Tailor-Made Holiday

Papua New Guinea - Sepik River Adventure Cruise

Explore remote islands and the sepik river from the comfort of the True North

12 days

from $13,595pp (excluding flights)

This 11-day expedition cruise on board True North offers the chance to access secluded islands for exceptional snorkelling and diving as well as experiencing ancient tribal cultures and spectacular scenery.  Six dedicated expedition boats and an onboard helicopter allow access to the remote jungle-fringed Sepik River, with the ship's helicopter accessing mountains and volcanoes in comfort, giving photographers the perfect bird's eye view. The crew's long-standing relationships with tribes allow guests access to the secretive world of crocodile initiation ceremonies and the chance to experience overwhelming hospitality and an unchanged way of life.

  • Travel aboard the luxury expedition small ship, True North
  • Snorkel and dive spectacular island reefs
  • Witness the famous crocodile initiation ceremony on the Sepik River

The adventure begins in Cairns with an overnight stay before boarding your private air charter from Cairns to Kavieng, a remote corner of Papua New Guinea. 

Why cruise Papua New Guinea?

As well as over 5,000 kilometres of coastline and some 600 tiny islands, the interior of Papua New Guinea is dominated by rainforest covered mountains which hide winding rivers, vast swamps and rugged canyons. All of which are home to hundreds of indigenous tribes. Often referred to as one of the world’s last great frontiers a cruise is by far the most practical way to explore this fascinating country, gaining access to remote tribes and little-visited islands.

Guides and specialists on board True North

The crew onboard know the geography, history and wildlife of the area like no one else and with an extremely high crew to guest ratio, they are also able to ensure a truly personal service. Every sailing has a ships biologist onboard who leads a team of six guides, one per boat.

Unique experiences on and off the ship

As well as accessing hidden areas using the six expedition boats, there is the chance to see many of the sites from the bird’s eye view of the ships private helicopter. True North has a shallow draft allowing it to access places that other ships simply cannot and giving guests passage to authentic experiences such as the infamous crocodile initiation ceremony.

What is given back?

True North believes that there is much more to wellness than a massage table and aromatherapy - wellness is also about connecting with humanity. Each year True North delivers significant donations of clothing, school resources, mosquito nets and equipment to many of the villages and communities visited during their cruises. Specifically supporting Sepik River communities in Papua New Guinea. They also collaborate with Conservation International to promote sustainable employment opportunities in West Papua.

Sustainable practices

Adventure-cruising is a low impact means of accessing wilderness without the intrusion of roads. True North can explore yet leave no trace of its visit. The ship is also compliant with requirement under the MARPOL Convention – an international convention designed to minimize and eventually eliminate pollution of the sea by harmful substances. On-board waste is either processed via a treatment plant, retained for recycling or retained for disposal at an approved waste management site.

Pre and post cruise suggestions

  • Head into the Highlands, home to the largest population of tribes, who come together to celebrate in colourful and vibrant festivals on certain dates
  • Spend time in Australia's tropical Queensland, exploring the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest
  • SydneySouth Australia and Tasmania are all wonderful parts of Australia to visit in November and December

Cruise dates

True North cruises to Papua New Guinea operate throughout November and December each year. A range of routes are possible, most of which are 10 nights in duration.

Additional cruise itineraries onboard True North include Indonesia and Australia.

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights $Flight cost from 
$ 18353.3 $ 1485
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • 10 nights on board the True North
  • All excursions as detailed in the itinerary
  • All meals on board True North
  • One night in Cairns on a bed and breakfast basis
  • Return charter flights from Cairns to Kavieng
  • Transfers as detailed

what is excluded

  • Gratuities
  • Helicopter flights whilst on board
  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

The day is at leisure today to recover from the flight

You will be staying at Shangri La Hotel, Cairns, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Fly Cairns to Kavieng

True North Welcome
Today is likely to be a very early start for your transfer to the airport. A member of the North Star crew will escort you aboard the boat's private charter aircraft. Sit back and enjoy the comfortable flight to Kavieng - a journey of approximately two and a half hours.

After clearing customs, transfer to the on- board luxury of the True North and sit down to a welcome aboard lunch before visiting a local island resort.

Cairns, considered the gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is a city in tropical North Queensland. Once a sleepy sugar-milling town, it's now a destination for sailing, diving and snorkelling. Its Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tells the stories of the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with music and dance. Cairns Esplanade, lined with bars and restaurants, has a saltwater swimming lagoon.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 3

Kavieng and New Hanover
The many islands around Kavieng and New Hanover are a cruise highlight, as much for the traditional "sing sing" welcome as the beautiful landscape. There will be opportunity today to try diving and snorkelling and off the beach we find ships, planes and even submarines wrecked in shallow water.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 4

Vitu Islands of the Bismarck Archipelago
The Vitu Islands are a volcanic group with an area of 96 km2 located in the Bismarck Archipelago.The islands are volcanic ocean peaks and although they are reef-ringed, they are not atolls and therefore highly fertile.

The helicopter will be on hand to provide a bird’s eye view of the entire island group whilst the ship’s expedition boats will deliver guests ashore for historical and cultural tours.

Vitu’s remote coral reefs remain largely unexplored. Few divers have visited this area and many reefs remain un-dived. The visibility is usually superb and pelagic fishes are abundant. Grey reef sharks, silvertip sharks, dog-tooth tuna, rainbow runners and barracuda are seen on most dives. The fish assemblages on these reefs are distinctly oceanic in composition and a number of species that are rare closer inshore are very abundant here.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 5

Manus Province
Wake-up in Manus Province - a remote part of Papua New Guinea where few travellers venture. The province consists of several island groups including the Horno Islands, the Admiralty Islands (including Manus Island), the Hermit Islands, Ninigo Islands and Wuvulu Island. The combined land area of the province is just 2,100 square kilometres however 220,000 square kilometres of sparkling sea surrounds. Some 45,000 people live within the province boundaries.

The name Manus is a traditional name for a group of fishing people who inhabit the coastal areas of Manus Island. The name differentiates them from other groups with differing customs and languages. These people were seafarers and traders but change has come in the form of new commercial pursuits and today the province largely relies on coconut cultivation and bech de mer (sea cucumber) fishing. The area is renowned for scuba diving and features colourful marine life, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and clear water.

During the morning visit the island of Rambutyo - the second largest island (after Manus) in the Admiralty Islands. The island lies 40 kilometres to the southeast of Manus and is home to traditional garamut (split drum) dancers. There will be an opportunity for short walks and spectacular helicopter flights (at an additional cost) over the island group.

In the afternoon move to the northern end of Rambutyo. The fringing reefs here are amongst the most spectacular anywhere in PNG with very high coral cover and spectacular walls dropping into deep water. The mosaic of small islands in the area offers a wonderful backdrop and provides a wide range of different habitats to explore. Oceanic currents move gently through the passes allowing us a free ride as we observe the amazing biodiversity of these marine communities. Sailfish are also caught in the surrounding waters.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 6

Ponam Island
An entire day devoted to beautiful Ponam Island. During World War II, the island was occupied by Japanese forces in 1942 and retaken by Allied forces in 1944. American "Seabees" immediately constructed an airfield which was then handed over to the Royal Navy.The British named the airfield HMS Nabaron and used it as a forward operations base. After encountering the enemy, it was not uncommon for damaged aircraft to crash when attempting to land and today the wreckage of several planes can be found in the surrounding waters. Of particular interest is Ensign Jensen’s plane. The naval flyer was the only pilot to report a full-strength Japanese convoy that would have otherwise remained undetected. Unfortunately he was later killed when his plane crashed during a take-off from Ponam and the wreckage can be seen in a lagoon on the east side of the island.

For those going ashore, the terrestrial remnants of HMS Nabaron are a major attraction whilst snorkellers can explore the plentiful bommies and coral outcrops found inside the Manus Barrier Reef. Coral cover is widespead and brightly coloured butterflyfish and parrotfish are common. Game fishing for marlin, yellow fin tuna, trevally and mackerel is possible and bottom fishing can produce quality catches of snapper. Ponam is adjacent to the longest coral reef in Manus Province, providing plenty of opportunity for diving.

For those whom have signed up for a flying excursion, the ship’s helicopter will again swing into action offering a unique perspective of the island’s many lagoons and nearby Manus Island.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 7

The Hermit Islands
The Hermit Islands form a 22 kilometre long barrier reef and are a favoured snorkelling site of Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques). They are renowned for their clam gardens where giant tridacna clams can be found - weighing up to 600 pounds and measuring 3 foot across they are the biggest clams in the world. The gently sloping reef edge disappears into the blue depths with visibility usually exceeding 40 metres, allowing for excellent views of the marine life that inhabits the reef edge. Sharks, manta rays, turtles and large schools of barracuda and trevally all reside here along with the usual array of colourful reef fishes and invertebrates. For the divers onboard, The Hermits also feature incredible reef formations where large schools of mobula rays, snapper, trevally and grey reef sharks are encountered. Fresh ocean currents also make for rip-roaring dives in channels chocked with giant sea fans and soft coral formations. Marlin and sailfish are also known to occur and hopefully the hikers will catch a glimpse of deer introduced by German colonists.

In the afternoon the expedition boats will land at Luf Island, the only inhabited island in the Hermits. Join the crew to meet the local people and experience PNG village life.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 8

The Ninigo Islands
The Ninigo Islands are a large open-atoll structure surrounded by several smaller atoll formations. In total there are 7 atolls with around 50 small islets with plenty of opportunity for exploration. The largest component of islands forms a 34 kilometre long by 18 kilometre wide atoll that is open on its western side. The major island within the group is Mal, located at the southern end of the outer reef. Other islands on the reef include Hepi, Lau, Pelipa, Ahu, Sawapil, Chauch, Menan, Longan, Nahanu, Hepisasa, Chacheon, Maichuch, Potaminam, Amik, Puol, Pisa, Ngi, Onia, Wahangahun, Sabucho, Pihun, Keholl, Kamochin, Sand and Nunu. Within the lagoon are the islands of Pingilap, Talil, Hottom, Bahanat and Amot.

The diving here is some of the best encountered in PNG and of course there is plenty to keep snorkellers occupied. When not in the water, there is opportunity to explore these picture-perfect islands on foot and for those who enjoy fishing, rod and reel excursions can be memorable in this part of PNG.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 9

The Sepik
The Sepik River is the longest river in Papua New Guinea and one of the great river systems of the world. It has a large catchment area and supports numerous landforms including swamplands, tropical rainforests and mountains. Biologically, the river system is possibly the largest uncontaminated freshwater wetland system in the Asia-Pacific region. The river’s total length is 1,126 kilometres and it has a drainage basin of over 80,000 square kilometres. There is a 5-10 kilometre wide belt of active meanders along most of the river’s course and a floodplain up to 70 kilometres wide includes extensive backwater swamps. However, unlike many other large river systems, the Sepik has no delta it flows straight into the sea. The entire Sepik basin remains a largely undisturbed environment with no major urban settlements or mining and forestry activities in the river catchment. As such it is a prime area for much of PNG's terrestial wildlife.

The Sepik is revered for its art. The tribes living along the river produce magnificent wood carvings and artful clay pottery. Many tribes use garamut drums in rituals; the drums are formed from long, hollowed out tree trunks carved into the shape of various totem animals. As part of an elaborate coming of age ceremony, young men are scarified with the image of a crocodile on the river bank.

True North will aim to arrive at the mouth of the Sepik at first light before proceeding 70 nautical miles upstream. Then, it’s away in the expedition boats and the helicopter for days filled with exploration and discovery.

Over the next two days explore the highlights of the Sepik River. Witness an elaborate coming of age ceremony where young men are scarified in the image of the crocodile. Other highlights include the township of Angoram - here the waterside market presents as a fantastic opportunity to purchase local carvings. At Kambaraumba village we will be greeted by a sing sing featuring giant crocodile puppets that gyrate through crowds of dancers and drummers - truly a feast for the senses. Also explore the maze of swamps and small waterways that lead to Lake Kambaraumba and its stilt village - a community of huts, churches, schools and animal enclosures built above the waters of the lake.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 10

The Sepik
Further exploration of the Sepik River.

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 11

Bagabag and Karkar Islands
Bagabag Island is a white-sand island offering excellent fishing, snorkelling, and diving.

In the morning the expedition boats will survey the outer-reef which is teeming with fish, turtles and dolphins. The area is also renowned for its endless walls of sea fans, pristine corals and large pelagic species.

The inshore coral is a remarkable spot for snorkellers and there will also be relaxed opportunities for swimming and beachcombing on a Bagabag beach.

Today's helicopter excursion will be particularly remarkable, flying over the volcanic island of KarKar. The island is oval shaped and approx. 25 kilometres in length and 19 kilometres in width. In the centre of the island there is an active volcano with two nested calderas. The latest eruptions on this island occurred in the 1970s.

After lunch, go ashore to meet the Bagabag islanders.There are just 4 villages here and the local people are happy to share their unique culture and way of life. The island is rich in betel-nut and other natural foods while pigs run feral around the island. Life on the island can be interesting as there are very few people and they all know each other very well. To finsh the day, True North will drop anchor in Christmas Bay within 10 metres of the beach, for a run ashore to take sunset drinks before a farewell dinner to remember!

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages

Day 12

Madang and return to Cairns
When you wake this morning, True North will be alongside in Madang. Transfer to the boat's private charter plane for the return flight to Cairns - a journey of approx 2 hours. If you have booked the flight package from the UK then on arrival in Cairns, you will be transferred to the Shangri-La Hotel for the night.

You will be staying at Shangri La Hotel, Cairns, bed and breakfast

You will be staying at True North Boat, full board and house beverages


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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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