Papua is the western half of the island New Guinea, the most eastern province of Indonesia. New Guinea is the largest and highest tropical island of the world. The northern part of the island is separated from the southern part by a massive chain of mountains known as Pengunungan Maoke. Punjak Jaya is the highest peak at 5000 meters and is Indonesia’s tallest snow-capped mountain with glaciers. Papua has a large variety of eco-systems including the richest coral reefs in the world. The coastal systems of Papua contain some of the most pristine and largest tracs of mangroves in the world. From the lowland swamps to the highland mountains one will encounter massive areas of undisturbed tropical rainforest.
Papua is thinly populated. There are 2,5 million people living in Papua. One million Indonesian immigrants from other Indonesian islands inhabit mostly the coastal regions. Another 1,5 million indigenous papuans inhabit mostly the inland of Papua, from the high peaks, through the forest, into the lowland swaps and mangroves.
There are over 250 tribes in Papua. Some of them are very similar but they all possess their own unique culture and language which makes Papua’s cultural diversity unique on earth. Papua is the largest still intact natural museum of our planet earth. In many remote places people still live in untouched stone age culture. To experience these people and the unique flora and fauna of the highland and the tropical lowland jungles of Papua can be difficult, expensive, and very uncomfortable, but will be extremely rewarding. The wildlife is truly remarkable with many endemic species of plants, birds, and mammals, making Papua unlike any other place on earth.
The hospitality and friendship of the local people will guide the traveler and help create an experience which will be remembered for a lifetime. Almost every traveler who visits Papua desires to return, so strong is the attraction of one of the most remote places of the world.
The Baliem Valley
Baliem valley, located in the central highland of Papua, is the most visited area of Papua. The fertile valley 1500 meters above sea level
has been discovered in 1938, but people have been farming in the valley for thousands of years. Wamena is the valley’s largest town and is the capital of the Jayawijaya district with a population of 65,000. The valley and its surrounding mountains with peaks over 3000 meters are the home of three friendly tribes. The Dani inhabit the base of the valley. The Lani are in the western mountain area and the Yali tribe in the south and east of the valley. All tribes have distinctive cultures and languages, but all men wear a koteka or penis gourd. Each tribe cultivate their own. The Dani use a small thin koteka. The Lani use a wide medium koteka and the Yali use the largest one, sometimes held up with rattan hoops.
The Korowai and Kombai
The Korowai and Kombai tribes inhabit the lowland rainforests of south-central Papua and are not that open and welcoming to tourists as the Dani and the Yali. The Korowai Batu and Kopkaga are the more “deeper” or isolated Korowai tribes and are more territorial and reject contact with missionaries and neighboring tribes. The discovery of the Korowai tribe by the outside world was just 30 years ago. The Korowai and Kombai tribes used to be cannibalistic tribes. The majority of the Korowai and Kombai clans still live on their original ancestral territories isolated in the rainforest, following their traditions. A clan territory contains one to five treehouses, the average village has two or three families, their treehouses go from 6 to 25 meters up and protects them from heat, insects, evil forest
spirits and enemies.