Travel into inner Papua can be relaxing when commenced with a visit to Lake Sentani, a scenic beauty over glittering water located near Jayapura, capital city of Papua. The stillness of the water is most peaceful, evoking a peculiar wonder whether such a lake should indeed exist in paradise. The embracing Cyclops Mountains to the north and the lush vegetation as backdrop, securely protect the twenty four villages surrounding the lake. The people here are friendly and creative, carving their reputation among the best craft makers in the land of Papua.
To best experience the excitement of boating on the lake, rent a motorized canoe available at one of the villages. The guide who has taken you on the overnight tour from Jayapura will show you where to get one of the dugout canoes. Experience the thrill of being caressed by the warm breeze while speeding on the lake, photograph the stilt houses, know the local, and make friends with your guide, and eventually boldly brag about it in the travel blogs.
Lake Sentani and its surrounding areas was once the training field for amphibious aircraft landings. It was built by the Japanese and taken over by the US Army in 1944. American war legend, General McArthur was said to have gazed on the lake and its 22 islets, and came up with his victorious island-hopping strategy.
Living as fish farmers, and the close location to the provincial capital, are reasons why most of the population around the lake are open to visitors. Stilt houses with ponds and nets are common landscapes. The lake is home to at least 33 species of fish, of which almost half of them are native. The Sawfish (Pristis microdon) was once the premier host of the lake, which today is said to have become extinct. This fish is one of the indigenous ornaments found on Sentani’s woodcrafts. Hang one of these items on your wall as a mark that you have been dramatically introduced to the wilderness of Papua.
Sentani Airport of Jayapura is the hub for your travels into the interior of Papua. Five minute driving from the airport is The Sentani Indah Hotel. It is easier to find accommodation in Jayapura. There are a number of hotels here. One of the best hotels existing in Jayapura is the Swiss-Belhotel, with its 96 hotel rooms. Mickey Restaurant is pretty comfortable around Lake Sentani and Jayapura.
Yougwa Restaurant is mostly visited by tourists when visiting Asei Island. It is in the vicinity of the local artist hall, so that you can have a good lunch and assorted Papuan arts and crafts to buy. Restaurants are also available at the bank of the lake, selling freshwater prawns and indigenous fish.
If the choice of food available is too limited for you, you can go to Jayapura to find restaurants and places to eat like at the pasar malam or night market, as there are numerous choices of food.
Hamadi Market is an interesting place to buy Papuan souvenirs in particular those with Lake Sentani motifs. It is close to the Hamadi Beach, where you can also see World War II remians on the beach.
Asei Island is a place to find wood bark cloth with beautiful paintings made by local artists. The motifs are very unique and cannot be found elsewhere. If you are interested enough, trace each related place represented in the motifs on the souvenir you buy. For example, crocodile motif denotes the twisting rivers of Papua, and the nearest spot to find crocodiles is a place between Lake Sentani and Jayapura, where this man-eating creature is domesticated and cultured. Please refer to travel tips and travel essentials in Papua related articles. It is best to experience Papua with the assistance of a travel agency or take a package tour offered by many travel agencies.
In the village of Taturi, stone paintings are a wonder worth visiting. Located on a small hill at the bank of the lake, it is a sight to record while canoeing. Another village offering a beautiful daytrip is the Doyo Lama, a place for rock painting art. It is a fantastic start to understand the culture of Papua.
Remnants of World War II scatter around the lake as it was an important command headquarters during the war. On one of the hills, on Mount Ifar, a monument has been built to commemorate American General McArthur’s military command in the Pacific and his victory. Many visitors consider it a must see tourist attraction as it also offers a spectacular view of the lake with as its background the Cyclops Mountains.
Villages around Lake Sentani have different customs, yet originate from a few common cultures as evident from similar beliefs and rites. The Isolo, for example, is a ceremony that unites the diverse cultures in the 24 villages around the lake. It is a ceremony staged when merchandise are delivered from one village to another. It can be also be seen as part of the Lake Sentani Festival staged during the month of June.
Asei Island is one of the artist’s homes in the vicinity of the lake. Asei islanders are known to create interesting motifs painted on bark cloths. Bark cloth is a traditional apparel for Sentani women, and mostly women are those who catch fish on the lake. Among the motifs are spirals that symbolize the swirls of Lake Sentani, there is the crocodile, the sawfish or swordfish of Sentani, as well as combined motifs found in the Asmat Tribe like the bipane, a wild boar tusk symbol, and Asmat human figures. The sale of Asmat motifs at Lake Sentani is one of the unspoken understandings among the Papuan artists. The Lake Sentani Cultural Festival is a huge attraction staged yearly in Kalkote, Sentani. Conducted at an altitude of 75 meters above sea-level, the festival stages war dances on boats, which is a spectacular attraction for visitors. Several lake-villages representatives from around Papua and Indonesia participate to show their skills and cultural similarities. Two previous festivals had been successfully staged on the Lake.
Lake Sentani is about 30 minute driving westward from the city of Jayapura. All flights land and take off from Sentani Airport, located around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Jayapura. As a capital city of a vast province, Jayapura is well connected to many large cities in Indonesia by air and by sea. Large airline offices are in this city. It is advisable to always check and double-check your flight as there is a tendency to overbook seats at times.
Outside the airport, minibuses wait for passengers to drive to Jayapura. The price can change variably. Make sure you agree on the price before boarding.