Biak, the hidden paradise

“The coral reefs are gorgeous!” screamed Yovita Ayu Liwanuru, Miss Scuba Indonesia 2012, as she emerged on the water’s surface after diving around Owi Island in the Padaido Archipelago, Biak Numfor regency, Papua.  

“They’re teeming with fish, especially lionfish,” added the woman, who also made second place in
the Miss Scuba International competition, with a broad smile of satisfaction at the end of two dives after her previous day’s diving off Rurbas Island.

The two islands belong to the island group of Padaido, which is located in the eastern part of Biak Island and can be reached within two hours by speedboat from the port of Biak.

Padaido comprises 30 islets in Cendrawasih Bay, 17 of which are uninhabited. With its pristine water, wide sandy beaches and high biodiversity, the place is ideal for marine adventures such as diving, snorkeling and swimming.     

There are at least 12 dive spots in Padaido but it is likely that many more new dive locations will be discovered, as not all the potential areas in this zone have been explored.  

With its untouched coral reefs, which offer a great variety of marine life as well as visibility of up to 30 meters, who can resist the area’s underwater charms? If one were to compare Padaido in Cendrawasih Bay and Thousand Islands in Jakarta Bay, one would conclude they were as different as heaven and earth.

One of the favorite dive spots in Biak is the wreck of the Catalina. A US seaplane, the Catalina served during the Pacific War against the Japanese and now lies virtually intact on the seabed east of the port of Biak.

The Catalina fleet, which was produced by the Consolidated Aircraft company between 1930 and 1940, were equipped with bombs, torpedoes and machine guns, and were frequently used in various missions during World War II.

There are no records regarding when and why the aircraft, which is 16.25 meters long with a wing span of 27.2 meters, was downed. However, as the fuselage remains intact without traces of enemy shelling, it would appear the seaplane may have suffered engine trouble before plunging into the sea.

Lying undamaged at a depth of 30 meters, the Catalina is now home to angelfish, lionfish, damselfish and other smaller fish that swarm around the wreckage. Coral reefs have also taken hold and covered several parts of the aircraft.

Hopefully, the Catalina will continue to be maintained as a historic site of World War II as the mystery surrounding this plane has always been a magnet for curious local and foreign divers.