Raja Ampat’s Cultural Carnival: Everything You Need to Know

West Papua

Raja Ampat, West Papua, has been known as a world-class tourism destination with its amazing fiesta, diving spots, and luxury resorts. Every year, the Department of Tourism officials in Raja Ampat work closely with the locals and the resort owners to hold a festival that celebrates the culture of Raja Ampat, as well as to attract tourists to come.

It presents the culture of the people, the food, the dance, and the way they preserve nature. It is usually held in around the fourth quarter every year. Last year in 2019, the festival was held in October. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the carnival would be held virtually this year.

Different Location for Each Year Carnival Makes It Interesting

West Papua

There are many places to explore in Raja Ampat; that is why this Papuan cultural carnival is held in different locations each year to expose the beauty of every corner of Raja Ampat. In 2019, the carnival was held in Waisai, around three hours of speedboat from Sorong, West Papua

Some of the rundown on the carnival are rowboat races, underwater photography competition, beach sports like volley, and cultural performance. Visitors can also try Raja Ampat’s culinary and tropical fruits. What makes it interesting is that the cultural shows do not only come from Raja Ampat but also several other tribes in West Papua. In 2019, the Wakatobi Regency from North Sulawesi also took part in the carnival.

Kajang, the Main Attraction of the Carnival

West Papua

Have you ever wondered how the people in the ancient time explore the sea? In the Papuan culture carnival, you can see some of the Kajang boats on display, roaming around the sea near the beach. The people riding on Kajang also wear their traditional attributes which can be mesmerizing to see. 

Kajang boat was used by the tribe to fish or to visit families on different islands. It is covered by hay and also has a roof made of hay. The simplicity of the boat construction makes us wonder more about how they travel in ancient times.

The boat is native of Misool and area on the south of Raja Ampat. Misool is one of the four main islands of Raja Ampat and one of the most beautiful with its hills and underwater life. It is also famous for its Telaga Love or Love Lake, where the reefs are standing in such form that the waters look like a heart shape from a distance. 

The Virtual Papuan Cultural Carnival

West Papua

The 10th Raja Ampat Carnival was held virtually on 20—21 November 2020. To avoid the spread of COVID-19, the officials have organized a new way of showing the Raja Ampat culture to the world. The event was held through all online platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and YouTube Live. 

The shows were divided into four clusters. The first one was the tourism spot cluster which showed the beauty of the destinations, such as Timbu Beach, Kalibiru, Arborek, Painemo, and six other destinations. The audiences were also taken to virtually see the birds of paradise in Waigeo, Raja Ampat. 

The second cluster was the culinary cluster which took the audience to see the making of West Papuan staple food, papeda, made from sago trees. We can see the Mamas of Mayalibit Bay who traditionally cook the papeda and fish into appealing delicacies. 

Meanwhile, the third cluster showed the dance and culture of the tribes in West Papua. There were around 10 dances that would be shown in the virtual carnival. Dances like the Wor dance, Lalayon dance, and Gale-gale dance are some of the dances that used to be performed by the Raja Ampat tribes to welcome their guests. There were also some of the more modern dances, created by the Raja Ampat youths. 

The last cluster was the handicraft exhibition. The virtual tour took the audience to see the making of the handicraft, such as noken and crafts made out of seashells. The virtual tour relied on the videography and the narratives that made the audience felt the ambiance so that it gave a real experience on Raja Ampat.

Planning to Go to Raja Ampat Carnival

West Papua

It is more likely that the Papuan cultural carnival would be organized next year around the same time. To get to the festival, the closest place to go to is Sorong. There are direct flights from Jakarta or Makassar that fly to Sorong, where you can continue the trip by boat to one of the islands in Raja Ampat, West Papua.

It takes around four hours by boat. However, the boat serving Sorong – Raja Ampat has an adequate facility for the tourists to rest along the boat ride. Though Raja Ampat is known for its luxury resorts, visitors can still find a more affordable stay by looking for local guesthouses. 

Since it attracts hundreds of tourists every year, it is recommended that you book a place months before departure. There are travel agents that can organize the trip for you so that you will get to see the beauty of Raja Ampat from up close.