The towns along the coast are good bases from where to explore the beaches, coral reefs, with good hiking, swimming and snorkelling. Nabire lies in the south of Teluk Cenderawasih, the wide bay separating the mainland from the Bird's Head Peninsula. It has about 45,000 people and fine beaches, a nice, relaxed place.
Manokwari (the name means "Old Village" in the Biak language), on the north east point of the Bird's Head Peninsula, was the first place to be settled by Europeans: In 1793 the British established a settlement near here which was abandoned soon after; in 1896 the Dutch succeeded and missionaries settled here. It has now grown to a city of over 135,000 people and has become the capital of the Province of West Papua, the region encompassing the Doberai or Kepala Burung (Vogelkop) peninsula and the islands west of it. It now has many resorts and is a major tourist areas.
The Arfak people near Manokwari under their leader Johan Ariks refused from the start to cooperate with the Indonesians after the takeover and continued the struggle for independence; he was captured in 1965, tortured and died in prison in February 1967, aged 75. In January of that year the Arfak people had declared a "Free Papua State", resulting in strafing by the air force for two days. By March there were claims that in strafing raids and rocket attacks on villages the Indonesian air force had killed 1,000 people around Manokwari. By the end of that year whole villages had been razed in "Operation Destruction" and 3,500 villagers had been killed in the area. Resistance continued while the "Act of Free Choice" was being conducted in Manokwari until 1970 when the leaders surrendered on condition of amnesty: they were all summarily executed.
Sorong, on the north west point of the Bird's Head Peninsula, is a town that was dependent on oil, gas and logging, but has lately experienced strong growth; a container port is to be built here; it has around 125,000 inhabitants. It is also the gateway to the Raja Ampat Islands, with a stunning biodiversity in coral reefs: marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on Earth.
Kaimana is a small port on the southern shore of the Bird's Head Peninsula. Close to the town is the "Gua Jepang", the Japanese cave where bones of perished Japanese soldiers were still visible in 1988; obviously this was unknown to the Japanese who, after the war, have collected the bones and erected memorials at similar sites. In 1962 the Indonesians, in their efforts to undermine Dutch authority in what was then still Netherlands New Guinea, tried to drop off 150 soldiers in Kaimana; Commodore Yosaphat "Yos" Sudarso was killed when his ship was sunk. Although the Indonesian action was a total failure, it was an event that caused international involvement in the dispute which eventually led to Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.