Old Towns and Street Culture of Yunnan

Old Towns and Street Culture of Yunnan

Off-the-beaten track in Yunnan. Dig below the franchise food bars, selfie-stick vendors and bridal stock-shot locations, and China’s Yunnan Province still has plenty of cultural history to see and experience. By Kayti Denham.

The Indian Traveller in Seychelles

The Indian Traveller in Seychelles

The Seychelles Tourism Board, local and Indian trade partners meet to explore the tourism potential of Seychelles for Indian travellers. Beaches, weddings, snorkelling are popular in Seychelles.

Culture and Geology of Bali’s Mountains and Lakes

Why are mountains and mountain lakes so important to the Balinese? Simon introduces us to the cultural and religious significance of the geological landscapes of Bali in the first of a two-part series.

National Parks: Tasmania’s Green History

The first National Park in the world was declared in 1872 by US president Ulysses S. Grant. It was rightly seen as a massive milestone in the preservation of natural heritage. 

Duck Reach: Hydroelectric Wonder of Tasmania

If you were told exactly where the true pioneers of sustainable hydroelectric power first worked their engineering magic, you might be surprised.

Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge: Preserving Local Cultures and Heritage, India

Travellers seeking to discover the ‘real-India’ through immersive village life experiences are the ideal match for this one-of-a-kind hamlet in the desert clime.

Village Ways: Improving Rural Livelihoods Through Community-based Tourism

Prerna Shah reports on Village Ways’ journey in building a new eco-tourism venture with demonstrable social outcomes.

Palangka Raya Hosts GINKalimantan Youth Conference 2016

From 16 to 18 September, Bina Cita Utama (BCU) School and Borneo Nature Foundation will host the first ever Global Issues Network (GIN) youth conference in Kalimantan.

How To Involve Locals in Scuba Dive Operations for Sustainability

No Dive Centre Is an Island. In this new piece, written especially for Gaia Discovery and adapted from a chapter in his book Scuba Professional, Simon Pridmore reveals that running a successful dive centre or resort, especially in a remote location, involves far more than just taking people diving. Among other things, you have to integrate local residents in your dive operation at ALL levels and focus your conservation efforts on people, not just fish and reefs.

Book Review: Running with the Moon by Jonny Bealby

Adventure motorcycling is all the rage at the moment, but one man rode the length of Africa down the West coast in the late 80s, before GPS, before Google maps and definitely before Ewan and Charlie. Then he rode back up the East coast. His book isn’t just about the adventure though, it's about coping with what life throws at you.

Five Things To Discover in Cameron Highlands

While tourists still flock to Cameron Highlands for its natural landscape and cool clime, many fall for dull and hackneyed tours such as visits to strawberry and vegetable farms. To truly experience this charming eco-tourism destination within the Titiwangsa range of Pahang, West Malaysia, it is best to immerse yourself in the highland’s natural beauty, biodiversity, heritage and culture... and learning something about the forest ecology too. Mallika Naguran, who's been to Cameron Highlands numerous times as a kid and still visits, shares some pointers.

River Walking in West Papua

Recently, frequent Gaia Discovery contributor Simon Pridmore and his wife Sofie travelled to West Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province. This is the third of three pieces recounting their adventures.

Climbing through the forest is a test for the fittest

Climbing through the forest is a test for the fittest

PNG, 20 February 2014. “River-walking!” we exclaimed. “Why would you want to walk along a river?” Not by the side of the river, you understand, but actually in the middle of the river.

In West Papua, the forest canopy is too dense to observe the bird-life from within, so the best vantage point is from the rivers. But the rivers are too low in places for boat travel, even for canoes and the only way is get along the river is to walk. So we walked.

We dropped the car at the edge of the forest and ran out of passable track 30 minutes out of town. Here we waited for Elijah, our guide. I introduced myself. Simon is my father’s name, he said.

He led us out into the forest where butterflies, beetles, spiders and millipedes decorated the trail, all familiar animals but all huge versions of those familiar animals! At one point a fallen tree blocked the trail and our guide scouted around to find a new route. A couple emerged from the forest behind us, the lady with her huge knife raised. She motioned with it directing us towards a detour. Once I had started breathing again, I thanked her.

Along the River

We forded a number of streams and ridges for the first two hours before coming upon a wide shallow river, where we turned upstream. The river wound and wended, stones on one side, silty mud on the other and we followed Elijah as he navigated to avoid deep pools. The sun beat down and more butterflies cavorted on stony beaches where bleached skeletons of coral lie in testimony of a time long ago when this part of Papua lay under the ocean.

Hornbills soared overhead, massive and ungainly, the crashing beating of their wings drawing our attention, their distinctive call utterly un-bird-like. The cockatoos were more graceful and tuneful and flashed brilliant white against the sky in their passing. 


Our local guide, Elijah, saw us safely through the dense jungle

Thunder rumbled in the distance, grey clouds gathered and we pressed on more quickly as Elijah reminded us that rain further up-river could cause the section we were walking through to flood.

The water became deeper, sending us closer to the banks where our shoes were sucked down into muddy silt. Buried branches and vines clawed at our feet as we were sometimes dragged knee deep into the riverbed.

We rounded a bend where a chorus of katydids were screaming out a welcome; or was it a warning? Just then the rain came in huge droplets and we were instantly soaked to the skin. The water level rose to the point where we had to leave the river and strike out into the forest, Elijah slashing a makeshift track for us with his machete. It was heavy going and we slid back into the river wherever we could.

Beyond a broken bridge, fashioned long ago by loggers but now derelict, the rain eased, leaving mist in the forest canopy to each side of the river.

Finally, we saw smoke, indicating the presence of a hunters camp, with hunters in residence. A stocky man in a loincloth emerged to greet us, a gun slung over his shoulder and an enormous blade in his right hand.

He and his group welcomed us. We shared our cookies with them; they offered us boiled bananas in return and showed us their bows with bamboo strings and ugly, vicious-looking arrows. Dogs and children played under a raised platform covered by blue tarpaulin.

Hard slog back

We wanted to stay longer but could not as, to get to a road, we had a further three-hour trek ahead of us through the forest and did not want to still be out on the trail after dark.

After the rain, the trail was invisible in places and treacherous. We cut sticks to help us negotiate the descents, which were much harder than the climbs as the path was slick with mud and fallen leaves. Only tree roots emerging from the forest floor give us purchase. Hornbills barked overhead and as evening approached the noise of the forest increased.

Walking between the river, camps, guns, dogs and arrows . .

Walking between the river, camps, guns, dogs and arrows . .

Just as night fell we reached the road, thanked Elijah for keeping us alive and caught a ride back into town.

We had walked 16 miles in 9 hours, much of it through knee-deep water and the rest of it through foliage on the forest floor. Back at our hotel, we bathed and lay on the beds, resting our aching legs. As if on cue, the hotel started moving. The shaking continued for a good minute but we looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. We are too exhausted to move, even for an earthquake.

Simon & Sofie were helped and guided on their quest for paradise birds by Charles Roring, who lives in Manokwari and is an enthusiastic advocate and organiser of tours that involve and benefit local villagers. Contact Charles via http://manokwaripapua.blogspot.com/

Getting There

We stayed in Manokwari, which is served by daily hopper flights originating in Makassar in South Sulawesi. Makassar is an international entry point to Indonesia, with daily flights from Singapore. Entry is visa free for ASEAN nationals; citizens of most other countries can buy a visa on arrival, (currently USD35.00 for a thirty day stay.)

Previous articles

West Papua Birding- Quest for Paradise

The Whale Sharks of Cendrawasih Bay