The Maoke Mountains, an extension of the cordillera composing the central highlands of Papua New Guinea, stretch about 400 miles (640 km) east-west across the central part of Papua and rise to an elevation of 16,024 feet (4,884 metres) at Jaya Peak. The summits are heavily forested, except for the highest ones, which consist of glaciated rock. To the north is the east-west valley of the Tariku and Taritatu rivers, tributaries of the northwestward-flowing Mamberamo River.
The southern and northern lowlands stretch for hundreds of kilometres and include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and expanses of mangrove forest.
Ecological threats include logging-induced deforestation, forest conversion for plantation agriculture (including oil palm), smallholder agricultural conversion, the introduction and potential spread of alien species such as the crab-eating macaque which preys on and competes with indigenous species, the illegal species trade, and water pollution from oil and mining operations.
The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic. Papua’s known forest fauna includes; marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, cuscuses); other mammals (including the endangered long-beaked echidna); bird species such as birds-of-paradise, cassowaries, parrots, and cockatoos; the world’s longest lizards (Papua monitor); and the world’s largest butterflies.
The waterways and wetlands of Papua are also home to salt and freshwater crocodile, tree monitors, flying foxes, osprey, bats and other animals; while the equatorial glacier fields remain largely unexplored.
Protected areas within Papua province include the World Heritage Lorentz National Park, and the Wasur National Park, a Ramsarwetland of international importance.
In February 2006, a team of scientists exploring the Foja Mountains, Sarmi, discovered new species of birds, butterflies, amphibians, and plants, including possibly the largest-flowered species of rhododendron.
Most of the Papua’s people are engaged in agriculture (including forestry and fishing). Rice is the chief food crop, although cassava, sweet potatoes, soybeans, corn (maize), green beans, and peanuts (groundnuts) are also important. Other notable farm products include palm oil, cocoa, and nutmeg. The forests yield timber and copal (varnish resin), while assorted finfish, shrimp, oysters and other shellfish, sea cucumbers, and seaweed are among the products of Papua’s fisheries. Agricultural activities support a small manufacturing sector, the principal products of which include processed foods, lumber, wooden furniture, and other wooden goods.
The climate of West Papua varies from equatorial with high rainfall and diffuse seasons, however commonly involving a double rainfall peak, to monsoonal in the Trans-Fly zone, where a short concentrated wet season and prolonged dry season is normative. Highly complex local variations exist in accordance with elevation and exposure to the prevailing winds at different times of year, obviously defying quick characterization in a few words here. Certain regions, such as the Raja Ampat archipelago
for instance, have also been proven to be particularly vulnerable to the influence of ENSO-events (El Niño Southern Oscillation), with restricted rainfall during El Niño warm phases and more abundant rainfall during La Niña cold phases.
How to get there
Nearly all travellers arrive by plane. The main gateways are Biak, Manokwari and Jayapura, although there are also limited flights to Fakfak, Sorong and Timika. Garuda and Lion have direct flights from Jakarta to capital Jayapura; all other carriers, including Merpati and Batavia Air fly circuitous routes with stops at intermediate cities like Denpasar (Bali) Makassar (Ujung Panjang).
Best time to travel
At sea level daily minima range between 21-24°C throughout the year, whereas daily maxima, somewhat more variable due to cloudiness, average 30-34°C. On average, temperature decreases at a rate of roughly 0.5°C per 100 m elevation’s rise. At 1,000 m above sea level expected minima and maxima are roughly 17°C and 26°C. Snowfall and frost is regular only above 3,800 m elevation. In topographic depressions, however, ground frost may occur much lower, in the Anggi Giji lake basin of the Arfak Mountains for instance as low as 1,860 m above sea level.