Back to Biak (1): Life’s a Beach

For a little kid who was born and raised in Biak, a small island in Cendrawasih Bay, one of the outer islands in Indonesia, life was good and pretty awesome. My playgrounds were beach, green hill, and an open field. I used to catch big grasshoppers and ate them, fishing, shooting cuttlefishes with sharpened umbrella skeleton as a DIY harpoon, exploring new beaches, swimming in the warm pacific ocean, playing with tiny colorful fishes in the coral colonies, and had bad experiences with sea urchins. Things that made my childhood adventurous.

I remember in Biak, the sky was clear blue, clouds were thick and clear, the air was fresh and filled with ocean breeze, at night the stars were bright, dancing in the vast, unpolluted sky. No skyscrapers, no traffic jam. Like watching a very slow motion video of a very colorful movie. For me, Biak was my zen, my anchor, my root.

After 17 years left Biak for good, I finally returned in April 2012. It was an emotional moment when I saw the island again through the airplane window. The things from my childhood were still there: the vacant roads, the beaches where I spent my happy childhood, and the long airplane runway where my father used to take me jogging in the afternoon when I was a little kid.

Equipped myself with a sturdy Nikon F3/T, a Canonet rangefinder, and a lot of black & white and color films, I explored the island. Here are some interesting beaches I managed to cover, most of the times by riding motorcycle.

Water Basis beach is conveniently located inside a navy base and only open for public during the weekends and every visitors have to pass the security checkpoint guarded by several troops. Although I came when it was a weekday, with a little deception, I managed to enter the beach only to find the guard finally chased me to the beach and told me to leave, he thought I was going to swim which is strictly forbidden. After a few smooth talk, he permitted me to take photograph.

When I was cruising with a motorcycle in Ambroben village near the airport, I got my eyes fixed on the shore when the tide was low, there were people looking for clam, sea cucumber and little fish. The water was so clear that I could see the rock at the bottom of the sea. Without hesitation, I parked the bike, followed a path to the shore and started to shoot. When I headed back, suddenly, a three big old trees formation caught my attention. Their branches formed a composition like a single tree. It was beautiful.

Another interesting spot is Barito, a popular fishing site, located quite far from the city, approximately 45 minutes trip by car. For people in Biak, 45 minutes trip is quite long, but it’s just a warmup when you’re a traffic animal who used to roam the streets of Jakarta, one of the traffic jam capitals of the world. The sand is white and clear, but it isn’t suitable for leisure swimming, making it unpopular among the tourists. Most of the time, the beach is vacant.

Marau Beach ia a good example of an epic failure. Originally set as a main tourist attraction in Biak, it was the place for an ambitious, gigantic project called Marau Beach Hotel, a five-star prestigious hotel. It was considered as the biggest and the most glamorous hotel in Papua, built integrated with the hill around the beach. At that time, Biak was the transit place for international flights from Indonesia to US. After Marau Beach Hotel was finished and had been operated for some time, suddenly Garuda Indonesia cut off their international flight to LA.  Without international transit flight following the closure of international terminal in Frans Kaisiepo airport, Biak began to lose its chance to become the main tourist destination in Papua and Marau Beach Hotel began to lose its customers. What’s left now from the deserted hotel is its ruins and the deserted beach, the legacies of the ambitious Marau Beach Hotel project.

Bosnik is the most popular beach in Biak since I wasn’t even born. Because of its proximity to the city, every weekend Bosnik is always full-packed from people all over Biak, having fun on a white sandy beach, swimming or do some fun snorkeling.

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