Gam Island homestay, Raja Ampat, West Papua

Biak Islands (Schouten Islands)

Pulau Biak is an island situated at the top of Cendrawasih Bay, the largest of a small archipelago that once formed a land bridge across the bay. The island gained prominence during WWII after US and Allied forces retook Jayapura from the Japanese and the flat, solid ground on Biak was identified as the most suitable place to stage heavy bomber activities. The US made an amphibious landing on the south-east coast of the island at Bosknik Beach in May 1944 and met heavy resistance from Japanese soldiers that fortified themselves in natural limestone caves about the bay. A Sherman tank versus Ha Go tank battle ensued on the beachhead and by the time the US secured the island after a month long assault, 435 US and an estimated 6,125 Japanese soldiers had been killed in action with thousands more wounded.

Chartered fishing boat used for island hopping around Biak IslandThese days the island has an Indonesian naval base and is a popular tourist destination though it’s far from being overrun. The busy port of Biak on the island’s south coast has reasonable infrastructure and is the perfect place to base yourself to explore the surrounding islands, atolls and coral reefs.

The area has several excellent diving and snorkelling sites around the islands including several WWII airplane wrecks such as a PBY Catalina sunk off Biak Harbour. The Padaido Islands, a scattered archipelago just off the south-east of Biak are particularly pretty both above and below the water and easily accessible by motorized boat or canoe from Biak city.

Onshore, notable points of interest include Bosknik Beach where the US forces landed. These days it’s a popular swimming and diving spot where small bits of wreckage from landing craft and the docks can still be found above and below the water.

Goa Jepang (Japanese Cave), a 3km long cave used as a defence fortress by the Japanese during WWII is located just east of Biak in Parai (sometimes spelt Paray) village and is an interesting but sad reminder of the Battle of Biak. The story goes that when US forces pinpointed the cave as the Japanese hiding place they dropped drums of gasoline around the entrance then blasted them from the air, setting the cave alight. The fire is reported to have burned for several months, killing an estimated 3,000 Japanese soldiers that were either killed in the initial attack or trapped by the fire. The cave is located in the forest just behind Parai Beach. There are more Japanese caves near Ambroben village in the hills behinds the airport. Everyone knows where the caves are so just ask for directions.

Other places of interest include Korem Beach on the north coast where you can watch local men free diving for pearls and the tropical Supiori Island just a narrow channel to the west of Biak but connected via a bridge, has some lovely beaches and traditional fishing villages that welcome visitors to look around. There are also some good mostly deserted surf breaks around the island.

Compared to other places in West Papua, Biak is one of the easiest to get to with daily flights from Denpasar, Jakarta, Surabaya and other major centres. Susi Air also connects with Manokwari, Nabire and Serui on Yapen Island to the south. The island is also serviced by Pelni ships and local ferry’s connecting it with Manokwari and Yapen island to the south. It has a range of accommodation, restaurants, a dive centre and a public bus network around the island and neighbouring Supiori.


Location
Top of Cendrawasih Bay
Region
North, West Papua
Allow
1-2 days
Get there
Daily flights
Need to know
Interesting WWII sites can be found on the island

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