Dive travel writer
From above: This gorgeous view can be seen from the hilltop of Piaynemo. (JP/Nethy Dharma Somba)
No destination in Indonesia is as remote and wild as West Papua. With verdant forests full of birdlife and immaculate coral reefs, this is a nature lover's paradise.
Don’t miss it for your chance to go island hopping, scuba diving, hiking or immersing in the diverse tribal cultures West Papua is known for.
West Papua’s waters are teeming with life, including numerous whale sharks that you can go swimming with.
Large numbers of these ocean giants frequent Kwatisore Bay in Cenderawasih and have a very special relationship with the local fishermen.
All along the bay, fishermen use floating platforms to secure their nets and have always given away part of their catch to the whale sharks.
The result is a totally unique dive site where the whale sharks are completely at ease with divers and snorkelers around them, allowing you to get close to these impressive animals.
When you’ve had your fill of whale sharks, be sure to immerse yourself in the history of Cenderawasih Bay.
The area was subject to many battles between Allied and Japanese forces in WWII and is littered with diveable wrecks of aircraft and ships.
While you’re busy exploring the wrecks you can also spot a range of marine life from sea turtles to tiny pygmy seahorses and sea snakes.
If you’re going to West Papua you can’t miss a trip to Raja Ampat’s Islands.
Pay a visit and you’ll be surrounded by over 1500 picture-perfect small islands, cays and shoals.
Make sure you pack your camera and take time for a short hike up to Piaynemo Island’s viewpoint. You can capture an iconic image of Raja Ampat’s islands at the top.
Gracing the pages of many websites, you’ll have undoubtedly seen this view before. It’s a classic photo opportunity.
Blue is the warmest color: Children play on a beach on one of the Fam Islands, one of Raja Ampat's conservation zones. (JP/Seto Wardhana)
Now you’ve seen Raja Ampat’s islands from a height, it’s time to hop on the water and go cruising for a chance to truly switch off.
You can sail from island to island each day and access tucked-away beaches as you go.
As you listen to the birdlife, admire the forested islands and watch spectacular sunsets each night, you’ll soon forget the city life exists.
Sitting within the famed Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat is home to some of the richest coral reefs on Earth.
With over 1500 fish species and 537 coral species, you won’t believe your eyes as you swim over Raja Ampat’s colorful coral reefs.
If you can tear your eyes away from the coral and reef fish, you can also spot large schools of pelagic fish, turtles and numerous manta rays.
Look closely and you might find tiny multicolored sea slugs dotted across the reefs and an array of other critters.
Long sought after by divers around the world, Raja Ampat scuba diving (www.liveaboard.com/diving/indonesia/raja-ampat/scuba) is not to be missed. Grab your snorkel and fins to find out what all the fuss is about.
If you’re a fan of bird watching and photography, West Papua is for you.
The lush forests are home to some of the most beautiful birds in the world, with over 700 birds species discovered there so far.
Take a trip to Waigeo in the Raja Ampat Islands and you can spot characterful birds of paradise.
You can also join guided short and multiday birding tours that will take you into the lowlands and montane forests.
See-through sea: A fisherman tries to reach the shore of one of the Fam Islands. (JP/Seto Wardhana)
If you’re looking for perfect clear waters to swim in, take a trip to Pasir Timbul beach. You won’t be disappointed.
One of the most beautiful sandbanks in the world, the immaculate white sands slope gently into clear turquoise waters.
You can go swimming and snorkeling there or just kick back and watch the day go by.
West Papua is home to around 312 different tribes, including some that have never been in contact. This diversity of communities has created fascinating cultures that you can experience.
You can meet local communities when you go island hopping and enjoy homestays at smaller islands such as Arborek, Sawingray and Yenbuba.
If you visit in August this year you can enjoy the 30th Baliem Valley festival on August 7-10.
Bringing together the peoples of Wamena’s highlands and Baliem Valley, the festival is a rare chance to experience the different traditions of the tribes without trekking deep into West Papua.
Take a trip to Misool Island, Raja Ampat and you can swim with huge populations of harmless jellyfish.
The popular Jellyfish Lake is home to thousands of golden medusa jellyfish that you can swim with, without fear of being stung.
If you don’t want to go for a swim, that’s okay. The waters are clear so you can see the jellyfish from land and enjoy their mesmerizing movements as they drift by.
If you’re up for a real challenge and some serious training, you can hike one of the world’s 7 summits in West Papua. The Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the largest national park in Southeast Asia and hosts the tallest island peak in the world; the Carstensz Pyramid.
Be warned, this impressive peak is for experienced hikers and climbers only and should only be attempted as part of a guided expedition.
Alternatively, you can visit parts of this diverse park with guides. Hiking the Baliem Valley from Wamena is a popular choice.
This article was written by Kathryn, a diver and writer with LiveAboard.com.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.