The Unique Landscape and Wildlife of West Papua Mountains and Caves

west papua

West Papua is lined with unique landscape, making the region fitting for a candidate of “Paradise on Earth”.

The breathtaking landscape is a home to equally breathtaking and vibrant wildlife.

These landscapes can be grouped into three major regions: highlands, coastal regions, and lowland rainforests.

Highland Regions

The island of Papua is famous for its highland regions, where many endemic and endangered wildlife call it home.

The highland region of Papua peaked at the summit of Jayawijaya Mountains, the Puncak Jaya summit.

Sitting at 4884 meters of elevation, Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain peak of Indonesia as well as the highest mountain peak of an island on Earth.

While the snowy Jayawijaya might prevent most wildlife from surviving in the region, the lower-altitude highlands such as Arfak Mountains and Baliem Valley are teeming with life.

Baliem Valley is home to several native Papuan tribes—Yali, Dani, and Lani Tribes—while Arfak is a residence to at least four different tribes: Meyakh, Sougb, Hatam, and Moley.

Coastal Regions

Perhaps, the most iconic site of West Papua’s coastal region is Raja Ampat. Here, you can find traces of prehistoric human settlements as well as artifacts from Islamic Sultanate era.

One of the hundreds of islands in Raja Ampat that gained massive popularity for its landscape is Arborek Island.

The water surrounding the island is a much beloved conservation area.

Being a part of Raja Ampat archipelago, Arborek Island is a home for hundreds of types of corals, more than 1000 species of fishes, and around 700 species of mollusks.

West Papua’s coastal region is also home to many caves that hold artifacts of earlier human civilization and activities.

One of the most recent caves discovered near the coastal area is Kalabus Cave in Makbon District, Sorong Regency.

In Kalabus Cave, archaeologists have excavated various artifacts and ecofacts dated to be from the prehistoric era.

Pottery fragments are scattere on the cave floor, indicating that early humans may have call this cave home. This notion is support by the presence of ecofacts in the form of seashells.

These traces of early human activities indicate that the coastal region of West Papua is not only a home to wildlife, but also for human civilization as well.

Lowland Rainforest Regions

An important thing to note about West Papua’s rainforest is that it is the main hope of Indonesia’s virgin rainforest.

The rainforest is a home to more than 200,000 species of invertebrate and more than 3,000 species of vertebrate.

Most species of the elusive, almost-mythical birds of paradise also reside in the rainforest. Many native Papuan tribes depend on the forest to support their livelihood.

Besides fauna and native tribes, several endemic species of flora can only be find in West Papua’s rainforest. Some of these indigenous plant species are used for traditional medicinal herbs, such as:

  • Sampare leaves, used primarily to treat malaria patients.
  • Mahkota dewa, used to treat various ailments, including menstrual pain.
  • Sambiloto leaves, another traditional cure for malaria.
  • Red fruit, one of the most iconic medicinal herbs of Papua, is use traditionally as stamina enhancer and immune system booster.
  • Akway wood, consumed as herbal tea to help relieve joint pain and reduce menstrual pain.

The Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea, better known as West Papua, is a region as diverse as its wildlife and as vibrant as its people.

Here, the unique landscapes formed three major regions: highland, coastal, and lowland rainforest.

The varied landscape is a fitting home for an equally massive variation of lives that calls this island paradise home.