Formerly West Sepik Province, Sandaun, is the Tok Pisin spelling for “sun down” and the name taken on to give it a more separate identity from the neighbouring East Sepik province. As one of the two westernmost provinces in PNG, the people of Sandaun (and Western Province) are the last Papua New Guineans to see the sun set each day.
Sandaun is a huge province (36,300 km²), with rugged, cold mountains in the interior, steamy jungles in the lowlands, and scenic tropical coastlines.
In the interior, the small townships of Telefomin and Oksapmin are known as the most remote towns in PNG, well known for their primitive art.
On the coast, the major towns are Vanimo (capital) and Aitape.
With a population of about 8000 people, the Aitape township is a small coastal settlement and major Catholic mission station, initially established as a station by German colonists in 1905 as part of German New Guinea. During the Second World War the town was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army and the scene of warfare between them and the American and Australian Armed Forces.
The region east and west of the Sepik River is world renowned for its rich culture and striking traditional artefacts. The diversity of PNG is highlighted in the East Sepik and Sandaun provinces, with inland, mountain, coastal and island peoples and their culture. Friendly locals with their colourful markets, wood carvings and handicrafts, great fresh food and tropical climate, will certainly make for an unforgettable stay. This culturally and geographically diverse region has loads of opportunity for adventure travellers, is stunningly beautiful and will continually offer up surprises to those that visit.
Just west of Aitape on the mainland is the site of the 1998 tsunami which tragically claimed the lives of somewhere between 2,100 to 2,235 locals from the coastal villages of Malol, Arop, Warapu and Sissano, with 94 children being orphaned and 17 others losing a leg through injury or gangrene. Debris and bodies were reported to have fetched up to three kilometres away.