Red Sorong City sign in front of Domine Eduard Osok Airport

Sorong, West Papua

West Papua is a province in the Eastern part of Indonesia on the big island of Papua. The island is divided: the East side belongs to the state of Papua New Guinea, the West side to Indonesia – a country consisting of more than 17,000 islands.

Most travelers come here to visit the famous marine park Raja Ampat, an archipelago about 100 km away. An archipelago with more than 600 islands and the highest biodiversity underwater worldwide.

It is not only known to divers, but it is also a hotspot for birdwatchers. The archipelago is one of the two places in the world where can see the “birds of paradise”. 

But to get there, you will have to pass Sorong first. A city that is often forgotten despite its importance.

It’s a city full of contrasts.

Mosques, churches, women in hijabs, Papuans with curly hair and dark skin, children running barefoot, with big bright eyes and big smiles, cars, motorbikes, angkots, trucks…

Overwhelming, noisy and polluted.
That’s the first impression visitors usually have when they arrive here.

What makes this city so interesting?

Sorong city is located in Sorong Regency, a region of the western tip of West Papua (located on the island of Papua New Guinea). West Papua is often referred to as the “Bird’s Heads Peninsula” because of its shape.

While Manokwari is the capital of West Papua, Sorong itself is the largest city in the region, with a population of more than 200,000 (in the year 2014, according to Wikipedia). Many of them are migrants from other Indonesian islands who came to West Papua as part of the Transmigration Program introduced by the Indonesian government.

This results in a mixture of cultures and different religions.
A lot of churches and mosques are reminding us of how diverse this country is and how important it is to practice tolerance.

In addition to the local population, hundreds of people regularly fly in and out of Sorong for business purposes. The city has a large military and police base and is the main supply hub for the major oil and gas companies located in West Papua.

Sorong is known as the gateway to the famous and beautiful Raja Ampat islands. An archipelago of more than 600 islands, home to the world’s richest coral reefs and the famous Birds Of Paradise. Travelers who arrive here usually leave this place as soon as possible again heading towards paradise. Luxurious resorts and simple homestays can be found in Raja Ampat and many liveaboards cruise this region regularly.

Since 2010 Sorong has been growing steadily and with Raja Ampat on its doorsteps and gas and oil companies in the back, it won’t disappear very soon again.

“Sorong” means literally “deep, turbulent ocean” and comes from the Soreri-language of the Biak-Numfor people who first settled in this area.

The city is not only connected to the ocean but also surrounded by green wild forest. The dense jungle is home to many species of birds, frogs, and lizards.

View of the harbour of Sorong during sunset with mosque, ferries and boats
Two kids preparing to wash dishes at a river in West Papua
Big wall with colorful graffiti paintings in Sorong