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Korowai tribe, Into the deep Jungle of Papua

Korowai tribe, Into the deep Jungle of Papua

The Korowai tribe is a unique and remote tribal living in Papua. They are still maintain their original lifestyle and make living for hundreds or  if thousands years in the deep tropical forest in Papua.


The tropical rain forest, as the name is, rains are almost daily, people depends on the rains to provide them with cleaner water. The river are deep black reddish color due to the characteristic of the soil. The soil are peat soil, form of the decay of the wood log and forest that lasted thousands of years. The Korowaian live in the jungle mixed peat, swamp so we have to walk on the wood log they cut down as pathway. You have to watch your balance when walking especially slippery when rain.

The Korowaian living in a group of one to two families in their house. The house designed and built to the need avoiding their enemies and the wild animals in the jungle. The raised houses complex are made of several houses . The 2 meter raised is for daily activities, one for the kitchen are lowered to the ground, the 10 meters tall are for the family living. The most spectacular is their house in a war/conflict, it is raised 40-45 meter off the ground !!

This house built in a month with 2 – 3 strong man building it with traditional tools, rattan as the join rope and ladder made of piece of the smaller wood. They will pick the strongest iron wood tree to be the house. The higher the house the better as they can over-watch their enemies that come to their territory as a watch tower and equip themselves with bow and arrow..

Korowaian are hunters. They hunt jungle rat, fishing, and hunt for wild boar with their bow and arrow. Their main meal are sago starch, cooked or boiled to a porridge sago and serve with other meat that they hunt in the jungle.


To get there is not an easy task, it perhaps my longest ride on a small boat going upriver,
a 10+ hours ride, calculated in GPS tracking 184,59 kilometers !


We started in Jayapura to fly to Yahukimo, another 1 hour car drive take us to where the boat docked. As we had to sleep over in the dock to wait morning before start the trip.
The next morning we started the boat ride. Boat is some 6 meters long and 70cm wide with one outboard engine one motorist and one stonewatch on the bow to watch any wood logs or rocks that may drifting by the river current. The first river is the Brazza river until Pepera, a 10 hours ride and we sleep over in the Pepera village. The next morning we arrive at Mabul, the last village before trekking jungle to Korowai house.

Arriving Mabul, We walks for 4,5 hours thru the creeks, rivers, swamps, wood logs, dense thick rain forest jungle. then here we are, arrived at the closest Korowaian house. Nate Markus is the head of the family. His houses are 1 house is the tall house, 1 is the kitchen, another is their family house and one for day activities. One more important house over the river is for women only when delivering baby.

Korowaian keep dog as their valuable in-house pet. To help them hunting also as the part of the family, they sometimes and usually is having meals the same time they feed their dogs. On the important ceremony such as wedding, dog’s teeth are must to present to the bride as dowry, without that, there will be no marriage.

The Korowaian made their music from bamboo slices, and use their mouth as resonance for the tone. Listen to their music i recorded here (please forgive the chicken noise in behind 😀 )


What unique about Nate Markus is that he sing when he wake up in the morning, and when he walking back from the jungle, its a similar songs, Listen below.



Nate mean sir, an honoring salutation to  elder people. so Nate Markus mean Mr Markus. One day i have a chance to speak with him, telling story about his siblings, 3 sisters that passed away when delivering baby in the next house, all 3 were passed away due to delivery his nephew. Now Nate Markus living with his youngest brother and his wives and  dogs, along with some of the kids he has and nephews. He tell me story about his hunting days and animal he get when he hunt. The variety of animals and else. Then when i asked the size of the animals he caught, he mentioned a wild boar, which i think average size boar some 80 cm meter to one meter long.Then he told me that one day he went to Mabul. The first time he saw a cow, a big huge animal he said, he was afraid of this very cow and he instantly return to his village because afraid of big animal.

Nate Markus is considering himself as a christian, he said he might go to Mabul for the Christmas, bu he is still hesitate to go, he perhaps will send his brother to Mabul to represent him.


Korowai has a big ceremonies. Called ‘Pesta Ulat Sagu’ the Sago tree worms fiesta. There when all the neighbors invited and having fiesta dance and chatting. The neighbors come from as cose as 6 hours walks to the 6 days walks to attend the fiesta. The main serving for this events is to eat the Sago tree worms, a protein rich, thumb size worms.


After the scouting at the Nate Markus house, we headed back to Mabul at 5th day, a trekking of 4 hours (we did better this time) we arrived at Mabul, after a quick brunch we jump on the boat and preparing our fishing gear, yes fishing gear. We stopped at several estuaries and fish for the Barramundi. Result were astonishing, we have 10 fish within an hour in one single spots. Range from 3,5 kilos to 5,4 kilos at the most. Its a dinner with the whole village will be. We decided to sleep over at Pepera againa nd invited people to enjoy our fishes. Grilled the fish and along the fire place we chat and tells story. The next day, another long day ahead to return to Yahukimo, then Jayapura, then flying bact to Bali for me.