If you get a chance to spend some time in Angoram, you would be well-advised to take advantage of the situation and head off for a boating excursion on the Sepik. Most of the activity takes place up-river from here, but it is possible to book boat or motorized-canoe trips at the hotel or tourist agencies in town. You actually have the option of travelling up the Keram River to the village of Kambot as well, since it joins the Sepik close to Angoram. This area provides good forest bird-watching opportunities, maybe even a Bird of Paradise!
Further upriver, there is today a really fancy tour boat operating with overnight cruises between two of the other villages. This one costs and arm and a leg but you are in air-conditioned comfort on this mini self-contained cruise liner! All of these types of tours let you get away from 'tourist centres' like Angoram and experience village life a little closer to reality.
The entire Sepik River area is famous for it's traditional Spirit Houses, or 'Haus Tambaran' in the local language. Although not too obvious here, these buildings on their typical New Guinea 'stilts' have impressive sway-backed thatched roofs with soaring carved pillars at the two ends. The inside walls of these buildings are lined with shields bearing likenesses of ancestors, mythical beings and spirits of nature. Masks, statues and figures also adorn the interiors of these buildings. Because of it's remoteness and relatively recent exploitation by the outside world, PNG in general and the Sepik area in particular remains one of the most famous in the world for it's indigenous art works. Many fine examples can be seen in these Spirit Houses.
Traditionally, only initiated warriors were allowed inside these buildings, on penalty of death. In the days of cannibalism, the head of a victim from a neighbouring tribe was often hung above the entrance as a warning to those who had not been properly initiated. The name of the building comes from the most important statue (and the 'spirit' it contained) in the village, called a 'Tambaran' and located within its walls. However, these ancient customs are fast falling by the wayside, and many of these houses (including this one) are now open for tourists who may be looking for that great 'art deal' when it comes to masks, flutes, basketwork and jewellery!
In the Sepik River area, the mass of large and twisting rivers and lagoons makes travel by road very difficult, so the dugout canoe is the favoured mode of transportation by the locals.
The canoes are made from large logs, which are usually towed to the owners village where the middle part of each is then gouged out using an adz. The final touches are done by burning the interior to help seal the wood from insects, allowing these canoes to last for about 6 years. Although large canoes are used by the men for their expeditions, women also use smaller ones for early morning fishing expeditions. I spotted this one as I took a stroll down to the river bank before having breakfast at the hotel.
Of interest here too is the sight of an invasive water plant (Salvina molesta) floating by, a plant that severely disrupted life for many villages along the river in the early 1980s. This floating tropical weed is native to southern Brazil and northern Argentina and is very popular for use in aquariums. Since the 1940s, through various intentional and unintentional ways, it has been introduced around the world with disastrous consequences in most cases. Drifting in the warm waters of the Sepik, with no natural predators, it grew like wildfire. The wind and currents sometime resulted in mats 2-ft. (60-cm) thick covering and blocking the entire surface of channels and lakes. This not only stopped transportation and fishing by the locals, it also affected the local habitat for native creatures and plants. Fortunately, research showed that the most effective way to combat the plant was to introduce a small beetle from Brazil, one that naturally feeds on the plant's young buds. This effort was very successful in reclaiming the Sepik River for the local population.
With the central 14,000+ foot (4400-m) mountain ranges dividing Papua New Guinea into northern and southern zones, at least 60% of the northern half of the country is drained by the Sepik River. Located only about 3 degrees south of the equator, and catching the moisture off the Pacific Ocean, the rainforest in this part of PNG is the largest intact one in the world outside of the Amazon basin.
The sinuous nature of the river and its many tributaries, combined with the rainforest in this isolated part of the island of New Guinea has led to many unique tribal cultures, each living in its own little world for centuries. Angoram is the major town located along the Sepik River 'highway' to these outposts deeper inland. While I was in PNG, there were multi-night tourist cruises from Madang, just down the coast to the east, which would take passengers into this exotic destination, while still enjoying all the comforts of home. I am not sure if those cruises presently exist, but it is still possible to take boat tours while inland on the Sepik itself.