The Asmat people are expert craftsmen and sculptors and their art is famous around the world. In the late 1960's, Asmat crafts received a boost by a project supported by the United Nations, which aimed to encourage local craftsmen to keep alive their art. They live in a kind of wood culture because all their tools are somehow related to wood.
The Asmat people live in the areas of Flamingo Bay and Cook's Bay, on the Southwestern coast of Irian Jaya. Modern civilization did not reach this area until recently. Nevertheless, the main town Agats has an interesting museum filled with woodcarvings and other objects. However, the area largely consists of untamed wilderness, mangroves, and rivers with huge tides. Only two hotels are available and the area is hard to reach and very expensive once arrived.
Things to do in the Asmat region
Don't miss the Museum Kebudayaan & Kemajuan. Find it behind the mosque in Agats.
The most popular travel time is the beginning of October, when the Asmat Art & Culture Festival is held. See original Asmat dance ceremonies and see the most famous wood carvings.
Travel into the Asmat region
The gateway to the Asmat region is Mopah Airport in Merauke. The airport is served by Lion Air and Batavia Air directly from Jakarta or inside Papua by Merpati Nusantara Airlines from Jayapura. Once arrived in Merauke, Merpaty Air flies several times a week to Ewer, which is very near to Agats, the main town in the Asmat region.
An alternative is the Pelni liner Sangiang, which connects Merauke, Agats and Timika.
To travel in the Asmat region a special permission is required, called surat jalan. You can apply for this permission at every police station. Costs are low. Two passport-size photos are necessary. Make plenty of photocopies once having the surat jalan in your hands, as you will have to give it to several local authorities when travelling overland. At each town you stay overnight, go first to the police station for registration.