West Papua curiosities, traditons and customs

The Cendrawasih, the bird of paradise

It is the Indonesian name of one of the endemic bird species of Papua and other surrounding areas better known as a bird of paradise. The name of this bird is significant, the combination of beautiful colors like blue, red, green, yellow and even the gold of the feather seems truly heavenly. His discovery is due to an Italian explorer such Antonio Pigafetta who in 1522 brought him to Europe to the king of Spain. There are numerous types of Cendrawasih classified according to their shapes and colors, all examples of a nature capable of creating spectacular variants and species. However, there are two main types in general; they are blue and red Cendrawasih. Blue Cendrawasih is also known as Paradisaea rudolphi in which the average size reaches 30 cm. Being able to admire these birds is not easy, you have to know the areas where they live, typically in the dense forests where they hide well. They can be observed almost only at dawn when males sing to attract females thus allowing them to be identified more easily. Unfortunately, Cendrawasih is included in the list of nearly extinct animals in Indonesia due to deforestation for the production of agricultural land.

The tribal festival of Baliem

This festival is an opportunity for the different ethnic groups that inhabit the central highlands of West Papua to meet and celebrate their annual festival. The ethnic groups that are found are the Dani (famous Aborigines of the highlands), the Lani and the Yali (one of the pygmy tribes that live in the mountains and rarely exceed the height of 1.50 cm). Located in the middle of the mountains of the same name, Baliem is an impressive green valley that has long been hidden and isolated. On the occasion of the Festival, various tribes that live around the area send groups to represent their traditions, dances and cultures giving visitors the perfect opportunity to experience the wealth of tribal cultures of Papua. The climax of the Festival are the fake tribal battles that are held to maintain men's agility and physical preparation for the defense of their villages. To prepare for these battles, the organizers prepare a large outdoor arena where up to 1000 warriors and dancers perform. All the participants of the different tribes are dressed in typical costumes and stage a tribal war with spears and arrows. All this is accompanied by traditional Papuan music performed with the Pikon, a musical instrument made with the bark of wood that produces sounds by blowing into it. These sounds produce music with a calming effect and being able to play this instrument requires special skills. In addition to the simulated battles, many try their hand at cooking pork and vegetables underground, thus allowing you to understand more deeply the culture of the individual ethnic groups that inhabit these areas.

Raja Ampat legend

Even this corner of paradise has its legend that tries in some way to explain the birth of the 4 main islands of the archipelago. Tradition has it that in a distant time a woman found 7 dragon eggs which she brought to her home. After months, 5 of these eggs would hatch giving birth to 4 male and one female dragons, all dressed in royal clothes. The males became the kings of the current islands of the Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo archipelago, while the female reached the island of Numfor carried on a boat-shaped shell. One of the remaining eggs turned into a ghost and then vanished, while the last never hatched. And still today there is a house that the locals say is that of the woman who, in the distant past, was given the task of guarding the royal eggs .....

Wutukala dance

Wutukala is a typical dance of the Moy people, one of the many tribes that live in the coastal region of Sorong.
The main livelihood of these populations is fishing which has been practiced since time immemorial using spears, a difficult, demanding practice with uncertain results. The tribe of Moy has long adopted another fishing method based on tuba root powder, a plant that grows abundantly in these lands. Tuba root powder is a delicate toxin that makes fish dizzy making it easier to catch.
Well this dance is propitiatory for this fishing method, it is performed by male and female dancers who form 5 to 6 couples. The dancers wear dresses like skirts made of roots and leaves that are placed on the waist and a fur headdress of Cenderawasih (bird of paradise). Different ethnic paintings in black and white on the bodies of the dancers. Even the dancers wear the same clothes as men adapted to the shape of the body of women.
Men hold spears while women wear Noken for carrying fish (a knotted or woven bag that hangs on the head). This dance is not only accompanied by musical instruments but also traditional songs that describe the gratitude and joy of the whole community.

Share this page

Raja Ampat
travel story

A constellation of wild islands with a marine life full of beautifully colored corals and many tropical fish

Raja Ampat
photo albums

Albums that collect the most interesting photographs, curious of Raja Ampat features taken during my trip.

Sorong climate

Sorong climate graph, month by month with days of sun, of rain, precipitation, sunshine.

Robert's blog

Travel experiences and photography in pills

Newsletter Alisei

Trips near
West Papua


A vast country with thousands of islands where tradition, culture, and nature are all to be discovered .....


This destination is proposed as a complex set of traditions, religion, culture and nature .......