The province of West Papua chiefly comprises two large peninsulas – the Vogelkop (also known as Bird’s Head, Kepala Burung and Semdoberai) and the more southerly Bomberai Peninsula – and several hundred offshore islands. The attractions here are primarily natural – above all the world-class diving and gorgeous island scenery of the Raja Ampat Islands. Sorong and Manokwari are well-provided urban bases from which to launch your explorations.
The search and subsequent fight for control of the Spice Islands (known then as the Moluccas) helped kick-start European colonialism and, thanks to a series of wrong turns and one auspicious land swap, shaped the modern world. Once the islands' spice monopoly was broken, Maluku returned to gentle obscurity. Today, the region is a little-visited tropical paradise that seems almost too good to be true. Inter-island transport can be a bit difficult to navigate but with flexibility and patience you can explore pristine reefs, stroll empty stretches of powdery white sand and climb perfectly formed volcanoes.