Formerly known as Irian Jaya, Papua Province is the western half of the New Guinea Island. With a combined area of over 420 thousand kilometers, Papua consists of thick impenetrable jungle where many traditional tribes that survive harsh conditions and ‘protect’ itself from modern influences.
Despite having some of the most beautiful and extreme natural attractions in Indonesia, if not Southeast Asia, Papua is also one of the least visited destinations in Indonesia due to the limited direct flights, and also cost.
As pointed out before, the province is vast and can hardly fit into one recommendation article, but we’d like to highlight some of the points of interests to ignite your curiosity to the incredible enigma that is Papua.
Important: surat jalan or travel permits are required for all travelers visiting Papua beyond the main coastal towns. This permit can be easily obtained in Jayapura or Biak.
1. The Baliem Valley
The most popular destination in Irian Jaya and also the most accessible place in the inner valley, with its own Baliem Festival held between 9 to 14 of August each year. The highlight if the festival is the mock ‘tribal fighting’, where men from villagers dress up in full traditional regalia. The festival also features plenty of traditional dancing by both men and women of the Dani tribes, as well as music. Although the festival is tourist oriented and there’s no shortage of foreigners watching the events, the festival is a magical (and very photogenic) occasion.
2. Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau. The Raja Ampat archipelago is the part of Coral Triangle which contains the richest marine biodiversity on earth. It is no exaggeration to call Raja Ampat as the “heaven for divers”.
The geographical location of Raja Ampat archipelago in the hub of the world’s coral triangle has made Raja Ampat waters rich of marine biodiversity.The abundance of natural resources of Raja Ampat archipelago lays not only in its waters but also above the land. It is a paradise for bird watchers and one of the very few places where you can see wild Birds of Paradise like the Cendrawasih (Red) Bird of Paradise or the Wilsons Bird of Paradise, different cockatoos, eagles and many more.
image credit: www.gaiadiscovery.com
Although it is a destination worth of its own category, there is more to diving in Papua than ‘just’ Raja Ampat. Biak Island, Yapen Islands, and also Cendrawasih Bay Marine Reserve boast some astonishing coral and marine life with many WWII ships that are yet to be explored or even discovered.
After Pearl Harbor, the Dutch declared war on Japan which rendered Irian Jaya, then a part of the Dutch Indies, a crucial point in the battle for the pacific and made the waters abundant with ship and plane wrecks. These areas have the potential to rival northern Sulawesi but Biak, Sorong and Jayapura have the only dive centers.
4. Cenderawasih Bay National Park
A national park that includes the Cenderawasih Bay Marine Reserve, Indonesia’s largest marine reserve that spans 14,300 sq km with 18 islands and over 500 km of coastline. It is home to the incredible whale sharks, endangered species turtles, dugongs and offers some of the best diving (130 species of coral), bird watching, and trekking. A haven for wildlife enthusiasts.
To get there, From Jakarta, take a flight to Biak and on to Manokwari or Nabire. From Nabire take a longboat to the Park at Rumberpon Island, which takes about 5.5 hours.
To visit the Park, contact the Office at:
Jalan Trikora Wosi Rendani, PO Box 220
Manokwari 98312, West Papua
Email: [email protected]