Ancient Cultures of Northern Australia and Papua
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Prices are indicative. Based on twin share. The rate of exchange calculated is approximate and the final tour cost will be as on the final date of payment. Taxes are additional.

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Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include walking tours, visits to sites, safari drives, and easy hikes; and some days will have more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.


In partnership with National Geographic Expeditions. Embark with PONANT aboard Le Lapérouse for an 11-day tropical expedition to discover the traditional cultures of Northern Australia and Papua.During this all new voyage you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with Indigenous people living in remote communities and learn about their customs, traditions, spirituality and art.From Darwin, the capital of the 'Top End' of Australia, you will sail to the Tiwi Islands, home of the Saltwater Tiwi People, renowned for their wooden carvings-particularly of birds which have a special place in Tiwi mythology.Your ship will then continue to sail along the coast of the Northern Territory to reach Elcho Island and Yirrkala. The Yirrkala community is home to several renowned Aboriginal artists recognised for their spectacular traditional bark paintings and whose work can be found in art galleries around the world. It is also the traditional home of the Yidaki (didgeridoo) with some of the world's finest didgeridoos being made here.Further north into Western New Guinea you will come face-to-face with the legendary Asmat tribes. Here you will learn about their lives and customs in a traditional and authentic village setting.

Trip highlights

Get in one of our Zodiac and visit the shores with a team of experienced guides.

Discover the culture, traditions, and art of the indigenous people of Northern Australian and Papua.

Enjoy cultural performances and traditional ceremonies in several remote Aboriginal communities.

Experience Northern Australia and Papua alongside a National Geographic Photographer and Expert, who are specialised in the destination.

David Harrison
Anthropologist & linguist

Anthropologist and linguist David Harrison has been a National Geographic Fellow and co-director of the Societys Enduring Voices Project, documenting endangered languages and cultures around the world. He has done extensive fieldwork with indigenous communities from Siberia and Mongolia to Pacific Islands, Peru, India, and Australia. His global research is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film The Linguists, and his work has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, USA Today, and Science. David is both a professor of linguistics and associate provost for academic programs at Swarthmore College.

Jay Dickman

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jay Dickman has travelled to all seven continents throughout his 40-year career and covered topics as diverse as the Olympics, national political conventions, and the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Among his more than 25 assignments for the National Geographic Society, he has spent a week under the Arctic ice in a nuclear attack sub as well as lived for three months in a Stone Age village in Papua New Guinea, where he documented a remote section of the rainforest and the issues involved with preserving or selling off huge forest tracts. A popular photography instructor, he has also published a best-selling guide called Perfect Digital Photography, as well as numerous articles for National Geographic, Time, and Forbes.

Itinerary - 11 Days


Start your adventure in Darwin, the capital city and the most populated town of the Northern Territory in Australia. Darwin is a very special tropical city, with a great mix of people and cultures who live and work side by side. The city prides itself in its unique and friendly laid-back lifestyle. Discover the tropical architecture of the new Parliament House and the Admiralty House. You will also enjoy the bustling waterfront on the Timor Sea.


The Tiwi Islands are a very special place located where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. They comprise two main islands and nine smaller uninhabited islands. For centuries, Indigenous Australians have occupied the Tiwi Islands. You will discover the Wurrumiyanga culture in depth, with its famous Pukamani (wooden funeral posts with geometric hand carved patterns) and outstanding paintings on canvas, and attending one dance performance relating to the story of the Tiwi people.


Le Laperouse is an innovative and environmentally-friendly ship featuring elegantly designed staterooms, spacious suites with large windows, and lounge areas that open onto the outside. This newly designed cruise ship embodies a subtle blend of refinement, intimacy and comfort that will offer you a truly unique cruising experience. This day at sea will give you the chance to explore the ship and enjoy all the services and activities on board.


Elcho Island, also known as Galiwinku, is home to almost 3000 Aboriginal people, members of the hyper-cerebral Yolngu group of clans. It is a place of lush natural beauty: the curving beaches are surrounded by deep-red cliffs; the forests of acacia and stringybark stretch away. There’s also a large community of artists that produce a wide range of traditional craft and fine artworks.


Follow the red sand paths along the shoreline surrounded by gum trees to arrive to the dwellings inhabited by the indigenous communities of Yirrkala. In there, you can discover their unique art and culture at the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka art centre, where you can admire a wide selection of local artwork. Don’t miss the chance of hearing musicians playing the yidaki – a traditional wooden didgeridoo –, or to attend a demonstration of ritual dancing. If you’re lucky, you might even be invited to some of the propitiatory ceremonies practiced by this community.


During this day at sea aboard Le Lapérouse you’ll have a unique, intimate and comfortable experience. Be tempted by the swimming pool, the great conferences or shows going on, do some boutique shopping or simply enjoy the views from the upper deck.


Western New Guinea (once known as Irian Jaya) is one of the most remote and mysterious regions of the planet. Even today, there are at least 44 tribes that have never had contact with the outside world. The Asmat region, in the south-west corner of the island, is well-known as the realm of head-hunters and cannibals and it maintains its ancient traditions. Start your expedition of the area with a Zodiac® transfer to Syuru village, where you will be met by a multitude of Asmat warrior canoes. Once ashore, enjoy a traditional ceremony among the traditional people of the area.

8-10 AT SEA

Enjoy the wide array of activities and entertainment on board during this day at sea. From treating yourself in the spa to exercising in the fitness centre or having a swim in the swimming pool, there’s a choice for everyone. You can also enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, or simply visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observer marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest and entertainment.


Located in the northeast coast of Australia, the harbour town of Cairns will be your last stop. Walk through the seafront esplanade, swim in its Coral Sea waters or picnic under the shade of a palm tree. The hills surrounding Cairns form the gateway to the Queensland Rainforests, proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site for their fauna and flora from the Gondwana era.