The Biak Numfor district in the Indonesian province of West Papua has myriad natural, marine, cultural, and historical attractions for both domestic and foreign tourists, but lacks promotion.
Situated at the top of Cendrawasih Bay in the northern part of Papua, the Biak Island has borne witness to the ghastly World War II battles between the Allied forces and the Japanese.
During World War II, in April 1942, Biak was invaded by the Japanese but was recaptured by the Allied forces during June and July of 1944. War relics and even human remains may still be found in the forest. Visitors can also explore a small museum that houses Japanese and American relics.
Many visitors have attested to the fact that Biak is a wonderful place for wildlife and bird-watching despite some areas being devastated by logging.
If promoted intensively, domestic and foreign tourists will be able to witness the world war remains, enjoy spectacular sea gardens, and explore the surrounding small tropical serene islands, which have pristine white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters and beautiful varied fish and corals.
Therefore, Biak district head expert staff Daniel Bonsapia has reiterated that the local government has collaborated with PT Garuda Indonesia in a bid to promote the wealth of its natural and historical tourism.
"We have many natural and historical attractions to promote in cooperation with the national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia," Bonsapia recently stated in Biak.
He noted that besides natural and historic tourism, the waters around some islands in the district are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
"The tourists who go diving at these islands will have an unforgettable experience to enjoy the beautiful coral reefs with schools of ornamental fish," Bonsapia remarked.
He further added that the Biak district administration will continue to cooperate with all stakeholders, private parties, and travel bureaus, such as Garuda Indonesia to intensively promote its tourist attractions.
"Intensive promotion of tourist attractions in Biak will draw many domestic and foreign tourists to visit the district," he asserted.
Meanwhile, Biak branch of Garuda Indonesia General Manager Wayan Supatrayasa affirmed that the national flag carrier is committed to helping the Biak district promote its tourism potentials.
"As the national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia is obliged to participate in promoting Biaks natural, historical, and marine tourism potentials," Supatrayasa stated.
According to Supatrayasa, Garuda is now serving the Makassar-Biak-Jayapura route with return flights for tourists who want to spend their holidays in Biak.
Besides this, the Japanese Binsari cave is also being promoted as a historical tourist attraction in order to increase the number of tourist visitors.
"Binsari cave is one of the many tourist attractions being promoted by the Biak district administration to attract as many domestic and foreign tourists as possible," cave keeper Yusuf noted.
According to Yusuf, during the World War II, the cave was used as a hideout by some five thousand Japanese soldiers.
"As per historical records, allied forces led by General Douglas MacArthur bombed the cave on June 21, 1944, killing more than three thousand Japanese soldiers and disfiguring all the beauty of the cave," he claimed.
Yusuf added that following an agreement between the governments of Indonesia and Japan in 1989, Binsari cave was excavated and around one thousand skeletal remains of Japanese soldiers were unearthed and cremated.
"As of 2012, some one thousand skeletons of Japanese soldiers were unearthed, but we believe that many more are still buried in the cave," he pointed out.
Therefore, Yusuf noted that the cave is being promoted for drawing tourists, especially hailing from Japan.
Before being named by Corruption Eradication Commission as a suspect in a corruption case recently, Biak Numfor District head Yesaya Sumbok had stated that the district will be developed into a leading international tourist destination in the eastern part of Indonesia.
The district is made up of two major islands of Biak and Numfor, and many other small islands with numerous beautiful beaches famous for their crystal-clear waters in Cenderawasih Bay.
Biak is one of the better known areas of West Papua, and it formerly served as a major air-stopover for trans-Pacific flights from Jakarta.
During that time, there were clear plans for developing this area for tourism, but it failed to materialize following the halt of trans-Pacific flights.
Since then, international tourists virtually stopped visiting Biak, which is blessed with many atolls, reefs, and corals.
Currently, Biak offers the most spectacular sea gardens in the world, and the sea around it is dotted with small islands having a plethora of fish and corals.
Therefore, Yesaya was determined to develop marine tourism at the Padaido Islands to make the Biak Numfor district an international tourist destination in eastern Indonesia.
Comprising 30 small islands, Padaido is a small archipelago with its unique attractions that can be developed to make it a leading tourist destination in West Papua.
According to Yesaya, the cluster of Padaido islands has alluring beaches and offers varied habitats, such as atolls, reef edges, and underwater caves.
Therefore, the islands need to be developed to boost the local economy by involving the local people, investors, and environmental observers.
Meanwhile, Deputy District Head Thomas Ondi explained that Padaido is derived from the local language, which means "inexpressible beauty", and in the past, it was named Schouter after William Schouter, a Dutch sailor who first discovered the islands in 1602.
According to Thomas, it takes just an hour from the Bosnik port to reach Padaido using a motor boat, and about 3 to 4 hours using a canoe paddle to the islands, which offer an array of attractions, underwater caves, and tunnels.
Thomas pointed out that the beaches on those islands have cotton-white sand and clear waters allowing the sunlight to reach the seabed, thereby enabling the visitors to enjoy the marine life from the mainland.
"Besides having the greatest biodiversity of coral ecosystems in the world, other things that the divers should not miss are challenging underwater caves to be explored, the wrecks of sunken ships, aircraft, and tanks," Thomas explained.
According to a study conducted by Biodiversity Conservation Network (BCN), Padaido is one of those places blessed with the greatest biodiversity of coral ecosystems in the world.
The waters of Padaido have 95 coral species and 155 species of fish, such as various types of reef sharks and octopuses and numerous other maritime riches.
The Padaido Islands has a reef area spanning about 9,252 acres and 328.2 acres of deep reefs.
Some international divers consider that the Padaidos beach area has the most spectacular coral reefs in the world, and therefore, this marine park is perfect for diving and snorkeling. (Antara)