Vanimo, the capital of Sandaun Province, sits on a neat little peninsula with beautiful beaches on either side.
Vanimo, 30 kilometres from the Indonesian border is PNG's entry port from Jayapura in Irian Jaya (formerly West Papua). This area of the world has seen little development in international tourism, other than visitors enroute from Irian Jaya to other parts of Papua New Guinea, or the intrepid traveller or surfer in search of the perfect wave.
The headwaters of the Sepik River are in Sandaun Province. Here the river narrows into dense, mountainous country and only small boats can navigate upstream from the village of Ambunti. There are no roads in the Upper Sepik and much of the province is covered in rainforest.
Superb beaches west of Vanimo, towards Wutung, attract surf board riders from PNG and overseas during the months of September to January. While the 260 kilometre shoreline is pounded by heavy seas caused by the blustery north-west winds during December to March, safe all-year round anchorage can be had in Vanimo.
Most of tiny Vanimo’s services, including an Indonesian Consulate, are located on the flat land at the base of the headland, overlooking the harbour. Excellent swimming beaches lie on either side of the headland. Narimo Island lies offshore and is good for swimming and picnicking, but take food and water. Check with your hotel or hire a boat from West Deco village near the main wharf. Several little islands also sit offshore from the town of Aitape, the only other town in the Sandaun Province.
Aitape: Reached by boat from Vanimo or rough road from Wewak, Aitape was once a German station and was later used by the Japanese during World War II. Tadji Airstrip still has aircraft wreckage from the war. A B-24 bomber stands outside Aitape High School, between the airstrip and town.
Telefomin & Oksapmin: These remote stations are more easily reached by air from Tari in Southern Highlands Province. The area is rugged with spectacular valleys. Caves in the Okspamin Valley can be reached with guides.
The villages here are known for their specialist religious cults. The people of Maio and Yessan have a yam cult and the isolated villages of Swagup is the home of the insect people, whose art form incorporates the figures of the sago beetle, dragonfly, praying mantis and other insects.
Among the distinctive artifacts from Sandaun are painted canoes of Sissano Lagoon and large shields from the Telefomin district. The shields have broad zigzag, spiral or V designs that represent their ancestors’ bodies.
Things to Do
Walking: A circuit of the headland at Vanimo is pleasant or go west past the airport to a vine-draped headland. Here you can wade around to a beautiful beach.
Surfing: Lido Village, 8km west of Vanimo, has a good surf beach and a guesthouse catering for surfers, where surfboard and bicycle hire is offered. Aitape also has surf beaches and accommodation.
Visit the Indonesian border: Superb beaches, lagoons, views and picturesque villages can be seen along the way, although the border is not open to tourists.