If you’re lucky enough to have a window seat, you’ll get your first tantalising glimpse of the Lake Sentani as you fly into Sentani (Jayapura). This enormous freshwater lake system is located just 20km from the provincial capital which means it’s not only one of Papua’s most beautiful natural attractions, it’s also one of the easiest to reach.
Cradled within the low lying Cyclops Mountains, the lake is surrounded by a lush backdrop of virgin forest, sago plantations and open grassy slopes. Quaint stilted fishing villages are scattered around the shoreline and on some of the twenty-two islets dotting the tranquil waters. Some are centuries old and seem as germane as the ancient landscape upon which they sit. The Sentani inhabitants are skilled craftsmen, producing a range of primitive handcrafts such as bark paintings, wood carvings, sago bowls and the like.
Getting to Sentani Lake is not really an issue. Much of the short drive from Sentani Airport to Jayapura skirts the north-eastern shoreline and provides some great views although there’s not real lookout as such. The best view of the lake (and Jayapura harbour) is from the General MacArthur monument at the top of Mount Ifar where MacArthur established his headquarters after liberating Jayapura from the Japanese in April 1944. You can take a taksi or ojek up to the monument for less than 100.000Rp.
Hiring a motorised canoe is a great way to experience more of the lake and visit some of the fishing villages. Be sure to drop into Apayo Island where local craftsmen are noted for being particularly good. Canoes can be arranged by asking at any of the lakeside restaurants although you’ll probably get a better deal by heading down to the lake shore and negotiating directly with one of the fishermen.