For a lover of marine life dive into a place no one had explored before (or almost no one) is a mystical experience. If that place is also one of the best preserved coral reefs of the world, the emotion is assured. Diving in Papua is a unique experience.
Sailing around Pulau Purue, an island in the western part of the bay Cenderawasih in Papua, you’ll discover a submarine under whose head was about ten meters deep, and a great wall of coral along the coast. If you dive on both points you’ll discover one of the most pristine and colorful coral reefs that you have ever been diving in in your life. An explosion of shapes and colors that even the best landscaper could have dreamed for an underwater garden. With the added incentive that apart from some biologists and scientists, very few people have been diving in this area before.
Of course, as in many other parts of the world these seas are also depleted by overfishing. It is difficult to see large animals beyond some blacktip shark, some rays or a few small turtles.
Sail along the coast of Papua you can know a country where life is very different from what we are used to see in the documentaries which shows Aboriginal with loincloth and a bone in his nose. After the independence of Indonesia, the Dutch, the former colonial dominator, decided that the island of Papua had enough ethnic and cultural entity to be a different country, and so they planned in their campaign for decolonization. But the pressure of the newly created Indonesia, supported by the Soviet Union, stopped it and finally in 1962, the Indonesian Army seized by force the Dutch part of the island, annexing it as a province.
Papuans indigenous opposed by force, but could do just little guerrilla armed only with bows and arrows against the modern Indonesian Army. The western part of the island of Papua is still today part of Indonesia; a country, to strengthen its presence in a disputed land, usually does one thing: encourage settlement of Indonesians in the occupied new territory.
The result is that more than one million new citizens came to the island from various parts of the country. Predominantly Muslim population was installed along the coast and big cities. The original inhabitants, mostly Christians and animists, are mostly settled in the interior of the island, distributed in more than 200 tribes with their own languages. Until three or four decades ago, were still frequent tribal warfare, cannibalism and behead the enemy.
From the coast, if you’re mostly interested in diving in Papua, you can only visit small fishing villages along the coast. As you move forward away from biggest cities or to the interior, features of the inhabitants are more Papuans than Indonesian. The friendliness and hospitality are always guaranteed.
On the waterfront you see from the boat, there is the thickest and most intricate jungle you can imagine. An endless canvas. Behind that, hidden among the tangle of lianas and trees, is the real Papua.