This easternmost province of Indonesia (formerly known as West Irian Jaya) comprises the western half of the island of New Guinea, the world’s largest and highest tropical island. The eastern half of the island is the independent country of Papua New Guinea. Papua retains many traditional cultures and is home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world. Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area in the Asia-Pacific region. It ranges from Papua’s southwest coast to its central mountains. Tourism concentrates in two regions, one of them being the Asmat region in southwest Papua.
The dense forests of Papua are rich with an intricate mosaic of different tribal groups; there are approximately 255 indigenous groups in Papua alone, including some groups who have remained uncontacted. Each group has their own language, some unrelated to any other in the world, and most groups are made up of just a few hundred people. This huge diversity has contributed to approximately 25% of the world’s languages being spoken in New Guinea. This diversity has been created by the endlessly varied landscape Papua has to offer; from coastal areas to mountainous regions the environment has shaped the way of life and development of these groups.
The central mountainous region of Papua is home to the highland people who cultivate the land with sweet potatoes, yams, canes and other plants. The tribes who live within the famous Baliem valley Papua are included here, the Dani, Lani and Yali; all still practice their traditional cultures and customs, celebrated at the annual Baliem Valley Festival. The people who live in the central mountain ranges and the Jayawijaya Highlands, including the Baliem valley are famous for wearing koteka, the penis gourd. These koteka vary greatly between different tribes and are often an identifying feature of the tribe.