During the four-yearly national sporting event that will last two weeks, visitors to the easternmost region in Indonesia would find it worth their time to explore the prospective capital city of South Papua province that offers several must-visit attractions. Here's a look at some of them.
Merauke Time Capsule Monument
The monument, which was built on an area of 2.5 hectares near Mopah Airport, has become a new icon for the easternmost city in Indonesia.
The Merauke Time Capsule Monument was designed by architect Yori Antara Awal, who blended elements of indigenous Papuan culture in its modern design. The monument can also be seen from above -- from a plane landing in Merauke.
The monument-shaped building is inspired by the Dani Tribe war tower, with five building entrances representing the five indigenous Merauke tribes -- Malind, Muyu, Mandobo, Mappi, and Auyu -- as the guardians of the monument.
Inaugurated by President Joko Widodo in 2018, the landmark whose full name is the Indonesian Dream Time Capsule Monument 2015-2085 is sort of a historical container in the form of a capsule to store documents bearing the dreams of the people of each province in Indonesia. Those documents have been in storage since 2015 and will be reopened in 2085.
Sunset and Merauke beaches
Watching the sun set in Merauke is an experience that is second to none because the city, located at the eastern end of the archipelago, has a west-facing coastline.
In the afternoon, coastal areas in Merauke -- such as Imbuti Beach or Lampu Satu Beach, which are not far from the city center -- are always crowded with people enjoying the beauty of the western horizon, when the sun sets in the Arafura Sea.
Lampu Satu Beach in Merauke's Buti village, with its long coastline and fine sands, is one of the best locations to enjoy a sunset.
The beach has been nicknamed Lampu Satu (One Light) since there is a lighthouse on the beach that acts as a guide for passing ships.
"It's best to see the sun setting here until it disappears on the horizon; it's very beautiful," said Elo, a local guide.
Moreover, tourists can also see the daily activities of Bahari villagers who make a living as fishermen and boat craftsmen at Lampu Satu beach.
Apart from Lampu Satu beach, tourists can also head to Payum beach, which is located not far from the Musamus campus. Payum beach is not visited by many tourists and is suitable for travelers who crave serenity.
The beach with its soft sand and crystal clear sea water remains an untouched paradise.
Meanwhile, about 20 kilometers to the southeast, lies the unique Onggaya beach with its reddish-white sands and expanses of shells of various sizes. Visitors to the beach are advised to bring a jacket to protect them from the cold wind gusts coming from Australia.
However, road access is still an obstacle to get to the Onggaya and Payum beaches. "You can't use a car, the road has not been paved, but the beach is nice with lots of coconut trees," said Elo.
Musamus & Wasur National Park
The land of Papua once formed the northern part of the Australian continent before it was separated at the end of the Ice Age. Therefore, the biodiversity in Papua is not much different from the flora and fauna seen in Australia and the Pacific.
One of the unique natural landscapes in Merauke, which bears similarities with Australia, is the Musamus, which refers to a unique termite house that is twice the height of humans.
This natural masterpiece is formed by termites such as Macrotermes sp.
Locals call Musamus the house of ants, but more precisely, this is a nest of termites that use soil, grass, and saliva as glue to build these "skyscrapers" of the insect world.
The resulting cone-shaped structure, which has a curvy texture and can grow to a height of more than three meters, can also be found in Wasur National Park.
The national park, which is a part of the largest wetland in Papua, is inhabited by a group of indigenous people. The people live in the national park area since they have customary forest rights.
About 70 percent of Wasur National Park area consists of savanna vegetation, in addition to other vegetation in the form of swamp forest, monsoon forest, coastal forest, bamboo forest, grassland and sago forest.
The national park boasts a number of endemic species, such as kangaroos, cassowaries, and birds of paradise (cenderawasih).
"If you're lucky, you can meet kangaroos roaming in the park, but it's getting rare because they're often hunted," said Baadilah, a local resident.
Sota border area
Sota, a sub-district within the administrative area of Merauke district, is at the forefront of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), which borders neighboring Papua New Guinea.
Sota offers border tourism, offering visitors a view of the gates and border markers between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
On the weekends, in particular, the park in the Sota border area serves as a recreation area for the surrounding community.
Sota is also the zero-kilometer point of Merauke-Sabang which is marked by a minimalist garden with a large display that says "0 KM Merauke-Sabang". It has becomes a local tourist site.
From Merauke district, the 80-kilometer journey to Sota through Wasur village and Wasur National Park Area takes approximately one and a half hours, .
With much to see and do in the district, Merauke is indeed an ideal curtain-raiser to the beautiful land of Papua.
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