West Papua is home to some of the most diverse natural resources in Indonesia. Covering an area of 25,000 km2, Lorentz National Park is the largest conserved area in Southeast Asia. UNESCO inscribed the area as a World Heritage Site in 1999 after it was declared as a national park in 1997 under regulation from the Minister of Forestry of Indonesia.
Located on two colliding plates of the earth, here are some of the facts of Lorentz National Park in West Papua:
It Has a Wide Range of Altitude
In Asia-Pacific, the national park is the only conservation area that has snow-capped mountain peaks and also a shoreline with its marine life. Puncak Jaya summit of Mount Jayawijaya is one of the three equatorial highest mountain peaks along with Mount Kenya in Kilimanjaro and the Sierra Nevada in the mountains of Andes.
The mountains also have glaciers on its slope, more popularly known as the Carstensz Glacier, West Northwall Firn, and East Northwall Firn. The diversity of altitude also includes lowland swamps, Lake Habema, mangrove conservatory, coastal area, and rich marine life.
It Is Home to Hundreds of Bird Species
Well known for its birds of paradise, Lorentz National Park in West Papua houses around 630 bird species including cassowary, pigeon species, kingfisher, and cockatoo species. It means that 95% of the bird species in West Papua can be found in this national park.
It Has Two Endemic Monotremes
The fauna world only recognizes three species of monotremes, and two of them can be found in West Papua. Monotremes are beaked mammals that lay eggs, with platypus being the most popular. The other two are short-beaked echidna and long-beaked echidna.
Cultural Diversity and Lifestyles
Indigenous people of West Papua are not only dwelling in the area but also play an important role in conservating their culture and natural resources. There are at least seven ethnic groups spread in the wide area of the park. In the highlands, there are Damal, West Dani, Lembah Baliem Dani, Nduga, and Moni. Meanwhile, we can meet the people of Asmat, Sempan, and Kamoro in the lowlands.
The cultural tribes preserve their tradition, language, culinary, costumes, and art. Carved art produces by the Asmat people, for example, has been known internationally for its intricate design and details.
No Official Guarding System
Due to the large area, this national park does not have a guarding system but relies on traditional and cultural understanding instead. The locals support and help the conservation of the area as well as the natural resources it has.
The Famous Lembah Baliem, A Festival in the National Park
One of the most visited areas of the Lorentz National Park is Lembah Baliem that held Lembah Baliem Festival annually every August. Historically, the festival held to tribute the tribal war that used to happen between the residing tribes in Lembah Baliem. The tribes used to war with their full tribal weapons, attire, and cosmetics.
Now, the annual festival has been a celebration for cultural diversity and preservation. Visitors may still find the people with full tribal costumes and weapons, but only for display. Some of the locals offer traditional guesthouses for visitors who are staying to attend the festival. The rundown includes a reenactment of the war, a local bazaar, and traditional culture shows.
If you are planning to see the festivity of Lembah Baliem during the festival, you can engage with a local tourist agent to arrange the trip. However, you may want to arrange it several weeks before the event to get more prepared since it needs to be well-prepared due to the difficulty of the trek.
Getting to Lorentz National Park
The diversity of the altitude surrounding this national park makes it rather difficult to reach. However, there are travel guides and agents who can help visitors from getting to this area. Visitors can enter the area from Wamena or Timika with some requirements.
First, visitors need to have a travel permit or known as Surat Keterangan Jalan (SKJ) from the Forestry Conservation Office in Wamena or Timika. The trip from both locations involves trekking, hiking, and possibly camping, so visitors need to be prepared and self-sufficient. If visitors are departing from Timika, they may need to take a small flight to the closest village to the park.
Secondly, it is highly recommended that any visitor should be acknowledged and accompanied by a guide to help navigate the area, as well as dealing with the language barrier. Many of the tribes would speak different dialects, and some of them do not speak Indonesian at all.
However, despite the difficult and long way to get to Lorentz National Park in West Papua, it has some of the best natural sceneries that can be found in Indonesia—maybe some of the best from all over the world.