Baliem Valley West Papua holds a natural beauty and the friendliness of the indigenous people. Find out how you can take a trip there to experience the local life of the tribes.
The discovery of the tribes in the Grand Valley of Baliem was made only in 1938, when a zoologist, Richard Archbold, hovered on the landscape and noticed systematical crops of sweet potato, along with the large houses lining up the area. Throughout the decades, the isolated area is slowly opened to outsiders.
The Baliem Valley West Papua is situated at the center of the region, where the nearest access can only be reached from the city of Wamena. It is also known as the Grand Valley for its extensive area. The measurements are around 80 km in length and varied widths of around 15-20 km. It lies at 1,600-1,700 km above sea level, which gives it a rather stable climate and fertile lands.
Tribes Residing in Baliem Valley
With a vast and extensive area, the Baliem Valley West Papua is home to approximately 200,000 people from different tribes. They live on different sides and ridges of the valley and sometimes exchange goods and harvests by bartering with what they have.
The three major tribes residing in the Baliem Valley West Papua are Dani, Yali, and Lani, tribes. Each tribe has its sub-classification under the same characteristics, language, and physiological features. They live in compounds or villages, with their own hierarchy and social system.
Between the tribes, there is a distinctive way to recognize each other as in the way they use accessories and ornament. The men of the tribes traditionally wear a cover for their private part known as koteka and the shape is different for each tribe. The Lani men wear a rather large koteka, while Dani men wear it by pulling it close to their body. In the Yali tribe, the men’s koteka is tied to loops of rattan that they wear around their waist.
The History of the Tribal War
Every August, the tribes of the Baliem Valley held an annual festival. It is a festival to reenact the war that used to happen between them. The men would wear their best accessories to the field, and they are allowed to swing weapons such as spears and arrows. The war is meant only to show the power of each tribe and not meant to kill each other. In real war in the past, men might be wounded and would be taken outside of the field.
The men cover themselves with white clay and wear animal tusks on their faces. Meanwhile, animal teeth are put on a string as a necklace. The strong ones would wear a headpiece made from bird feathers, cassowary (the famous bird of paradise).
Nowadays, the war is becoming a festival that is held in August. Not only war reenactment, but the people would also open up to visitors and display their cultural richness. You may find exhibitions, food stalls, and crafts bazaars.
How to Get to Baliem Valley
To get to Lembah Baliem or the Grand Baliem Valley West Papua, the nearest city to reach is Wamena. From the main city of the province, Jayapura, there are daily airlines serving flights to Wamena: Trigana Air, Express Air, and Wings Air.
The closest trek would be the southern trek to the Baliem Valley, in which you are using a car to take you to the trail’s starting point. The trek on the southern part is rather easy, though it is not advisable to go alone. It takes around three days to reach the Baliem Valley, and you may stop at any village along the way.
Not like any ordinary travel destination, going to Baliem Valley West Papua is indeed an experience you will not get elsewhere. If you are taking the 5-day Baliem trekking tour, you might be given an option of staying in comfortable hotels in Wamena, such as Baliem Valley Resort, Baliem Pilamo Hotel, or Grand Baliem Hotel. The starred hotels provide their guests with proper beds and breakfasts during their journey to the valley.
On longer trekking tours such as the 8-day trek, visitors might be taken to stay in the villager’s honai. However, if you are coming for the Baliem festival in August, make sure you secure your bookings several months in advance because accommodation in the Grand Valley of Baliem during the festival period would be hard to find.
Preparing the Trip
An extraordinary trip takes extra preparation. As the trip will be mostly in and out of the jungle around the valley, take note that you may lose cellular signals there. It is better to bring a camera with an extra battery instead of relying on your phone to take a picture. Pack as if you are going on a hiking or mountain-climbing trip. It may be necessary to bring your medicine, other items that you may need to bring are a flashlight and a sleeping bag.
For the most important part, prepare your physical fitness before departing to Baliem Valley West Papua. Make sure you are fit enough to go along the trail as it might be far away from any emergency unit in the city.