The Yapen group of islands lies directly across the Yapen Strait from Biak, about 40km’s to the south. The largest of this group is Yapen Island (also known as Japen Island). Mios Num Island lies to the west, Kurudu to the east and off the south coast are the Amboi and Kuran Islands.
Whilst not as popular as the Biak islands, Yapen is the pick of the two if you’re looking for a laid back tropical paradise. A number of excellent surf breaks around the islands are relatively unknown; not so the abundant coral reef and wreck dive sites within a stone’s throw of the islands. But you don’t have to be into surfing or diving to enjoy the islands which abound with unspoilt tropical beaches fringing a lush mountainous interior. Yapen has been formally recognised by the World Wildlife Fund as a rainforest ecoregion for its unique bird life and flora.
The islands mascot is the beautiful bird-of-paradise. Since the island became protected in 2011, their numbers are starting to recover from years of hunting for the feathers which are prized by European fashion houses. Yapen is also an important turtle habitat. Inggresau and Mambasiwi beaches on the north coast are nesting sites for four species of turtle including the rare Belimbing turtle, the largest sea turtle in the world with adult reaching an astounding 2m in length.
The islands main settlement is Serui, a small port on the south central coast, and it’s here that you’ll find several guesthouses, restaurants and a supermarket. The only notable attraction around the town itself is the early morning fruit, vegetable and fish market held on the western side of the bay about 30min walk from town.
Quaint stilted fishing villages dot the coast; two more lay hidden high in the interior where they cultivate cocoa and harvest massoi bark, the oil extract of which is popularly used in Javanese purification ceremonies. You can hire a motorised canoe from the beachfront at Serui for a daytrip to the villages or nearby islands or a local guide if you want to head inland.
There’s some stunning bays both to the east and west of Serui and you’re just about guaranteed to have them all to yourself. Serawu and Ambai Island’s just off Serui make a perfect days outing, being sure to drop into Ambai village and the amazing stilted community surrounding the bay. If you’d like to stay, check out the Revaurarif Getaway on facebook. This stilted cottage in Ambai bay has four rooms and provides meals, boat hire and a unique village experience. They also have a sister set-up just off the north east tip of island.
You can reach Serui from Manokwari and Biak by local ferry or the more infrequent Pelni ships. Alternatively, Susiair operates daily flights between Baik and Serui.