Papua Travel Information - Western Papua
Western Papua: Splendid Islands & Unspoilt Mountains

The western part of Papua, made up by the Bird's Head and Bomberai peninsulas as well as the sprawling Raja Ampat archipelago, actually forms a separate province from the rest of the region. It also tends to attract a separate set of visitors, ones more interested in marine wonders or maybe in unique birdlife than in looking for grass-skirted natives or tribal art. Due to its position closest to the Malay world, and in fact part of the Sultanate of Tidore from North Maluku before the Europeans arrived, this part of Papua has indeed been more heavily influenced by trade and contact with the rest of Indonesia than most. This is the only area where a few Muslim enclaves have developed, notably around Fakfak, Sorong and in the Raja Ampat Islands. Handwoven ikat cloth from Timor and Portuguese cannons via Maluku have found their way here, and have become parts of the traditional bride-price. Well, unique as this culture might be for Papua, it won't entice many tourists to visit. Instead, most come to cruise or dive the Raja Ampat Islands, quite possibly the most beautiful and unspoilt islands of their size in the whole country, and also home to the richest marine life on Earth. Biodiversity isn't all underwater here however, and both the islands themselves, and the Bird's Head Peninsula as well, are home to a large number of endemic species of birds and reptiles, many of them only recently discovered to science and just as beautiful as unique. A good part of these can be seen in the Arfak Mountains, which also offer a great chance to do some tough hiking to alpine lakes through traditional villages consisting of "thousand-legged houses" which are also unique to this region. While you can't hope to see traditionally dressed Papuans in most of this region any more, you will find the locals very friendly and less tourist-wise than those in the Central Highlands. The main gateway to the Arfaks is Manokwari, the capital of West Papua Province. This is my favourite city in Papua, with mountains, beaches and islands all within easy reach. Fakfak and Kaimana enjoy pretty settings, too. Sorong, the other main city, is less attractive in its own right, but it is the gateway to the aforementioned Raja Ampat Islands.
Add up all that, and you should find this part of Papua every bit as interesting as any of the others!

Attractions Off the Track Getting There

Main Attractions


The town of Sorong is located on the extreme western tip of the Bird's Head Peninsula of western Papua, and is likely to be the first landing for those arriving from the rest of Indonesia by sea. It is a rather dull place, and is mostly visited by divers heading for the superb Raja Ampat Islands to the west.

Raja Ampat

This large archipelago of stunningly beautiful islands may well be the most beautiful in all Indonesia. It is also famous as a very expensive, but outstanding diving area.
The few dive resorts there attract a steady stream of wealthy clientine, but reaching these islands for individual travellers can be very hard, as there is no regular public boat service and chartering is outrageously expensive. Besides diving, the islands also offer excellent birdwatching.


This town, backing on steep mountains and facing a beautiful bay complete with paradisic little islands at the eastern side of the Bird's Head Peninsula, is probably the prettiest and most pleasant in all Papua. It has recently become the capital of the controversially split-off new province of "West Papua". Manokwari, or actually nearby little Mansinam Island, also holds a special place in Papuan history as this is where the first missionaries settled bringing Christianity with them. As most Papuans today are Christians, they commemorate the event with a yearly festival - shown on the second photo. Pleasant as it is, Manokwari itself has few attractions - but it does serve as an excellent base for visiting nearby places of interest.

Off the Beaten Track

Arfak Mountains

These beautiful mountains behind Manokwari are a nature reserve famous for their high biodiversity, notably birdwing butterflies. They are also a popular birdwatching area with several endemic species. The Arfaks also offer excellent trekking possibilities through steep, forested hills. There are lots of traditional villages of thousand-legged houses" here, though the people themselves wear modern dress. That said, they are very friendly and trekking here is far less commercialised than in the central highlands.

Anggi Lakes

These two beautiful highland lakes are south-east of the Arfaks, and are accessible by plane from Manokwari if you don't fancy hiking. The lakes are surrounded by traditional villages.


Fakfak is a pretty town set on steep hillsides on the Bomberai peninsula of western Papua. The town's population is majority Indonesian, rather than Papuan. It is mostly worth visiting as the gateway to more interesting Kokas, but you never know - I came across a welcoming ceremony for pro-independence political leaders here, complete with traditional costumes and dancing, on my first visit! You can also explore the forested mountains behind the city, go trekking for a few days, or make day-trips to stunning waterfalls.


Across the peninsula from Fak fak, Kokas is a small town home to plentiful relics of WW II - in the form of Japanese caves and disused weaponry. The bay in front of it has beautiful rock islands, which in turn are home to ancient rock paintings, cliff graves, stalactite caves and some Papuan fishing villages.


Further southeast along the coast from Fakfak, the small town of Kaimana is famous throughout Indonesia fior its beautiful sunsets, subject of a much-loved, old song. Besides the sunsets, Kaimana is interesting for its easy access to forested limestone hills that rise right behind the town, and for coral reefs a few kms to the east.

Bitsari Bay

About an hour east of Kaimana, this bay is home to the riches collection of ancient rosk art in Papua. The "galleries" filled with paintings of various sujects are remiscent of Kakadu in northern Australia!

Triton Bay

A real off the beaten track gem of a place, this large bay further east along the coast has stunning limestone hill and island scenery rivalling that of the Raja Ampat Islands. Unfortunately, the reefs here are less rich, but t has its own set of rock paintings to make up for that.

Getting There


By Air

Apart from Sentani, the airports of western Papua are best connected to regions further west.
Between them, Sorong, Manokwari, Fakfak and Kaimana have air links with Jakarta in Java, Makassar and Manado in Sulawesi and Ambon in Maluku.

By Sea

Due to its geographic position, western Papua is the region of the island best connected by sea to the rest of Indonesia.
All Pelni ships going to Jayapura stop in Sorong and Manokwari, another one finishes its journey here, and there are even some irregular Perintis ships connecting Sorong with Ambon or North Maluku and North Sulawesi via the Raja Ampat Islands.


By Air

Flights connect the various western towns with each other as well as Nabire on the norty coast, and Sorong and Manokwari are also connected to Sentani.

By Sea

Usually two Pelni ships sail from Sorong and Manokwari on to Jayapura via Biak, Serui or Nabire every week.
Pelni ships going south from Sorong to Fakfak and Kaimana are less frequent. Public boats can take you on short hops around Fakfak and Sorong, including to Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat, but to go further afield, your only hope is to catch one of the irregular Perintis ships, or to charter your own boat.

By Bus

There are roads, mostly short, out of all major towns in western Papua, with the most useful ones being those from Fakfak towards Kokas, and from Manokwari towards Ransiki and on to the Anggi Lakes in the Arfak Mountains. The roads tend to be in poor state, and minibuses or jeeps are the only transport along them.


Ojeks for short trips could be rented in the towns.