, but the price per person drops as group size increases.