Sandaun Province

Sandaun Province (SDP), previously West Sepik Province, covers 36,000 square kilometers, including six islands, in the northwest of PNG. There are high mountains and hilly country and many lakes and lagoons. The rather narrow coastal plain is mainly swampy. Much of the interior is occupied by a trough through which the Sepik River flows. Over 95 languages are spoken. The population increased from 114,192 in 1980 to 135,185 in 1990. The Constitution, adopted in 1978, provides for an elected House of Assembly of 25 members. There are six districts and the headquarters is at Vanimo, on the coast, less than 50 kilometers from the PNG-Indonesian border. The modern economy is poorly developed. The main export is timber from the Vanimo Timber Project.

There is evidence of human occupation 40,000 BP. A Divine Word (Catholic) mission was established on the coast in 1896. The colonial Administrations took little interest in the area. Many lives were lost and much property damaged by Allied (American and Australian) and Japanese fighting in World War II. Franciscan (Catholic) and Baptist missions were established after the war. Many refugees from Irian Jaya crossed the border in the mid-1980s to escape fighting between the rebel Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) and Indonesian troops.

Things to see

Vanimo: Most of tiny Vanimo’s services, are located on the flat land at the base of the headland overlooking the harbour. Excellent swimming beaches lie on either side of the headland. Narimo Island lies offshore and is good for swimming and picnics but take food and water. Check with your hotel or hire a boat from West Deco village near the main wharf.

Aitape: Reached by boat from Vanimo or rough road from Wewak, Aitape was once a German station and later used by the Japanese during World War II. Tadji Airstrip still has aircraft wreckage from the war. A B-24 bomber stands outside Aitape High School between the airstrip and town.

Telefomin & Oksapmin: These remote stations are more easily reached by air from Tari in Southern Highlands Province. The area is rugged with spectacular valleys. Caves in the Okspamin Valley can be reached with guides.

Things to do

Walking: A circuit of the headland at Vanimo is pleasant or go west past the airport to a vine-draped headland. You can wade around to a beautiful beach.

Surfing: Lido Village, 8km west of Vanimo, has a good surf beach and a guesthouse catering for surfers. They hire surfboards and bicycles. Aitape also has surf beaches and accommodation.

Visit the Indonesian border: Superb beaches, lagoons, views and picturesque villages can be seen along the way, although the border is not open to tourists.

FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces

Region Province Provincial
Highlands Eastern Highlands Province Goroka
Western Highlands Province Mt. Hagen
Southern Highlands Province Mendi
Hela Province Tari
Enga Province Wabag
Jiwaka Province Banz
Chimbu Province Kundiawa
Southern National Capital District Port Moresby
Central Province Port Moresby
Gulf Province Kerema
Western Province Daru
Oro (Northern) Province Popondetta
Milne Bay Province Alotau
Momase Morobe Province Lae
Madang Province Madang
East Sepik Province Wewak
Sandaun (West Sepik) Province Vanimo
New Guinea Islands Manus Province Lorengau
New Ireland Province Kavieng
East New Britain Province Kokopo
West New Britain Province Kimbe
Autonomous Region of Bougainville Buka

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