Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rainforest Hiking in Arfak Mountains of Manokwari regency

The mountain range of Arfak is a great hiking destination. There are a lot of trails which hikers can choose to hike through the tropical rainforest. The terrains consist of steep slopes with some valleys particularly in the Mokwam region. More moderate hiking trails are located on the south east of the mountains from District Oransbari to District Ransiki. Hiking tours in Arfak can be arranged to cater the needs of visitors depending on their physical condition and duration of their visit in Manokwari.
From 4 to 6 December 2010 I guided 7 Dutch and 1 Indonesian tourists to the tropical rainforest of Kwau village in Arfak mountains of Manokwari regency. Six of the Dutch were elderly people whose ages are between sixty to seventy years old. I had not known this until I met them on the 1 of December 2010. Well, I had planned a tour in the jungle whose terrain was more suitable for young age people. I felt a little bit guilty about it. I was not able to cancel the trip to Kwau village because Hans Mandacan already informed the villagers about our planned visitation.
So, on the 4 of December 2010, two 4WD cars - Toyota Hilux left Manokwari for Arfak mountains. These cars were very powerful in climbing the steep slopes of the Arfak mountains. In addition, the drivers whom I chose were the experienced ones. Along the way I was praying that these people would be able to walk through the rainforest, overcoming hills in front of them and finally arrive at Hans Mandacan's house. His house is not a luxurious rain forest resort equipped with complete facilities and fireplace cabins. It is only a simple 4-bed room house which Hans built by himself at a hill near Kwau village.
At around 13 p.m. we arrived on the road near a pathway leading to Hans' house. Around twenty villagers from Kwau village were waiting for us. They were women, men, boys and girls. They would carry our bags to Hans' house which he had changed into a temporary tourist house. We handed over our things to them and up we walked into the woods. Everything seemed to run well in the first ten minutes of the jungle walk. After that they began to ask whether the house was still far from our sight or not. We could only say that we were getting closer to the tourist house.
Birds were singing in the brances of the tropical trees. Perhaps they were enjoying the nectar of wild flowers or eating various forest fruits. December was time for fruiting season in West Papua. Birds and other rainforest animals were having parties with the abundant food that they had that month. Particularly for the magnificent birds of paradise, they like to eat red fruits. These old people were getting tired after ten minutes walking up several slopes of the Kwau village territory. It took one hour for the whole tourists to arrive in the tourist house. Besides it was far from the main road, the tourists often stopped for a while to take a rest or to see rainforest flowers, mushroom or anything that looked interesting in the jungle. When they arrived in the house, one of them complained to Sjaak (the coordinator of the tour) that the trekking route that day was too heavy for her.


So, if you plan to visit Arfak mountains, prepare yourself for a long rainforest hiking that will consume much of your energy in the slopes of the tropical rainforest. It is better to practice walking for at least three months before you go to West Papua. The duration of your walking practice can be 30 to 60 minutes. You will feel exhausted by that. Arfak mountains are rich of mammals, birds, reptiles and insect but they pose big challenges to those who want to explore their natural beauty.  by Charles Roring
Also read: Go Hiking in the Table Mountain

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tropical rainforest Orchids

Tropical rainforests in the mountains and islands across West Papua are now becoming the attention of biologists from around the world due to their essential functions in absorbing CO2 gases and  their natural wealth of biodiversity. The rainforest of New Guinea in the coastal and mountainous regions is rich a lot of species of flowers. Many of them are orchids. They grow on the branches of big trees twenty or thirty meters above the grounds. Due to the high demand of these tropical orchid flowers in the local and national markets, the indigenous people have collected large number of orchids and sell them in cities and towns of West Papua. These orchids plants will then be shipped to big cities in Java and sold in high prices. Because hunting orchids that naturally grow in the tropical rainforest will affect the balance of the rainforest ecosystem, there are efforts from the local Papuan themselves to cultivate these plants at their homes. By planting and growing orchids and other rainforest flowers, they can get increase the number of plants which they are able to sell. 
Although orchid farming is still considered as a small home business activity. Many people still do it in front of their home yards. There are not any companies in West Papua that have opened large areas of farmland to be used for cultivating orchid flowers.
A few months ago, there was an Orchid exhibition in Manokwari city organized by the government to promote orchid as a non-timber forest or agricultural products. Papua and West Papua provinces have a number of dendrobium orchid species that are expensive in such big cities as Jakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar. The local government want to promote the region as the major supplier of this tropical flower to improve the living condition of the flower farmer. 
If you go hiking in the tropical rainforest of Arfak mountains, Table Mountain and the North Coast of Manokwari regency, you will be able to see various species of orchid plants in the jungle. Papuan people do not see orchid only as decorative plants. They use orchid fiber to make noken (string bags). The pseudo bulbs of orchid is also used by the islanders in Numfor island as herbal remedy for abscess. The pseudo bulbs contain sticky thick liquid than can be applied on the surface of one's skin that is suffering from abscess. The liquid will suck the pus and dry the wound without causing severe pain. 
So, next time when you see an orchid plant with its beautiful flowers, you will know that it is also a good herbal medicine. From the above story, we can conclude that the preservation of the tropical rainforest is not only important for fighting global warming through the absorption of CO2 gases but also for protecting the high biodiversity that it has for the improvement of the standard living condition of mankind. From the rainforest, we can get a lot of species of plants that have medicinal functions. Rainforests and global warming are two important issues that cannot be separated but the preservation of these rich environments is not limited to them. Simply, it is very important for all of us.
On a separate trip into the rainforest of West Papua, I accompanied a young Biologist from the United Kingdom. Her name is Georgie. We went hiking through the jungle of Manokwari town. Our destination was the tropical rainforest of Dopi river on the west of the town. We saw fruit doves, pygmy parrots, Blyth's hornbills, butterflies, and various colours of terrestrial orchids. Perhaps, the one in the above photograph is Spathoglottis plicata. If you are looking for more information about orchids, try to buy some books at the following Amazon store:


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tropical Rainforest Lizard

As a tourist guide and travel writer, I like to go hiking and guiding tourists around the tropical rainforest of New Guinea island. This island is also called Papua or West Papua. Today, Papua as the largest tropical island in the world is administered by two countries. The eastern half is the independent state of Papua New Guinea whereas the western half is the territory of the Republic of Indonesia that consists of two provinces Papua and West Papua. The capital of West Papua is Manokwari city. I discuss a lot of topics about tropical rainforest that covers the mountains and plains around the city. 
While guiding tourists, I like to take pictures of animals, flowers, mushrooms, birds, insects, trees, unique leaves of the vegetation and the tourists whom I guide. Today, I am going to tell you a little story about lizard. There are many species of lizards in the tropical rainforest of Papua. As reptiles, small lizards usually eat insects. They can climb trees fast. Some lizards have skin surface that are adapted to the play where they live. If a lizard attaches itself on a tree trunk whose color is green brown, its skin color will adapt to the color of the host tree. This is one of the ways which some lizards do to protect themselves from being the prey of their predators. 
The tropical island of Papua has big lizards which the indigenous people like hunt and eat their meat. These big lizards are called Soa-Soa. Soa-soa do not eat insects. Instead they eat the meat of dead animals such as small forest mouse, other small reptiles and dead birds. In the tropical rainforest food chain, soa-soa lizards are the prey of big birds such as hawk or eagle. 
The photograph above shows how a green tree lizard catches an insect in a tree in the tropical rainforest of the Table Mountain. Sometimes small butterflies that eat nectar for rainforest flowers become the target of the lizards. This is the usual food chain that always happen in the jungle. We cannot stop them because it naturally occurs every day.
The indigenous Papuan people have a unique technique in catching soa-soa. They don't use modern air guns instead, they use lasso trap which they set on the ground. Usually they make a least 20 traps placed in one row and cut small vegetation to make a small fence between the traps. The distance between two traps is around five to ten meters. When the lizard walk on the ground and face the fence, they will change their direction to find a clear ground the pass through. Then they will as a clear ground, where the hunter of lizards has set up his trap. If the lizard pass through the trap, it will step on the pin that triggers the wooden stick of the trap to pull the lasso made of a smooth nylon string. As a result, the lizard's head, or leg or even main body will be caught by the lasso. 
The next morning when the hunter comes to check his traps, he will find the lizard which is a good meat for his family. So, if you are interested in hiking in the tropical rainforest of Arfak mountains, Table Mountain and the Nort Coast of West Papua to see lizards or other animals, you can contact me - Charles Roring - via my e-mail charlesroring@gmail.com. I will be happy to be your guide in this beautiful tropical island.
Also read: Birds from the Tropical Rainforest of Manokwari Papua  

Tropical rainforest butterflies

Every time I go hiking in the tropical rainforest of Arfak Mountains or Table Mountain or the Northern Coast of Manokwari regency, I will see a lot of species of butterflies. They are really beautiful. Butterfly come out of their places in the morning at around ten. They feed on the nectar of wild flowers in the rainforest. Although in the international market, the price of butterfly from the tropical rainforest of West Papua is high, I personally not interested in catching them for export. Butterflies sleep on top or underneath the green leaves of plants in the jungle. Some even spread their wings to resemble the leaves. The colors of their wings are various. There are butterflies whose colors are brown and yellow but there is also a species whose color is purely white. 
Last September, two researchers from the University of Milan in Italy visited Manokwari to study butterflies. They liked to catch the butterflies. The butterflies which they had caught were then kept in white paper and put into a small plastic container. Ivan, one of the researchers, could mention the name or the genus of the species. He was lucky when he could catch a troides. Because I did not know anything about the butterfly kingdom, I could only say that I could tolerate his action in catching these insects if they are purely for the purpose of research. Butterflies play very important role in supporting the pollination of flowers in the tropical rainforest. 

Besides butterflies, other insect that also does similar function is bee. The nectar which the bee has collected will become delicious honey that is good for our health. Based on the observation of the important function of butterflies on the survivability of tropical rainforest, I appeal to all the people who like to go hiking in the tropical rainforest to respect butterflies but not catching or disturbing them. While these tiny and weak insects help the pollination of flowers thus accelerating the fruiting process, the birds that eat the fruits help disperse the seeds of the fruits. 
Rainforest of Arfak mountains and the northern coast of Manokwari regency in Indonesia are often visited by tourists who want to see bird wing  butterflies and birds. This kind of ecotourism activities directly gives economic benefits to the local people living in and around the forest. By introducing ecotourism into the region, I hope that together with the indigenous Papuan people, we can preserve the forest and still make a living from it. 
Also read:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rainforest insects

Last November I and Monique (a volunteer from SDSP foundation) went hiking in the tropical rainforest of the Table Mountain near Manokwari city, the capital of West Papua province. We walked along the road that divides the jungle into two parts. Table Mountain with its forest is the closest natural environment that still exists in the city. The tropical rainforest that covers that mountain is rich of insects such as beetles, butterflies and wasps. Butterflies like to feed on nectars of rainforest flowers. During the morning walk with Monique, we could see various kinds of grasshoppers that like to eat young green leaves of plants and trees that grow in the forest. When the rainy season comes, trees and small vegetation grow faster. This creates competition between small plants and big trees. The presence of grasshopper can balance such competition by feeding on young leaves of the trees and plants that grow faster than others. In the food chain, insects such as the grasshopper are delicious food for lizards and soa-soa whereas these reptiles are prey to snakes and big birds.
When I write this post, I remember reading a book entitled the Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace. In a chapter about the Netherlands New Guinea, he said that this Table Mountain is rich of insects. Yes, I can confirm his report here that there are still a lot of species of insects in this tropical rainforest.
European researchers have visited the Table Mountain of Manokwari since two centuries ago. One of them was Prince Leopold and Princess Astrid from Belgium in 1929. Prince Leopold collected a lot of animals, including insects in Manokwari. His collections can still be seen in ISNB Brussels.
I write this post to promote ecotourism and attract tourists from around the world to visit this forest. If you are interested in watching beetles, butterflies, and various other insects in this tropical rainforest, you can contact me via my email: peace4wp@gmail.com. I will be happy to arrange your trip around Manokwari and guide you to see the beauty of Papua's nature. by Charles Roring
Also read:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tropical rainforest preservation and ecotourism

Tropical rainforest of Arfak mountains in West Papua is facing deforestation rapidly at the moment. This problem has been the focus of attention of a lot of people who love Papua's nature very much. For instance, much of the rainforest area in the flat region of Prafi valley of Manokwari regency has been converted into agricultural area where farmers grow rice, and plantation companies operate CPO plant there. To produce crude palm oil (CPO), thousands of hectares of rainforest biome have to be cleared for monoculture sawit plantations.
The rainforest of Prafi whose biodiversity was very high has now gone forever.
To prevent the continuous destruction of rainforest, an alternative way of income generation should be developed. As a matter of fact, there are many solutions for that. First, the indigenous people can harvest non-timber products such as herbs, orchids and other tropical flowers, as well as rattan and meat from their forests to be sold in the local market. Another interesting scheme which is very effective in improving the economic condition of the indigenous Papuan people living in and around the forest is through the development of ecotourism project.
Three days ago, I brought 7 tourists from the Netherlands to Arfak mountains. We visited Kwau village. These Dutch tourists, in their old age, went hiking or trekking inside the jungle to watch magnificent birds of paradise, spotted cat bird and bower bird.
To help them locate where these birds are, Hans Mandacan, the owner of Kwau tourist guest house, built several huts. These bird watching huts would be used by the tourists to see birds from very close distance in the morning and in the afternoon. Because every hut could only be occupied with a maximum of four tourists, we had to divide the group into two smaller groups. They would shift huts in the mornings and in the afternoons. Since bird watching activities need patience, tourists were told not to have loud conversations while staying in the huts.
The Dutch tourists did 3 bird watching trips from the 4th to 6st of December 2010. During those trips, they could watch magnificent birds of paradise (male and female), spotted cat birds (also male and female), and vogelkop bower bird (perhaps the male one). Because they were late when entering the hut for watching the bower bird, they could only saw him in less than one minute.
In addition to watching birds, these Dutch tourists also saw how Hans Mandacan made the extract of red fruit oil (Pandanus Conoideus Lam). The indigenous Papuan who live in and around the rainforest of Arfak mountains have used the extract of the red fruit in their diet for thousands of years. Physically they have strong bodies and are not easily to be attacked by any tropical diseases. Recent reports from researchers in Cendrawasih University have shown that the extract of red fruit oil can effectively be used for the treatment of patients with tumors in the brain, breast, womb, and even the treatment of patients who are infected with HIV/ AIDS virus.
The short description about the preservation of tropical rainforest through the development of ecotourism with emphasis on bird watching, insect watching, herbal medicine study and butterfly farming can bring positive economic benefits to the indigenous Papuan people of the Arfak mountains.
I expect that the central, provincial and local governments will pay attention to this and  help the Papuan develop their ecotourism projects in Arfak mountains through the improvement of infrastructure, the guesthouse and various other programs that can make the indigenous people of Papua more prosperous without jeopardising their precious rainforest environment. by Charles Roring
Also read:
Tropical rainforest flowers
Tropical rainforest preservation in District Senopi
Tropical rainforest of Numfor island

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tropical rainforest of Kaki island

Kaki island is a small tropical islet located near Nuni village of the north coast of Manokwari regency. This coral island is still covered with beautiful tropical rainforest that protects it from erosion. Most of the vegetations that we can see in the Kaki island are coconut, ketapang (catappa) and barringtonia asiatica.
To help the indigenous people in the northern coast preserve the tiny rainforest of the island, I try to introduce ecotourism project. I intend to bring foreign tourists there where they can enjoy hiking through the tropical rainforest and bird watching around the coast in the island. In addition to birds, in the morning we can see butterflies eat nectar of flowers both in the Nuni village or in the surrounding forest of the mainland New Guinea.
Besides the beautiful jungle, pristine coral reef can be found thriving around the island. As the tropical rainforest of the sea, coral reef absorbs large amount of carbon dioxide while doing photosynthesis. With eco-tourism scheme, tourists who want to go snorkeling around the island will be transported by motorized outrigger boats that are operated by the local fishermen's there. This additional income will help the fishermen to improve their living condition, and send their children to school without having to exploit the coral reef and the forest of Kaki island too much.
Besides snorkeling, bird watching and hiking, another ecotourism scheme that I can introduce in Nuni village is surfing. Waves in the northern coast reach its highest point between December and February. With more nature lovers and foreigners come to the region, more money can be injected into the local economy through ecotourism project. The interaction between the local people and the tourists can bring new possibilities of raising the awareness about the importance of preserving the environment of the tropical rainforest and the coral reef. The number of tourists visiting Kaki island is not high at the present moment but I expect it to rise next year.
Also read:
Tropical rainforest picture of Numpuri islet
Tropical rainforest of Asai river

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