The Fly River Delta

Fly River

An aerial view of the Fly River Delta / Jessie T. Ponce Photography / September 2015

September 2015: Flying into the island of Daru in the Gulf of Papua, I was in search of new subjects to photograph.  For the past 3 years, I have visited the island on many occasions and have in fact compiled quite a number of photos of the place.  This trip was not any more special than the previous ones but I thought that it would be good to capture a bird’s-eye view of the delta where all those photos were taken and thus provide a better context of the place.  The sun was shining brightly as we smoothly glided into the island and, although I had to struggle a bit to get a good vantage point inside the cramped Dash 8, my lens hood hitting the smudgy window from time to time; I managed to click a few shots of the bountiful delta.

Fly River Delta

Villages, mostly inhabited by the seafaring Kiwai people, dot the coastline around the Fly River Delta / Jessie T. Ponce / September 2015

Fly River

A mother and her kids cruise the Fly River on a dugout canoe / Jessie T Ponce / 2012

The Fly River is vital to the social, economic, and political life of Western Province.  Aside from being a crucial source of food for the locals, the river’s deep and mysterious water allows boat access between Daru and other gulf areas and the inland communities. The boats, barges and dinghies that traverse these waters carry with them gold and other minerals from mines deep inland (see The Mighty Fly River), fuel and other supplies into the inland communities (see Daru Island 2), and agricultural produce out to Daru and other markets (see Daru Island 1).

Fly River Delta

The Fly River is a vital component to the rich ecosystem in the Gulf of Papua / Jessie T. Ponce / September 2015

Daru Island

Boats from coastal and inland villages dock in Daru to deliver their produce and replenish their supplies / Jessie T. Ponce / 2012

Out in the gulf,  the rich marine life, supported by organisms and minerals from the Fly, provide a bountiful food and aquatic resource to local fishermen and traders.  Highly valued fish such as the barramundi (Asian sea bass) easily make their way to dinner tables in PNG and abroad.  Prawns, lobsters and crabs provide abundant livelihood source for locals, especially the sea-faring Kiwai people whose villages dot the shorelines.   The Daru wharf and airfield is directly connected to coastal and inland producers by the Fly River.

Fly River Delta

A portion of the eroding coastline close to the delta glimmers under the tropic sun / Jessie T. Ponce / September 2015



Almost the whole village of Ture-ture has been gradually devoured by the sea and now the graveyard of their ancestors are at risk of getting inundated by sea waters / Jessie T. Ponce / 2014

Sadly, this environmentally rich and diverse area also has its share of environmental problems. On top of these problems are the toxic wastes that continuously flow from inland mines and poison the river before flowing out into the river delta.   Another strange phenomenon that coastline villages along near the delta have been experiencing in the past years is the seemingly rapid erosion of their shoreline, consuming entire villages and forcing entire communities to move further inland or resettle in other places. In a Kiwai village called Ture-ture, half of the villagers have relocated to a higher ground while the other half had decided to stand their ground against the advancing sea (see Ture-ture, The Vanishing Village) and hope that the waters of the gulf, their source of life for many generations, will spare them from mother nature’s brewing wrath.  The tropical paradise is facing serious threats.