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Papua is a land of exceptional natural grandeur.

Its jungles are among the


wildest, most impenetrable in the world. Eternal snow capped mountain ridges
more than 5,000 meters high, with walls plunge hundreds of meters down onto
floors filled with small glacier lakes. It has scenic beaches in abundance as well
as immense stretches of marshlands. Cool grassy meadows lie at the foot of the
towering mountains. Rivers cut through dark forests until their sluggish, crocodile
infested mouths disgorge the water into the sea.

The highest peak of the central mountain range is Puncak Jayawijaya (5,500
meters). Second and third are Gunung Trikora (5,160 meters) and Gunung
Yamin (5,100 meters), respectively. The biggest lake is Paniai, followed in order
of declining size by the lakes Ronbenbai and Sentani, both in the vicinity of
Jayapura, and Anggigita near Manokwari.

On the basis of
physical features
and differences in
language,
customs, artistic
expression and
other aspects of
culture, the
indigenous people
of Papua are
distinguished into about 250 sub-groups, although they all belong to the
Melanesian race, and are related to the people inhabiting the islands along the
southern rim of the Pacific. The Negritos are believed to have settled on the
island first, probably some 30,000 years ago, followed by the Melanesians.

The people of the central highlands still maintain their ancestral customs and
traditions, and are virtually untouched by alien influences. Most of the changes
have so far taken place among the coastal people, who are being subjected to
ever increasing contacts with the world outside. This process of change is being
accelerated by the work of missionaries, who have been working for many
decades among the local populations. The people of the north and west are
mostly Protestants, while those of the south and of the hinterland around
Enarotali are Roman Catholics. Those around Fakfak and the Raja Ampat
Islands are mostly Moslem. Animism is still practiced by isolated tribes in various
parts of the province.

Although Papua is famed for its Bird of Paradise, the province's fauna is not
particularly rich. Almost all the animals here are of the Australian fauna type.
Copper, oil, timber and sea products like fish and shrimps are among the
province's main products.