Experience Papua New Guinea’s dances of fire

Remote and still relatively undiscovered, Papua New Guinea is one of the few places where I find you can truly go off the beaten track. From trekking in remote mountain ranges, searching for the elusive bird of paradise in cloud forests or travelling to off-the-grid villages to get to know some of the unique tribes who call the islands of Papua New Guinea their home, you are likely to have the country’s wonders mostly to yourself.

This hidden gem of the Pacific is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to explore and travel. With culture and traditions that unveil anthropological secrets that seem taboo to experience, unspoiled nature, a fascinating history with remnants of the war in the Pacific strewn across the country and unique wildlife, Papua New Guinea has a million different journeys waiting to be discovered. One of my favourite journeys, was into the Baining region to witness an incredible festival or fire.

The Baining Firedance

Photo Credit: Kate Webster

An ancient fire dance ritual performed to summon the spirit world, the Baining Firedance has long mystified and captured the imaginations of those lucky enough to witness it. Dancers perform to welcome births, celebrate the start or end of the harvest, to remember the dead and to initiate young men into adulthood.

Once taboo and only witnessed by the men of the tribe, the Baining Firedance has most recently been brought to light with the festival held in late September for travellers to witness. It is a cultural spectacle that awakens all the senses, and I was lucky to be there in the thick of it.

The festival is based in East New Britain province and is held across two days. The unique cultures and subcultures on display at the Firedance Festival give an insight into how diverse the region is. There are over 50 masked performances and each one is as exclusive as the other.

What makes this festival different to some of the more popular and longer-running festivals, like the Mt Hagen Show, the Tumbuan Mask Festival and the Goroka Show, is that it is a community-driven initiative. Unlike other festivals and events in Papua New Guinea where the showground is within town, this festival takes you directly into the villages.

Book on the Baining Firedance Festival Tour

Photo Credit: Kate Webster

Join Where Wild Things Roam and South Sea Horizons on this exclusive Baining Firedance Festival Tour. This 9-Day tour will have you mesmerized by the rituals of the Baining Firedance and exploring a region rich in cultural diversity.

Based in East New Britain province, the Baining Firedance Festival is a cultural spectacle that awakens all the senses. Held across two days, the unique cultures and subcultures on display at the Firedance Festival gives an insight into how diverse the region is. There are over 50 masked performances and each one is as exclusive as the next. Unlike other festivals and events in Papua New Guinea where the showground is within the town, this festival takes you directly into the villages. It gives a more authentic and genuine experience.

Giving further insight into each individual cultural performance, Dr Jacob Simet has translated the narrative of each individual cultural group so that you could see, hear, feel and understand each performance at the festival.

You can experience the Baining Fire Dance Festival in 2024 with Where Wild Things Roam Travel. Spots are selling fast, so for more information and to book, visit wherewildthingsroamtravel.com/trip/papua-new-guinea-baining-firedance-festival/

Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself but the world around her. This has inspired Kate to translate those moments and share them through her storytelling. A dedicated David Attenborough and Jane Goodall fan, Kate has delved into the world of wildlife and conservation travel to bring awareness.