Papua at a glance
 
West Papua forms the western half of the large island widely known as New Guinea. Administratively part of Indonesia, West Papua is officially known as Irian Jaya. To experience West Papua is to embark on a voyage into one of humanity's deepest mysteries. This far-away and little known island lies like a curled infant in the lap of Mother Nature. West Papua is home to the most ethnologically primitive cultures on Earth. No less than 25% of the world's languages are spoken here and obviously you will find a vast display of tribes and tribal customs. These are people largely unaffected by the strictures of the modern world as we know it; a race adapted to daily life solely through their basic survival elements.

The land of the Papuans is home to an incredibly diverse, rich and unique flora and fauna. No less than 85% of the island is covered by rainforest, much if it primary and untouched by man. Other prevailing ecosystems include steamy mangrove forest and savannah right through to alpine highlands with snow-capped mountains. Wildlife abounds and includes some of the most interesting creatures known to man. This also holds true with the magical beauty of West Papua's coastal underwater world, which hosts some truly amazing coral reefs. 
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Many parts of West Papua still remain largely unexplored by peering, inquisitive western eyes and minds. For example, it has only been around 60 years since the outside world fell upon the tribes that inhabit the Baliem Valley in West Papua. The Korowai tribes were only discovered 25 years ago and other areas remain completely unexplored.

Geography
A central East-West mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1600 km in total length. The western section is around 600 km long and 100 km across. Steep mountains 3000 to 4000 m and up to 5000 m high along the range ensure a steady supply of rain from the tropical atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks are snowbound year round. Both North and West of the central ranges the land remains mountainous mostly 1000 to 2000 m high covered by thick rain forest and a warm humid year round climate. The third major habitat feature is the southeast lowlands with extensive wetlands stretching for hundreds of kilometers. Mamberamo River sometimes referred to the "Amazon of Papua" is the province's largest river, which winds through the northern part of the province. The result is a large area of lakes and rivers known as the Lakes Plains region. The famous Baliem Valley, home of the Dani people is a tableland 1600 m above sea level in the midst of the central mountain range; Jaya Peak, sometimes known by its former Dutch name Carstensz Pyramid, is a mist covered limestone mountain peak 5030 m above sea level.

Ecology
A vital tropical rainforest with the tallest tropical trees and vast biodiversity, Papua's known forest fauna includes marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, cuscuses), other mammals (including the endangered Long-beaked Echidna), many bird species (including birds of paradise, cassowaries, parrots, cockatoos), the world's longest lizards (Papua monitor) and the world's largest butterflies. The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic.

The extensive waterways and wetlands of Papua are also home to salt and freshwater crocodile, tree monitor, flying foxes, osprey, bats and other animals; while the equatorial glacier fields remain largely unexplored.

In February 2006, a team of scientists exploring the Foja Mountains, Sarmi, discovered numerous new species of birds, butterflies, amphibians, and plants, including a species of rhododendron, which may have the largest bloom of the genus. Ecological threats include logging-induced deforestation, forest conversion for plantation agriculture (especially oil palm), small holder agricultural conversion, the introduction and potential spread of non-native 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.