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Kombai people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kombai people
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Indonesia (South Papua)
Kombai language, Indonesian language
Related ethnic groups
Korowai people

The Kombai are a Papuan people living in the Indonesian province of South Papua, more specifically in Mappi Regency. Their total population is about 5,650.

Way of life


The Kombai people live in clans, each clan having its own territory in the Papuan forest. Certain areas of the forest are not inhabited, as they are believed to be sacred lands meant for the spirits. Each clan has a large treehouse where male tribesmen sleep, while women sleep in small huts on the ground. This sacred treehouse is thought to act as a defense from enemy attacks, and is closely guarded by men with bows and arrows.[2]

Like many other Papuan ethnic tribes, the Kombai people are hunter-gatherers. They hunt pigs and other forest animals, using small dogs to track down and kill their prey. In order to fish, the Kombai build small dams in the stream and pour a poison from a toxic root into the water. This forces the fish to come to the surface, making them easy to catch. Food is cooked using stones previously heated in a fire placed on top of meat wrapped in large leaves. As food is abundant in the forest, none is stored.[3]

The Kombai also eat the larvae of the capricorn beetle, called sago grub, which is considered a delicacy. To harvest them, a sago tree is cut down and left for a month, then wrapped in leaves and left to rot for three months, after which time the larvae are collected. This traditional food is used in festivities with neighboring clans and tribes to strengthen social ties.[2]



British adventurer and TV presenter Bruce Parry lived with the Kombai in season 1, episode 3 of his documentary series, Tribe (2005).[4]

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, named "World's Lost Tribes" in the United Kingdom, 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 a wild pig, 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 people also appeared 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.

See also



  1. ^ "Kombai in Indonesia". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  2. ^ a b Maptia. "Life Among the Trees". Maptia. Retrieved 2022-09-26.
  3. ^ "BBC - Tribe - Kombai". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  4. ^ Tribe (Documentary), BBC Wales, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2005-01-03, retrieved 2022-12-10