Fakfak Regency in West Papua: an Old Town Full of History

West Papua
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Fakfak Regency is located in the southern ‘bird’s head’ part of Papua Island. It’s neighboring Bintuni Bay in the north, the Arafura Sea in the south, Seram Sea and Berau Bay in the west, and Kaimana Regency in the south and east. Fakfak is strategically located since it is very close to Ambon city, even closer than the other Papua Island cities.

Besides its strategic location, Fakfak is well known for its natural beauties. One of the special natural commodities is nutmeg, and Fakfak has an abundance of nutmeg plantations. Because of this reason, Fakfak is named the City of Nutmeg and becomes the best nutmeg producer from Papua.

West Papua
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Established City From the 14th Century

Fakfak Regency is one of the oldest cities in West Papua and was mentioned at the time of Majapahit Kingdom as the spice trading route in Indonesia. Hari Suroto—the researcher of the Archaeological Board—said that the word Fakfak was mentioned in Tome of Negarakertagama, written by Mpu Prapanca in 1365 BC.

Written in that tome was ‘muwah tigang i Wandan Ambwan athawa Maloko Wanin’. It’s translated as Majapahit Kingdom rules over several areas in East Indonesia: Wandan (Banda), Ambwan (Ambon), Maloko (Maluku), and Wanin (Onin cape, Fakfak). Tome of Negarakertagama stated that the Onon cape in West Papua is the producer of nutmegs, which almost all the areas in Fakfak are covered with. 

There are even two different kinds of nutmegs in Fakfak: Myristica fragrans Houtt from Banda Island with its round shape fruit and Papuan nutmeg or Myristica argentea Warb with oblong-shaped and rough-textured skin fruit. Until now, the Fakfak region is the biggest nutmeg producer in Indonesia.

As the biggest nutmeg producer region, Onin cape became the most visited region for Muslim merchants and sailors in the early 16th century. However, long before that, native settlers of Fakfak were also sailors by profession in the prehistoric era, demonstrated by their prehistoric paintings on the karst walls in the north. Painting such as circles, handprints, boomerangs, and other patterns can be seen faintly.

Visiting the Old Town in Kokas district, Fakfak Regency, West Papua Province

In the local tongue, Kokas or Kokah means ‘contents.’ This old district in the Fakfak region held abundant natural resources and historical artifacts. We must travel 50 kilometers by land to reach this district, two hours from the nearest city.

In Kokas, we can visit seaports with beautiful shopping places in old architectural design. Remains of cannons, hill forts, and bunkers from the Japanese World War II era are popular destinations for tourism. Another historical site in Fakfak is Patimburak Old Mosque, built in 1870—evidence of Islamic influence in Kokas during the Sultanate of Tidore.

Then we can continue the journey to the ancient site of Tapurarang by longboat for an hour. This site is located on the cliff of Kokas Bay, which can only be accessed during the tide. We can see prehistoric paintings in the patterns of handprints, fishes, insects, scorpions, and human skulls on this cliff. Because of the red pigments used in the prints, locals called it the handprints of blood.

That’s not the only prehistoric tour offered by the Kokas region. We can also visit several sites not far from Tapurarang, with prehistoric skull remains scattered around on the sandy beach, believed to be the remains of Kokas district ancestors. Their culture dictates to leave the remains of their departed by the cliffs, caves, promontories, or under the trees believed to be sacred.

If prehistoric sites are not your cup of tea, you can find natural beauties such as birds of paradise, the endemics of West Papua, like cockatoos, parrots, and cendrawasih.

Those are a few historical sites in the Fakfak, West Papua. If you’ve got a chance to visit the Fakfak region, be sure to visit those sites and try the nutmeg!