Sandaun (West Sepik): Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Sandaun Province (formerly West Sepik) is the outer province of Papua New Guinea. It is on the border of West Papua, which is Indonesia. The capital, Vanimo, is only 30 kilometres from the Indonesian border, which is closed to tourists. The province is the site of the headwaters of the Sepik River, which is covered in thick, forested mountains.

Getting into a barrel at Lido Right, near Vanimo.


Economic overview

Forestry is the main industry in Sandaun. About three-quarters of the province’s land mass has tree cover, despite its being reduced by about three per cent between 2001-2017 due to logging. The timber is logged, cut it into boards, kiln dried and then either exported as logs, sawn, or processed into parquet flooring, hardwood plywood, and quality veneers. The National Government has declared Sandaun a special economic zone (SEZ), saying the Province has high economic potential. Manufacturing may become a viable industry, which will be targeted at Indonesia’s West Papua province, which has 32 million people. Sandaun is also located near some of the most productive fishing grounds in the country, with the potential to export throughout the Asian region. The province also has the potential to produce oil palm and cocoa. There is considerable infrastructure development being planned. As part of the SEZ, the Government is looking at building a new Momase International Highway from Watarais in the Markham Valley to Indonesia—it would go through Sandaun. The largest mining prospect in the province is Frieda River, considered one of the biggest gold-copper reserves in the Asia Pacific. If the mine goes ahead it is forecast to produce 246,000 tonnes of copper and 379,000 ounces of gold annually. The estimated mine lifespan is over 20 years. The project is also planned to include the development of hydropower for the province, and further infrastructure development, particularly roads.


Eight kilometres west of Vanimo is the village of Lido, which has good surfing. Aitape, an old German missionary station, can be reached by boat from Vanimo where there is trekking and waterfalls (accommodation is available). Tenkile Conservation Base at Lumi has a collection of endangered tree kangaroo species as well as marsupials and cassowary and in the Aitape Islands tourists can swim in the warm waters, or enjoy watching a traditional dance and cultural presentations.

On the coast, west of Vanimo, are good beaches for swimming and surfing. There are no roads in the Upper Sepik and much of the province is covered in rainforest. Infrastructure and telecommunications are limited, but there are 57 airstrips and year-round safe anchorage at Vanimo.

Where to stay

  • In Vanimo, there is the Vanimo Surf Lodge (
  • The town has a small taxi service and a hire car facility.
  • CBC Guest House (+675 456 3032) is another option.

Sandaun (West Sepik) in brief

Province name: Sandaun (West Sepik)

Capital: Vanimo

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Population: 248,411

Area: 35,920 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 993 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Vanimo regularly. The flights are via Madang and Wewak. The flight time is 2 hours via Wewak and 2 hours 55 minutes via Madang.

Sectors: Forestry, gold, copper, marine products.

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