PNG tribe member


raft PNG's whitewater Watut river

DATES: 23 Sep07 Oct 2017 TEAM SIZE: 12 COST: £3,850

Papua New Guinea is not a place many have been to, and even fewer have rafted its epic Watut river. This summer, join an Adventure Academy expedition that will qualify you as a certified Whitewater Rescue Technician and turn you into an indispensable whitewater rafting teammate as you commence your descent of the rapid-filled Watut.

Expedition team members practice white water rafting rescue training in Papua New Guinea
White water rafting rescue training in Papua New Guinea
Health and Safety for abseiling
Rafting in Gabon
Team members prepare to continue white water rafting down the rivers in Papua new Guinea
Secret Compass team relax in the clear blue waters of new Ireland, North of Papua New Guinea after completing their white water rafting training
Secret Compass team white water rafting down the rivers of Papua New Guinea

The aim of this epic, Adventure Academy expedition is for you to earn a Whitewater Rescue Technician qualification and then to raft Papua New Guinea’s wild Watut river. The expedition begins in Australia where you’ll be taught to raft by some of the best instructors in the world on the Tully River. Next, you’ll fly over to PNG itself before taking on the might of one of the most epic jungle rivers in the world: the Watut.

This river has 150 rapids and descends through canyons and deep jungle. At the end of the trip you will get a chance to relax by sea kayaking and snorkelling in the idyllic seas off the coast of PNG.


  • Obtain the internationally recognised Whitewater Rescue Technician from Rescue 3.
  • Learn to raft on the famous Tully river in Queensland near Cairns, Australia.
  • Descend one of the most epic and remote jungle whitewater rivers in the world, the Watut River in Papua New Guinea.
  • Enjoy sea-kayaking and snorkelling off the coast of PNG.
  • Experience the unique tribal culture of Papua New Guinea.

Whitewater Rescue Technician course

This is an internationally recognised certificate from Rescue 3. It teaches a variety of techniques to enable the holder to perform rescues in a whitewater environment. Where better to teach it than on the demanding and challenging river system that is the Watut. The course will cover subjects such pre-trip planning, risk assessments, incident management, whitewater swimming techniques, rescue techniques, use of throw bags and many more.

The Watut river

The Watut is a world-class river which has been descended by very few people. It is a remote, challenging and demanding whitewater river which includes 150 rapids along the course of the journey. It will take you through jungles and canyons where you will witness remote tribes living along the river. It is on the dream list of many a paddler, but very few people get to visit due to its remote location.

Papua New Guinea

Situated in the South-Western Pacific and North of Australasia, PNG is rugged, remote and full of beauty and adventure, from volcanoes and rainforests to incredible beaches and coral reefs. It is known for its cultural diversity with many tribes and languages, with 80% of the population living in rural areas.

This expedition will give you a fascinating insight to the biodiversity of the landscapes on the river and of the many tribes that live along it. Along with experiencing life on the river you will get to witness the spectacular paradise on the coast.

Train in Australia

An incredible adventure destination in its own right, the team will meet in Cairns where initial training will take place. The Tully river is one of the most famous whitewater destinations in the country and will be an ideal proving ground to deliver the course and to prepare for the Watut river.

You will get to stay in an eco-lodge on Mission Beach while undertaking the training before flying out from Cairns to PNG.

Secret Compass runs expeditions with framework itineraries, rather than guided tours with set daily plans. Read more about our Approach here. The following is the outline plan for this whitewater rafting expedition to Papua New Guinea – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the PNG Expedition Handbook which is available on request or upon application to join the team.

Teammates arrive

There are many flights that arrive into Australia on the 23 September. Then it’s on to Cairns where you will be required to reach the team hotel, named nearer to departure. Getting to the hotel is each team member’s responsibility, but taxis and buses to town are plentiful. The expedition will officially start at the team hotel in Cairns at 1700 where you will meet your professional Secret Compass expedition leader. Your leader will deliver a safety briefing and talk through the expedition plan. The first meal as a team will be dinner that evening.

On expedition

The first phase of the expedition will start on the Tully River near Mission Beach. You will conduct two days of training on how to raft to a competent standard to be able to raft safely down the Watut River and also to conduct your Whitewater Rescue Technician Course. You will stay at an eco-lodge in Mission Beach while there. Once complete, you will drive back to Cairns and fly on to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. You will be taken to where the Watut originates from the mountains.

The first day will be steady so you can acclimatise to the surroundings while visiting a local village. You’ll then raft for five days taking on epic rapids such as BARAAHP (Between A Rock And A Hard Place) Bikpela and Four Part Harmony to name a few. You will camp along the river side in the evenings, surrounded by deep gorges and rainforests. On the calmer river sections between rapids, the instructors will test your skills and conduct scenarios on the river. If completed successfully this will see you pass the course.

Goal achieved

On completion of the river phase you will fly to New Ireland and and on to an Island Retreat. You’ll spend the next three days snorkelling and sea kayaking around the coral reefs and islands. This will make for a relaxing and beautiful end to an incredible expedition! After a celebratory dinner in the retreat, you will fly back to Cairns, Australia where you will be free to depart from 1700 on 7 October.


Secret Compass expeditions are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition.

At a basic level, you should be a confident and strong swimmer, being able to swim at least 200m, be comfortable in rough and turbulent waters and make a positive contribution to paddling a raft for up to eight hours a day. The biggest challenge on this expedition will be rafting over many continuous and demanding rapids in quick succession.

Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go. Applicants will receive a Handbook with further expedition information, and as basic requirements you must be comfortable with the following.

Minimum fitness requirements

  • Paddle: make a positive contribution to paddling a raft with your teammates.
  • Activity: paddling for up to eight hours each day is likely.
  • River: the Watut encompasses 150 rapids over the six-day section through rainforest, canyons and gorges.
  • Climate: temps averaging 28C with high humidity.
  • Swim: be able to swim at least 200m non-stop and be comfortable in whitewater.
  • Age: 21+



When not on the Watut River you will stay in a comfortable hotels and guesthouses in twin rooms. Before the river section you can leave a small bag with items you won’t need such as travelling clothes here. Throughout the expedition you’ll camp in technical tents shared between two.


In urban areas you’ll eat in local restaurants and hotels where there will be a variety of delicious meals. While on the river, fresh food will be prepared and the team will all help in cooking the meals, which will provide enough energy for the rafting. Though sufficient calories in terms of meals and snacks will be provided by Secret Compass, teammates are advised to bring a few favourite snacks or bars to keep spirits high.


You’re responsible for airport transfers with taxis or buses to the hotel from Cairns international airport. The hotel will be located just outside the city so this won’t be too expensive. Once in Cairns all forms of transport will be covered by Secret Compass until returning from PNG. This includes several fights, including a small propeller plane to New Ireland for the sea kayaking phase. Minivans and boats will also be used for transport.

Kit list

A full kit list will be supplied to applicants in the Expedition Handbook. Tents, safety equipment, medical and communications kit will be supplied by Secret Compass. Teammates should consider their kit in good time in case buying, hiring or shipping is required. Each team member will be required to take a waterproof bag for their personal items that will accompany them on the river. Discount codes at a number of specialist stores will be provided upon booking.


  • Full services of a Secret Compass expedition with full medical and communications kit.
  • In-country support including instructors, raft guides and safety paddlers.
  • All food and accommodation as outlined in the itinerary.
  • All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
  • Flights from Austrlia to Papua New Guinea.

Not included

  • International flights.
  • In-country transfers.
  • Local airport taxes and international visas.
  • Tips to local guides.
  • Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
  • Personal equipment (once booked you’ll receive a kit list).
  • Travel insurance (obligatory).

On application to join this epic Adventure Academy expedition to Papua New Guinea, potential teammates will receive a detailed Expedition Handbook. Expedition-specific FAQ are below or try our general expedition FAQ and get in touch if your question remains unanswered.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab.

I’ve never rafted, am I suitable?

As part of the training package you will be taught all the skills necessary to paddle a raft through demanding rapids. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems. Many whitewater centres can do introductory courses if you want to get a feel for what whitewater rafting is about.

Can I have a one-person tent?

Secret Compass will provide the tents for this expedition. Due to the limited space on the rafts, team members are required to share a tent.

Can I arrive a day late?

As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the location where the training will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.

Can I charge my electricals?

Once the team start the rafting there will be no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.

Will there be telephone signal?

There will be mobile signal in Australia and the villages at the start and end of the rafting. Plan on having no signal throughout the river phase.

How can I find out more?

Apply for this expedition team using the button on this page to receive your Expedition Handbook with fuller details. Secret Compass is then on hand to answer your questions in the build up to departure.

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