Baliem Valley – The hidden diamond from the Baliem Valley

Indonesia: The hidden diamond from the Baliem Valley

The Baliem Valley, also spelled Balim Valley and sometimes known as the Grand Valley, of the highlands of Western New Guinea, is occupied by the Dani people. The main town in the valley is Wamena. The valley is about 80 km in length by 20 km in width and lies at an altitude of about 1,600-1,700 m, with a population of 100,000.

As far as the outside world was concerned, the discovery of the Baliem Valley and the unexpected presence of its large agricultural population was made by Richard Archbold’s third zoological expedition to New Guinea in 1938. On 21 June an aerial reconnaissance flight southwards from Hollandia (now Jayapura) found what the expedition called the ‘Grand Valley’. Since then the valley has gradually been opened up to a limited amount of tourism.

The following is copied from the back cover of Peter Matthiessen’s book Under the Mountain Wall:

“In the Baliem Valley in Central New Guinea live the Kurelu, a Stone Age tribe that survived into the twentieth century. Peter Matthiessen visited the Kurelu with the Harvard-Peabody Expedition in 1961 and wrote Under the Mountain Wall as an account not of the expedition, but of the great warrior Weaklekek, the swineherd Tukum, U-mue and his family, and the boy Weake, killed in a surprise raid. Matthiessen observes these people in their timeless rhythm of work and play and war, of gardening and wood gathering, feasts and funerals, pig stealing and ambush. Drawing on his great skills as naturalist and novelist, Matthiessen offers a remarkable firsthand view of a lost culture in all its simplicity and violence — on the brink of incalculable change.” ~ Wikipedia

The WOMEN & TRADITIONS



Once you read or give it a deeper study to Danis way of life, dont be surprised that you may find your eye lifting or forehead wrinkling. Why? Because the Dani is uniquely amazing.

The Dani men and women sleep separately in different honai (Danis traditional house). The men sleep grouped in one honai, while the women and children slumber in another honai. As descended from their ancestor, sex is taboo for the women after giving birth, for 2 or 5 years. As the result the Dani generated healthier kids since the women focus on babysitting the kids during the most important phase of growth.



This situation makes the men vulnerable to polygamy, its a true fact of life that the Dani men are allowed to have more than 1 wife or as many as he can afford. A man should give 4-5 pigs to the girls parent he wants to marry. For Dani men, his social status are initiated by the number of wives and pigs he has.

Another remarkable custom of Dani is that women will amputate their finger when their relatives die, hence don’t be surprised when you see women with missing finger.

To enhance the quality of your experience in Baliem Valley, a guide is essential since there are no clear maps or signage initiated for visitor. The guide will help to lead the track, communicate with the local people and in advance. The guide will also inform you about local dos and don’ts.


The following documentary portrays the success of the women of Wamena in Papua who actively contribute to their communities’ economic livelihoods. It also shares the lessons learn on how the capacity building activities introduced by the programme strengthened entrepreneurship skills among partner community members, particularly women, to manage their enterprises effectively and generate greater and self employment opportunities.


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