Baliem Valley Cultural Festival

Tribe Members at the Baliem Valley Cultural Festival

The Baliem Valley – Richard Archbold

The Baliem Valley is probably the best known tribal area of West Papua, if not all of Indonesia. It has a somewhat legendary reputation as a kind of “lost world”. Inhabitated by what were once considered as stone age tribes. 
 
Much of that mystique comes from how the valley was first “discovered” in June 1938. When members of a zoological expedition flew over it in a Catalina flying boat (as you do…). It all sounds a bit trite, until you peel the onion on the backstory – which really is quite incredible. The expedition was both sponsored and led by the American explorer and philanthropist Richard Archbold.
 
It was his third such expedition to New Guinea and by far the most ambitious. Taking place over 13 months from April 1938 to May 1939. And was focused on Netherlands (Dutch) New Guinea. The area we now know as West Papua in the western half of New Guinea. The second largest island in the world and part of what was then the Dutch East Indies