Western New Guinea
Provinces of Western New Guinea and their Capitals
The Papua conflict is an ongoing low-level conflict between the Indonesian Government and portions of the indigenous populations of West Papua in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua on the island of New Guinea. Irian Jaya became part of the Dutch East Indies in 1828 as West Papua Nugini (or New Guinea), which was then known as West Irian. The region remained occupied by the Netherlands long after Indonesia claimed its independence in 1949. After West Irian’s long freedom struggle, the province eventually reverted to the lap of Indonesia in 1969 Since the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration from the Netherlands New Guinea in 1962, the implementation of Indonesian governance in 1963 and the formal absorption of West Papua into Indonesia in 1969, the Free Papua Movement, (OPM), a militant Papuan-independence organization, has conducted a low-level guerrilla war against the Indonesian state, targeting the Indonesian military and police, as well as engaging in the kidnapping of both non-Papuan Indonesian settlers and foreigners.
West Papuans have conducted various protests and flag-raising ceremonies for independence or federation with Papua New Guinea, and accuse the Indonesian government of indiscriminate violence and of suppressing their freedom of expression. Many West Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian military since 1969 and the Indonesian governance style has been compared to that of a police state, suppressing freedom of political association and political expression. The Indonesian Government restricts foreign access to the Papua and West Papua provinces due to sensitivities regarding its suppression of Papuan nationalism.
Places of interest in Western New Guinea:
Baliem Valley, Home of the Danis High up in the mountains of Central Papua at the altitude of 1600 meters above sea level, hemmed in by steep green mountain walls, lies the stunningly beautiful Baliem valley, home of the Dani tribe. The Dani are known as the “gentle warriors”. With their simple tools of stone and bone, they nonetheless, managed to sculpt green fields that hug the hills, where they grow root crops, and raise pigs. They have also built outposts and lookout towers to defend their valley from hostile tribes. Because of the fertile soil and their agricultural skills, the Dani together with the sub-tribes of the Yali and the Lani, are, therefore, the most populous in Papua, living scattered in small communities near their gardens among the steep mountain slopes. Today, they also cultivate bananas, taro and yams, ginger, tobacco and cucumbers. The men’s and women’s huts (locally called the honai) have thick thatched roofs, which keep the huts cool during the day and warm during the cold nights. For those who are adventurous, it is possible to stay and mingle among the Baliem Valley people, just make sure your tour operator booked this before your visit.
In this lush Baliem valley is a vast open ground where the Baliem Festival is held each year in August around 10-17, every year. More than a thousand people flock to see the mock war held by the Dani and the surrounding tribes. At the Festival, traditional dances, pig races, staged tribal wars and races are held. This is one of the main reasons tourists visit Papua, it’s a magical fiesta, say most, who have experienced it.
Lake Sentani: Introduction to Spectacular a visit to Lake Sentani, a scenic beauty over glittering water located near Jayapura, capital city of Papua. The stillness of the water is most peaceful, evoking a peculiar wonder whether such a lake should indeed exist in paradise. The embracing Cyclops Mountains to the north and the lush vegetation as backdrop, securely protect the twenty four villages surrounding the lake. The people here are friendly and creative, carving their reputation among the best craft makers in the land of Papua. Lake Sentani and its surrounding areas was once the training field for amphibious aircraft landings. It was built by the Japanese and taken over by the US Army in 1944. American war legend, General McArthur was said to have gazed on the lake and its 22 islets, and came up with his victorious island-hopping strategy.
Living as fish farmers, and the close location to the provincial capital, are reasons why most of the population around the lake are open to visitors. Stilt houses with ponds and nets are common landscapes. The lake is home to at least 33 species of fish, of which almost half of them are native. The Sawfish (Pristis microdon) was once the premier host of the lake, which today is said to have become extinct. This fish is one of the indigenous ornaments found on Sentani’s woodcrafts. Hang one of these items on your wall as a mark that you have been dramatically introduced to the wilderness of Papua.
Cendrawasih Bay National Park: Playground of the spotted Whaleshark, the large Cendrawasih Bay National Park in the north of the island of Papua, otherwise known as Teluk Cenderawasih, includes Indonesia’s largest marine national park, and is one of the best dive-sites in the archipelago. Here are magnificent vertical drops, picturesque hard coral gardens, sponge life and myriads of fish. This is the playground of one of the world’s largest animals: the spotted whale shark. If elsewhere in the world divers consider themselves lucky to meet one or a couple, here they come in pods and divers can swim along with them quite unharmed except to beware not to be hit by one of their powerful fins. Comprising land and coastal areas, islands, coral reefs and pristine seas, the Cendrawasih Park covers a total area of 1,453,500 hectares. The Cendrawasih Bay Park combines coral reef ecosystems with mangrove, islands and terrestrial tropical forest ecosystems. Here are colonies of black coral, blue coral and soft coral. The Park is famous for the 209 fish species that make this Park their habitat, among which are the butterfly fish, the damselfish and parrotfish, and, of course the whale shark, while mollusks found here include the trumpet triton, the great clam and the cone shell. Best time to visit is between May through October.