Kombai people

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Kombai people
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Indonesia (Papua (province))
Kombai language, Indonesian language
Related ethnic groups
Korowai people

The Kombai are a Papuan people of Melanesia living in the Indonesian province of Papua in Western New Guinea.

Way of life[edit]

A Korowai treehouse, identical to Kombai treehouses. They are built high to offer protection against raids by enemy tribes.

The Kombai generally live in huts, with each clan living in a large treehouse, although most activities are done outside. Each clan guards its treehouse and territory with bows and arrows. In certain areas of the forest, no clans build treehouses or occupy, as these places are reserved for the spirits. The Kombai tradition of building treehouses comes from the fact that treehouses are easier to defend in times of war with neighboring tribes, or headhunting tribes which used to terrorize Kombai lands.[2]

For food, the Kombai hunt pigs and other forest animals, fish, eat the larvae of beetles and plants and eat sago from sago palms. The Kombai often use small dogs to help track down and kill animals. The Kombai cook meat by heating stones under a fire, wrapping the meat in large leaves, and placing the hot stones on top, until the meat is cooked. Fishing is done by building a small dam on a stream, beating the poison out of toxic roots into the stream, forcing the fish up. The fish are then easily captured. As food is abundant in the forest, none is stored.[3]


British adventurer and TV presenter Bruce Parry lived with the Kombai in season 1, episode 3 of his documentary series, Tribe (2005).

A television series on The Discovery Channel entitled "Living with the Kombai" in the US, and on both the National Geographic Channel and The Discovery Channel, called "World's Lost Tribes" in the UK, was shown in January 2007. In the series, two men travelled to Papua and spent several months living with an extended Kombai family. Their adventures included hunting for a large lizard and wild pig (not a captive pig, see religion section) and fishing by constructing a rudimentary dam on a stream. They also helped chop down large trees with a stone axe, made sago from the sago palm tree, and used its fibres to build a treehouse nearly 80 feet off the ground.

The Kombai were also featured in the 2007 season of the series Mark & Olly: Living with the Tribes.

The Kombai were also featured in "Going to Extremes" series 2: 'Surviving Extremes' (2003) in the Swamp episode. The host "Nick Middleton" stays with the tribe and climbs the treehouses.

Finnish TV-show Madventures has done an episode involving Kombai and Korowai tribes in West-Papua at season 2 episode 6.


  1. ^ "Kombai in Indonesia". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  2. ^ See ref #2
  3. ^ BBC Documentary

External links[edit]