EAST PAPUA, HEARTLAND OF ETHNIC TRIBES
East Papua, like the rest of Papua, is mountainous and full of rich natural wonders, from rich flora and fauna to rivers and fertile valleys.
This province is synonymous with the Baliem Valley, which is one of the most fascinating places in the world and where people still live as in the prehistoric past. Sealed off from the rest of the world by high mountain walls and without any roads leading from the coast to the inner region, the Valley exudes an air of mystery. This is the land where the hospitable Dani people, one of Papuas ethnic tribes, still live according to a Neolithic lifestyle. It is a place where the koteka (penis gourd) is a fashion accessory, where pigs can buy love, sex or both, and the hills bloom with flowers and deep purple sweet-potato fields. In August, the peak season for travel to Baliem Valley, villages host a spectacular festival with pig feasts, mock wars and traditional dancing.
Other tribes living in the Valley are the Yali, Kimial, Ok and Eipomek n villages that resemble dwellings of historic times.
Wamena is the Baliem Valleys commercial centre. The local markets are worth a visit. It serves as the base for exploring nearby tribal villages.
PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO
Lorentz National Park
This is the largest national part in South East Asia with an area of 25,056 sq km. The park is named after Hendrikus Albertus Lorentz, a Dutch explorer who passed through the area on his 1909 – 1910 expedition. In 1999 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Lorentz is one of the most ecologically diverse national parks in the world. It is the only nature reserve in the Asia Pacific region that has an altitudinal array of ecosystems covering marine areas, mangrove, tidal and freshwater swamp forest, lowland and montane rainforest, alpine areas and equatorial glaciers. It also has a big bird population comprising many and rare species. There are also many species of plants and animals, not seen elsewhere.
Raja Ampat Islands
Raja Ampat Islands, or Four Kings, is off the coast of Sorong and comprise the four large islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. This area is the heart of the worlds coral reef biodiversity and the surrounding seas hold the richest variety of species in the world. One of the great diving and snorkelling site in Papua.
Pulau Biak (Biak Island)
Discovering white-sand beaches and dive sites around Pulau Biak, a resting place for WWII wrecks and relics. There are some good beaches on Pulau Biak. The most popular are Bosnik on the east coast, which is good swimming and sky-diving, and Korem on the north coast where one can watch young men dive for pearls.
Danau (Lake) Sentani
This magnificent lake is a great for cruising by longboat, or hiking its undulating shorel in theWasur National Park
On the shore of Lake Sentani is a settlement on the shore of this lake where one can observe local traditions as they are practiced in the daily lives of the people.
This is the place to discover the intriguing culture of the Asmat people who live along the remote southeast coast around Agats. They are famous for their artistic primitive woodcarving. Agats has an interesting museum filled with woodcarvings and other objects.