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10 Facts of The Eastern Island in Indonesia, Papua

by Rosidin Ali

Papua is one of the interesting island in Indonesia. Located in east Indonesia, it’s directly bordered with Papua New Guinea as its neighbour. Papua has around 800.000 km in wide making it the largest island in Indonesia and the 2nd biggest island in the world. Originally, it consists of one province, Papua. But in 2003, Indonesian government divides the island on to two province, Papua and West Papua.

Papua offers many beautiful places, including its unique animals and plantation. It’s one of biggest contributors to Indonesian multiculturalism trough cultural beliefs and activities. From Wakatobi to Lorentz National Park, here are some interesting facts about Indonesian unique island, Papua:

1. Papua Has been through several Name Changes

Papua is the newest name that Indonesian government give to the province. If we draw back to colonization era, colonial government gave the island name Nugini Belanda (Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea or Dutch New Guinea). After Indonesia declared its independence, the island joined Indonesia as its province under the name Provinsi Irian Barat (West Irian Province). In New Order Era, President Soeharto changed its name to Irian Jaya. Irian Jaya held its status until 2001 under the new local regulation that changes its name to Papua. Finally, in 2003, Papua is divided on to two province, Papua and West Papua.

2. Interesting Geographical Facts and Demography

Papua consists of 29 provinces as Jayapura as its capital city. Other region than Jayapura is considered village. Nonetheless, it’s only a matter of administrative work since most of region in Papua has been advanced in development.

Papua also has various tribes, such as Asmat that lives in Asmat region. There are also Empur tribe that lives in Kebar and Amberbaken and Sentani tribe that lives in Sentani Lake. Papua has 25 different tribes spreading across the province. Not only that, some of them also migrate to other province such as NTT (Nusa Tenggara Timur), NTB (Nusa Tenggara Barat), Java, Kalimantan, and Sumatra.

3. Papua Has Unique Traditional Weapon

Like other tribe and cultural community in Indonesia, Papua has traditional weapon as their community’s identity. The weapon is called Pisau Belati. It’s produced from bird’s foot bone of Kasuari (local bird) and they add its fur for accessory. There’s also bow and arrow built upon local resources such as bamboo and rattan. Local people use the bow to hunt in the forest.

4. It also Has Its Own Traditional Music and Performance

Papua also has traditional music instrument such as Tifa and Noken. Tifa has form like a drum made of wood and animal skin as its source of sound. This musical instrument is used to accompany traditional dance such as Tari Perang (War Dance) and Tari Lenso. Papua also has some beautiful traditional dance other than Tari Perang and Lenso which also use various kind of musical instrument. Tifa has different name according to where it’s created. Generally in Papua it’s called Tifa, but some tribes name it Titir and in Maluku, people name it Tahito or Tihai.

There’s also another musical instrument that’s Noken. It consists of webs made of plant’s root or leafs that has been dried up then it’s knitted like a web. Noken has already been recognized by UNESCO as one of the Indonesian cultural heritage in 2012. Then Papuan government starts to preserve Noken industry by supporting its raw material and its environment.

5. Don’t Forget about Its Amazing Traditional Cuisine

In Papua, the primary food consumed by local people in daily basis is usually Sagu. Sagu is kind of flavour from Sagu Tree that contains very rich carbohydrate that’s good to fuel body’s energy. Local people usually serves Sagu with processed fish seasoned by turmeric.

Local people call this processed Sagu as Pepeda. Anthropologist calls Pepeda as rare food to be found in Indonesia. It’s usually found in minor tribe such as Sentani, Arso, and Manokwari. There are also more than only processed Sagu in Papua as they also have rich ingredient.

6. Papua also Cares about Nature as They Have Big National Park

There are two national park in Papua. One, is Lorentz National Park. This national park is inhabitable since it’s mostly covered by forest which is still pure. Its biodiversity isn’t yet disturbed by human hands. This national park is considered as the largest national park in South East Asia. In 1999, UNESCO acknowledged this site as world heritage as its plant and animal are still wild and untouched. Local people initiates the preservation to save its ecological ecosystem and its biodiversity.

Other national park is Wasur National Park. 70% of its land is still untouched, making it one of the biggest biodiversity resource in Indonesia. Most of its land consists of Savana, other than that there are mangrove, monsoon, bamboo, and Sagu forest. Wasur National Park is located in Merauke.

7. Papua Has the Highest Mountain Which is Mount Jayawijaya

Mount Jayawijaya or Carstenz Pyramid is the highest summit among Indonesian mountain. It has around 4800 meters in height, making it the only summit that has glacier area in tropical country. This summit is found by Dutch explorer in 1623 and named it Carstenz Pyramid after they found the glacier era. Before that, the summit is called Nemangkawi.

In 1909, an expedition led by Austrian explorer accomplished in the first time in history to reach the glacier summit. After that, in 1919 National Lorentz Park was established following the report of this expedition.

8. Other Than Jayawijaya, There Are Several Breath-taking Tourism Sites

Papua offers various natural tourism site that will worth your vacation time. It’s a waste of time if you visit Papua and not going to one of this place. First, there’s infamous Raja Ampat. It consists of several islands that sparks its beauty. It also has beautiful and rich marine biota that you can enjoy while diving. Near Raja Ampat, there’s Sauwandarek village, here you can meet with local people and buy their products to be your souvenirs.

There’s also Sentani Lake that has 9000 hectares in width. It is covered with green scenery here and there and also the water quality in the lake is still fresh and unpolluted. Visitors can also rent small ship around the lake and start the journey to experience the beauty of natural scenery there.

9. Local People Still Hold Tradition and Rituals

Papuan people still believe in communal bonding and practice it through rituals. One of its rituals is Barapen. This ritual has purpose to show gratitude to God and strengthen the friendship and neighbourhood. Barapen is a tradition to roast every culinary together in the centre of a field then eat it together.

It takes long process from digging the ground, prepare the fire, then roasting the ingredient. It somehow becomes one of tourist attraction since the ritual is held in outdoor and a lot of local people come to celebrate the rituals. There are other unique rituals in Papua but it’s held in different region which makes Papua one of the provinces that has rich cultural rituals.

10. Papua Has Unique Endemic Animals and Plants

Papua is located near Australia and New Guinea which influence its endemic animals. Papua has different endemic animal compared to other province in Indonesia. One of its popular animal is Cendrawasih. A bird with long, beautiful, and colourful tail when it opens is one of unique identity that Papua has. Other than Cendrawasih, There are several breath-taking birds species that can only be found in Papua.

Papua also has Koala and Kangaroo because its location.  There are also unique plants such as Nail Plant and Tiger Orchid that can only be found there.

Those are some interesting facts about Papua that makes this region very interesting. It has beautiful traditions and natural resources. Papua also has unique food, weapon, and music instrumental. Its location in the east of Indonesia makes it more unique because they have different cultural activities and believe. Papua is one of the most beautiful region in Indonesia thanks to its people, culture, and tradition. So, There’s no many doubt if you want to visit Papua right now.

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