Monday, August 30, 2010

Wooden House from Arfak Mountains

Below is the traditional wooden house of Arfak tribe. Local people call this house Rumah Kaki Seribu or a thousand-feet house. I took the picture of this house when I was on the way to Mokwam village with Rhett Butler founder of All the materials, except the roof, are taken from the nature or the rainforest. The metal corrugated roof has replaced the palm leaves due to its better resistance against heavy rain or damp weather. It is not surprising to see that this house looks different from the tropical house in Senopi. The next or second house in this blog post is not a traditional one. It was built by a contractor as part of a free housing project from Dinas Sosial or Social Agency of the local government of Manokwari regency.
The rumah kaki seribu which you see in this post is located around 1,500 meters above sea level. It means the climate of the region in general is always cool. When I spent two nights in Syiobri village that is located some 1,400 meters above sea level, I felt that it was very cold especially after 3 a.m. Perhaps this cold weather is the cause why the Arfak tribe does not create ventilation system or holes in their traditional wooden house of Kaki Seribu. This house has two doors but no windows. I cannot show you the interior of the house because I did not have the chance to enter it. When I took the photograph of the above house, the occupants were not there, perhaps they were working in the garden. Below is a similar house which has been constructed by Zeth Wonggor as a base camp for tourist located at around 2200 meters above sea level in the Arfak Mountains. Two Arfak boys in the photograph worked as birdman and porter.
My other analysis goes to the arrangement of walls. The walls are not made of thick wooden plank. We all know that wood is a good thermal insulation. Thin plank or bark is able to stop heat from flowing out of the house. If we look closely to the wall structure of the Kaki Seribu house, the main materials that compose walls are wooden sticks or beams and tree bark. The structure is enormously rigid. The cross joints of the wooden round beams which strengthen the wall arrangement are able to prevent the house from collapsing when big earthquake hit the region. Strong earthquakes (the last one was up to 7.6 scale richter) hit the bird's head region of West Papua nearly every year. I have never heard that during the earthquakes the traditional wooden houses of Kaki Seribu are destroyed. 
When I ask some of the local Papuans about the complicated wooden bars and barks on the walls of the Arfak tribe's house, they give various different answers. One interesting answer was that the cross-joints wooden bars assembly or construction are meant to stop suanggi from attacking the occupants of the house. The people in Arfak and many other areas in Papua are afraid of suanggi. Suanggi men are thought to have magical power to kill anybody. These wicked or satanic men are believed to be the cause behind most of the deaths in West Papua.Because the main purpose of this post is not for discussing the
The introduction of free housing project in Arfak Mountainous region will gradually reduce the number of kaki seribu wooden house. I think in the next ten years such houses will finally become extinct from their original birthplace.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wooden house from tropical village of Senopi

The tropical wooden house which you see in this blog post is located in District Senopi, a small village in the Tambrauw Mountainous region of West Papua province, the Republic of Indonesia. This is actually not a traditional wooden house of the indigenous Papuan. It has just been constructed as part of free housing project from the Dinas Sosial or Social Agency of the local government of Manokwari regency. It is interesting to see that above the corrugated metal roof of this house, a photovoltaic panel has been installed. This panel supplies electrical energy for lighting and some electronic appliances such as radio and perhaps a small television.
While walking around the Senopi village, I saw that the design style of these free wooden houses is the same. Unlike the earthquake resistant wooden house of Minahasa whose ground floor area can reach up to three meters to allow for more rooms to be created for the family members, every wooden house in senopi, besides having large opening on the front walls for glass windows, has low empty space below its stage floor. The architect who designed the house really knows the need of the villagers for this empty ground space. Besides it enables the air to freely flow or circulate under the floor thus providing a cheap passive cooling system for the tropical wooden house, the space below the house is also used as pigpen.
Yes, the villagers in Papua usually let their pigs go around their houses freely. When it rains, the pigs will go back to their master's house and rest under the floor of the house which is a perfect shelter for them. Dogs and chickens also sleep there. Because Papuan men are great hunters, more often they prefer their dogs to live inside the house. This tropical house is strong enough to resist strong house.
Wood as construction material is better than concrete in earthquake region. The extraction of wood from the nearby tropical rainforest will not endanger the ecosystem as long as the housing project is carried out professionally meaning that the surfaces of the can be prolong to tens or even hundreds of years in order for the rainforest to have enough time to restore itself before being extracted again. by Charles Roring contact e-mail:
Also read: Wooden House from Arfak Mountains

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunflower from Tomohon

The picture of sunflower (helianthus anuus) with some red canna which you see on this blog post was taken several years ago in Tomohon, a trading hub or commercial town in the mountainous Minahasan regency. It looked weird to see that these sun flower plants were growing just beside a busy street which should be allocated for pedestrian path. The street was not far from Tomohon traditional market where thousands of people gather to buy and sell goods. I haven't visited this town for four years and I wonder if these sunflower plants still exist. Now, Tomohon has become a new municipality in Minahasa. Years ago it was a famous flower town.
In Minahasan towns and villages, people usually grow flowers at the front yards of their homes. City dwellers from Manado and Bitung often come to buy flowers from them. So, beside they function as decorative plants, the flowers that are growing in front of the villagers homes are important agricultural commodity.  Sun flowers that they grow are not meant to be used for their oil as an alternative energy but to beautify the landscape. If you are interested in visiting Minahasa to see various flowers there then I should recommend a small village named Tincep. There you can see a lot of species of flowers from roses, to orchids. by Charles Roring

Allamanda Cathartica the Golden Trumpet Flower

Several years ago I visited a village in the province of North Sulawesi. Its name was Sonder, one of the districts of Minahasa regency. On one afternoon when the rain had just stopped, I took a walk around the village. The yards of the houses along the roads of the village were fully decorated with various colorful and beautiful flowers. There were roses, bougainvillea, canna, sunflower, and etc. One flower plant that really attracted my attention was golden trumpet. The flowers of this plant looked like small trumpets or bells. The leaves of the plant was dark green whereas the flowers looked freshly yellow. Flowers are not only used to express love but also to decorate house indoor and outdoor areas. Minahasan people like to grow flowers around their houses.
Years later, when I began to write more articles about decorative flowers, I remember this golden trumpet. Its funnel shaped flowers and glossy dark green leaves are perfect decoration for houses in the tropical region. From the articles that I read on websites, I know that the latin names of the flower or plant is Allamanda cathartica. Its height can reach around 4 meters if grown on fertile lands that receives sunlight all year round.
So, if you are now thinking of decorating your frontyard with flower plants, why don't you try alamanda or the golden trumpet?
If after reading this blog post, and become interested in visiting Sonder and its surrounding villages to see beautiful flowers there, then I will recommend another village named Tincep. This village has been famous in Indonesia as the center of flower market from North Sulawesi province. Here, you can see a lot of species of flowers that you can buy both for indoor and outdoor decoration. Remember to ask some advice from the flower farmer whether the flowers that you intend to buy are suitable to the climate condition in your country or city. by Charles Roring - contact email:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ecotourism an alternative solution to stop deforestation

Eco-tourism is a famous word now. A lot of service providers in the tourism industry use this term a lot when promoting their businesses. But do they really understand the real meaning of eco-tourism? I have been writing about forest preservation since three years ago. The subject which I previously thought simple, in reality, becomes a very complicated issue. Forest or tropical rainforest is a complex environment. It looks strong but actually it is very vulnerable. Rainforest in West Papua or New Guinea island stand on thin top soil of the ground. When people cut the trees for agricultural or logging purposes, they don't realize that they have left the top layer of the ground exposed to erosion. This top soil can easily be swept away by heavy rain.
Besides providing food for the indigenous Papuan people living around or along the rivers in the rainforest, the forest itself is absorbing huge amount of CO2 gases which we emit every day. We might think that we live in the US or Europe which are far from the rainforest in West Papua but the CO2 gases that we emit from running our cars and industrial machineries have traveled thousands of kilometers away and end up in the rainforest region across the equator.
In recent years, developing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea intensify the extraction of timber or wood from the rainforest for export purposes. They give large number of permits to logging and palm oil plantation companies that are now cutting the trees in the concession area of the rainforests. A tragic example of this is the leasing of rainforest in Manokwari of West Papua. There have been many conflicts erupted between the logging and palm oil companies versus the indigenous people who live and depend their lives on the resources taken from the rainforest. Sometimes the conflicts lead to physical clashes. Government officials and security officers tend to side on the parties who have money to pay them. This situation brings the indigenous people in dangerous situation. Their food resource is being taken from them and their sacred lands are being destroyed.
To find a solution to this crisis, a number of environmental activists or forest lovers try to offer an alternative scheme which they hope can reduce or stop the deforestation of rainforest and at the same time give income both to the government and the indigenous people who are the main stakeholder of the rainforest. From my personal experience, I have directly involved in introducing ecotourism to town dwellers living in Komplex Miss at the foot of the Table Mountain where rainforest still exists. Before offering a tour or hiking package to foreign tourists, I had some afternoon hikings with my friend, Paul Warere to take some photographs and access interesting objects in the forest which we can develop for our ecotourism project.
It only takes 3 months to bring tourists to the rainforest area of the Table Mountain. When hundreds of pictures had been taken, I wrote a lot of blog posts about them and invite people to visit the forest for doing bird watching, butterfly watching and caving as well as bat watching. Some European visitors even come to the rainforest just to sit and silently hear the sounds of nature. I call it morning meditation. One example was the one which was carried out by Katja Zimmerman in the tropical rainforest of the Table Mountain on 26 May 2010. In January 2010, three Russian tourists came. Within eight months I have traveled around the forests with tourists coming from various countries such as the US, the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Norway. Tourists visit the Table Mountain of Manokwari every month. People who live at the foot of the Table Mountain enjoy the positive impact of our eco-tourism project. Some women who sell fruits in the small market next to my house say that they are happy when tourists come to buy their bananas, artists inform me that tourists buy their handicrafts and I and Paul are happy too because we can get money from working as field guide.
Ecotourism scheme that I promote here is not meant to bring thousands of tourists in one day to the small forest that is now covering the Table Mountain of Manokwari. Ecotourism is only one of the many alternatives that we can apply to preserve our environment. If if is run properly, it will bring positive outcome both to the operators of the tourism service and to the environment itself. Ecotourism may not always be a perfect solution, but it should be considered as a good alternative that is effective in stopping the deforestation conducted by logging and palm oil plantation companies that are now threatening the existence of all rainforests around the world particularly the ones in West Papua. by Charles Roring. Contact e-mail: or For more of my stories, please, visit Manokwari Papua Travel Journal

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Outrigger boat as tourist boat

Outrigger boat is the predecessor of trimaran - a high speed marine vehicle that is now being considered as an alternative choice for passenger or pleasure boat besides catamaran.
In the northern coast of Manokwari, this outrigger boat is usually powered by Yamaha 25 to 40 hp outboards to help fisherman transport their day catch from the sea to the main island of New Guinea. Last July 2010, I used one of the boats to carry Netherlands' tourists for snorkeling around the Kaki island - a one-hour car ride from Manokwari city - the capital of West Papua province of the Republic of Indonesia. I have been trying to introduce ecotourism scheme to Papuan fishermen communities living near Mansinam, Lemon, Raimuti and Kaki islands in Manokwari regency. If at nights, the fishermen use their outrigger boats to catch fish, during the days the boats can be used as water taxi to transport people.
When the fishing boat is converted into tourist boat, a number of safety precautions has to be taken into account. From my personal experience, most of the boats are not equipped with life jackets. To prevent accidents at sea, I limit the number of tourists that can be transported in one trip to Kaki island to three people to allow for a large freeboard at the side of the boat so that it will still be safe when facing big wave although the actual capacity of the boat is ten passengers.   Because Kaki island is located in the northern coast of the New Guinea island facing the Pacific island, the limitation of the number of tourists that can be transported by the boat is important to avoid any accidents at sea involving international tourists. The outriggers of the boat are made of bamboo - the material that can easily be found in the nearby tropical rainforest of West Papua not far from the village.
I hope that with the introduction of the outrigger boat as tourist boat, local Papuan fishermen who live near Kaki island will give more attention to the preservation of coral reef in Kaki island and other coral islands around the area.