The Exotic Papua Experience!

Musafir By Musafir, 28th Mar 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Indonesia>West Papua

"We were met by Herman, our trekking guide, and Tinius, the chief porter. After a short briefing and some paperwork (you need a permit to trek at Papua) we then were greeted by our full team of porters – 5 of them, including Tinius. We then set off on a 4-wheels drive to Sogomok to begin our trekking on foot..."

Travel - West Papua

by: Musafir Lara Bin Selamat

When I first suggested my spouse that the family go for an adventure trip to Papua, my wife Siti, was taken aback: she couldn’t believe that I was dead serious about the trip to Papua, let alone bringing our 2 young children along in the risky, lesser-known world!

What on earth was I thinking?

I must have gone really mad, she thought.

Yet, after sharing my plan and introducing the exploration opportunity in the lesser-known Papua to her through the internet, she herself seems caught in a mysterious excitement within: she’s thrilled - but at the same time, still a little apprehensive.

Could it be dangerous?

Especially when you think about Papua, the first thing that strikes the mind is the idea of cannibalism, then you have grounds to be fearful and cautious. And so back to the drawing board I went to convince her further that Papua was safe indeed.

Of all places in the world – why chose Papua - for a family vacation?

Like Siti had wondered before, you may want to know why, too.

Well, since I was young, gazing at the world atlas and daydreaming of exploring the remote places on earth has been my favourite past time – and it still does, till today.

One of the many places I dreamt visiting was Papua – or at that time, better known as Irian Jaya, the largest and the most far eastern province of Indonesia.

I was born keen on exploring the lesser-known world, I guess.

Living in a "kampung" (village) environment during my early childhood, had further nurtured that exploring and inquisitive behaviour in me indeed: I grew up believing that I would explore these remotes, lesser-known world one day! And so thus begun this idea to explore and have a family adventure to Papua.


Papua or Irian Jaya forms part of the bigger island of New Guinea – to the eastern part of the island, is the sovereign state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) which received its full independence from Australia on 16th September 1975. As the bigger island of New Guinea, it is the second largest island after Greenland. It is also the largest tropical island covered with thick rain forest, of a diverse flora and fauna.

The administrative town of the province are Jayapura and Manokwari whilst the regional towns throughout the province include Sorong, Biak, Fak-Fak, Nabire, Timika and Merauke.

There are about 257 languages in West Papua alone and another 826 in PNG; in total, there are 1073 dialects used on the island of New Guinea. Amongst the well-known tribes in Papua are Kombai and Korowai (or better known as the tree people); the much-feared and once-cannibal people, the Asmats (of the southern lowland); the Komoros (of Timika); Biak or Byak (from Biak); Dani, Yali and Lani tribes (from the Baliem Valley).

The province has 40 major rivers, 12 lakes and 40 islands. The Mamberamo River is the largest river in the province that flows and winds through the northern Van Rees Range before discharging into the Pacific Ocean. It is also sometimes referred as the “Amazon” of Papua.

The southern region is mostly made up of vast lowlands, which consist of a mosaic of habitats including mangrove, tidal and freshwater swamp forest and lowland rainforest. It is the home to the Asmat Tribe.

The central portion of the territory consists of a mountain range (over 1600 km in total length, stretching from east to west of the bigger island of New Guinea) with the highest peak - Puncak Jaya (or formerly known as Carstensz Pyramid) - stood in the Indonesian territory, scaling at 4884 metre above sea level. Thus the height of Puncak Jaya is in between that of the Himalayas and the Andes of South America. The Baliem Valley is a tableland in this midst of the central mountain range and is home of the Dani, Yali and Lani people.

It was there at the Southern Baliem Valley - home of the Dani tribe - that our real adventure in Papua began.

We spent a total of 6 days in Papua – 3 days at Lake Sentani region and a good, full 3 days trekking the mountainous southern Baliem Valley.


We left Singapore in the evening and reached Sentani Airport the next day after a 10-hour long flight. We were received by our pre-arranged guide, Henky Ibo and Andreas, both representing Grand Irian Tours & Travel. The first day was meant for resting before the trekking begins the next day. We put up at Hotel Sentani Indah.

The next day, we took a delayed short flight of 40-45 minutes on Trigana Air from Sentani Airport to Wamena. It is here our romance with Papua begins.

We were met by Herman, our trekking guide, and Tinius, the chief porter. After a short briefing and some paperwork (you need a permit to trek at Papua) we then were greeted by our full team of porters – 5 of them, including Tinius. We then set off on a 4-wheels drive to Sogomok to begin our trekking on foot.

Upon reaching Sogomok, we began ascending and negotiating the often narrow, muddy trails. To be honest, the trekking in the beginning was tough and quite testing. But the view and the new surroundings were simply stunning and magnificent, more than enough to make up the tiredness felt.

The mountain slopes were decorated with sweet potatoes fields and Honais (the Dani’s traditional houses) that from afar seems like pokka-dots arranged beautifully to complement the design of the cultivated land.

Along the way we had to cross several long hanging bridges – a few lay out with wooded planks and were swinging slightly side to side as we crossed on it – Siti felt walking on wobbling knees and could barely look down at the fast flowing rivers beneath it!

But the crossings were safe more than ever, with the porters handy to guide Siti and our 2 young children along the crossing of the hanging bridges. As we crossed more bridges, the fear in Siti disappeared little by little.

The people we met along the way were friendly – greeting us as we crossed path, and they gladly stopped for a small chat with us. And soon, we were exchanging greetings with them in their language, learnt instantaneously through the spontaneous interaction.

The children were always running after us whenever we past their villages, giggling in anticipation of receiving a gift of sweets and loose change. We were always attracting their interests and not long, our entourage of 10 swelled into a pipe-piper band of wide-eye and giggling children trailing our track whenever we passed their villages.

The trekking had begun at about 12:00 p.m. after an hour long journey from Wamena and it stretched for another 4 hours before we reached our first resting station at Kilise Village.

It was already dark when we reached Kilise though it was only 06:00 p.m. then. With a battery operated torch in hand, we cleansed our muddy feet and sat in for a quick dinner. We chatted with Herman for a while for the next day trekking plan before retiring for an anticipated good rest.

Alas, the night was never a good rest actually!

The weather was terrible cold on the high mountain valley and we hardly could sleep. We were shivering much of the time in the cold night and were wishing that we had brought along thicker jackets and extra sleeping bags that night! How we wished, we had...


In Papua, the sun rises much earlier: at about 05:30 a.m. What greeted us that morning was a pleasant view of Kilise Village. The guesthouse looked beautiful in the bright sunlight; the Honais were gorgeous and sexy. We were simply glad that the sun came early with the beautiful panorama, and spared us of the cold night too.

After breakfast, we continued our trekking onward to Syokomo, our next resting point for the second night. To get there, we had to trek along narrow trails along a sloping ravine and passed through several more villages and sweet potatoes farm land. And as usual, we had our curious “followers” trailing us: the wide-eye, giggling children of Papua were always there to greet our passing their villages!

Syokomo was much comfortable in comparative to Kilise. We rested well there and were sumptuously treated to a breakfast of traditional Dani dance the next morning. It was a treat we hungrily savoured through our camera and video-cam lenses. We took photos, posing with the dancers in what turned out to be a truly memorable picture of content.

We were by then at the end of our trekking expedition. We trekked for another whole day, surpassing another eventful of trekking experience before reaching Syokomo, our starting and ending points.

We then finished off the journey with 4-wheel drives to Wamena for a night rest at Baliem Pilarmo Hotel before flying back to Sentini the next day for a tour at the Lake region there.

Looking back now, Siti agrees that the Papua adventure trip was the best trip she ever had in her life – thanks to her “mad” spouse with a love for exploration and adventure!


Adventure, Asia, Indonesia, Irian Jaya, Lesser Known, Papua, South East Asia, Travel, Trekking

Meet the author

author avatar Musafir
A traveller to a lesser known world!
Hail from Singapore, Musafir set sight to travel round the world, in particular to the lesser-known world.
Coincidentally his name "musafir" is a Malay word derived from Sanskrit that literally translated, mean...(more)

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
15th May 2012 (#)

Well-written and nicely shared and thank you for everything.

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