Papua, also known as Western New Guinea and formerly Irian Jaya, is the easternmost part of Indonesia. It comprises the western half of the island of New Guinea, the world's largest and highest tropical island, while the eastern half is the independent country of Papua New Guinea.
Papua retains many traditional cultures and is home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world. Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area in the Asia-Pacific region, ranges from Papua's southwest coast to its central mountains.
The Indonesian half of New Guinea has, somewhat controversially, been divided into two provinces since 2003: West Papua (Papua Barat) and Papua.
Originally a Dutch colony like the rest of Indonesia, West Papua held elections in 1959 and the elected council took office in 1961, in preparation for full independence. However, the Dutch handed the area over to a UN temporary administration, who in turned gave it over to Indonesia in 1963. The controversial plebiscite known as the Act of Free Choice , held in 1969, resulted in an improbable 100% vote in favor of joining Indonesia. The region, renamed first as Irian Barat (West Irian) and then Irian Jaya (Glorious Irian) has been under heavy Indonesian military control ever since, with the outgunned Free Papua Movement (Operasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) fighting for independence.
The name Papua was restored in 2000 in a sop to the nationalists. The province was split into two in 2003 in a highly controversial move, with the Bird's Head Peninsula and surrounding islands becoming West Papua (Papua Barat). A further split, to create a third Central Papua province, was abandoned due to fierce opposition.
Comprising the western half of the island of New Guinea, the world's largest and highest tropical island, Papua is incredibly diverse and different from the rest of Indonesia (or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world). Despite a population of under three million, Papua is home to over 250 languages and retains many traditional cultures that were until very recently "still in the Stone Age". Cannibalism and headhunting were practiced in some areas until the 1970s or later.
Terrain and ecology
A vital tropical rainforest with the tallest tropical trees and vast biodiversity, Papua's known forest fauna includes marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, cuscuses), other mammals (including the endangered Long-beaked Echidna), many bird species (including birds of paradise, cassowaries, parrots, cockatoos), the world's longest lizards (Papua monitor) and the world's largest butterflies. The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic.
The extensive waterways and wetlands of Papua are also home to salt and freshwater crocodile
Large parts of the equatorial glacier fields in the highlands remain largely unexplored. Protected areas within Papua province include the Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Wasur National Park, a RAMSAR wetland of international importance.
Getting acquainted with Bahasa Indonesia is a plus point, but in places like Raja Ampat which are frequently visited by tourists, you shouldn't face much of a hassle with English.
Travel permits (surat jalan) are required for all travel in Papua beyond the main coastal towns. The list changes randomly, but Jayapura and Biak are generally permit-free, and Sentani, Manokwari and Sorong are usually fine. Permits are mostly easily acquired in Jayapura and Biak, where they're usually obtainable in one day, although they are usually available at the other non-permit towns as well. Two passport photos and a token administration fee (Rp. 5000 or so) are required.
The permit for visiting Raja Ampat can be bought from the office opposite the airport at Sorong, or at Waisai , the Capital of Raja Ampat Regency. The cost for foreigners is Rp 1,000,000 and for locals Rp.500,000.
The permit must list all the places you're planning to visit, no changes allowed, unless you get a new one in a main town. Whenever you arrive in a new town in Papua, you have to get your permit stamped at the police station. Make lots of copies, you'll need them for hotels and such.
Despite the claims of some embassies to the contrary, no permits are required for travel to Papua. It's best not to mention Papua at all when applying for a visa.
Nearly all travelers arrive by plane. The main gateways are Biak, Manokwari and Jayapura, although there are also limited flights to Fakfak, Sorong and Timika. Garuda and Lion have direct flights from Jakarta to capital Jayapura; all other carriers, including Merpati and Batavia Air fly circuitous routes with stops at intermediate cities like Denpasar (Bali) Makassar (Ujung Panjang).
Pelni boats also stop at Jayapura and Farfak , amongst other destinations. This is a relaxing and interesting way to arrive if you have the time.
The only land border crossing between Papua and Papua New Guinea open to foreigners is on the north coast between Jayapura and Vanimo (PNG), called the Skouw - Wutung border crossing. It is open from 8AM to 4PM (Indonesian time, add one hour for PNG opening hours). There is no visa on arrival issued for PNG at the crossing, you need a valid visa which can be either obtained before leaving in your home country or for free at the PNG consulate general in Entrop, close to Jayapura. Processing at the latter one can take a couple of days, but sometimes it is ready the same day if you come early. There is a money changer offering good rates right in the modern border crossing building, at the side that leads from PNG to IND. It is on the Indonesian side so you can get PNG Kina before you cross into PNG.
There is no public transport from Jayapura to the border, so car or motorbike hire, taxi etc. for some of the distance is required. From the PNG side to the next town Vanimo there are PMVs (50 min, 10 PGK).
As of September 2017 arriving from PNG it is possible to get a Indonesian entry permit on arrival, for free and valid for 30 days without possibility of prolonging it, like the one you get at the airports. This seems to by valid only for certain countries, a list and description of the procedure can be found online. Also there is no need anymore for obtaining an exit stamp in Jayapura before going to the Indonesian side of the border.
In other cases Indonesian visas can easily obtained at the Indonesian consulate in Vanimo/PNG. Normal processing time is 3 days, but it is possible to receive the visa in a matter of hours if you ask nicely and/or bribe the staff.
Papua's main cities are not connected by road, and flying is the only practical option for covering longer distances. Boat charter for river travel is surprisingly expensive, the price going from US$50/day for a simple canoe to a whopping US$500/day (incl. gas) for a motorized outboard.
PELNI- best way to get around. The ship named Labobar being a good choice.
Sorong to Waisai, Capital of Raja Ampat - Big Speed Boat - Rp 130,000/person
Waisai to Arborek - Small fibre boat - RP1,000,000/way.
Raja Ampat is one of the most visited attractions. The islands of Arborek, Kri, Sawingrai among others have so much to offer, but it is the Home stays, lodges, Resorts etc. Its a divers paradise.
Native Papuan food usually consists of boar with tubers such as sweet potato.
The Free Papua Movement (Operasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) continues to operate throughout Papua and all of Papua's major cities have seen violently suppressed riots. The OPM has also kidnapped Western hostages on two occasions, although their targets are mining company employees and Indonesian security personnel, not tourists.
Large saltwater crocodiles can be encountered in all low-lying waterways and beaches.
Malaria is endemic to the province. Precautions are highly recommended.