There are 6 separate, contiguous locations here, with
the wall close to shore dropping 30m or more, flattening out, then dropping
again out of scuba range. The reef face is pockmarked by some fairly deep caves
where only qualified cave divers should venture. Larger fish life includes moray
eels, skipjacks, lobster, napoleons, barracuda, turtles, tuna and sharks,
especially the grey reef variety. At the other end of the size scale, 5 out of
the 6 sites usually host a good variety of nudibranchs.
The diving off the Padaido Islands, the third group of dive sites, is tops for
the larger fishes, both variety and numbers. There also tends to be more current
here, preferred by some of the larger reef fishes and the pelagics. Site #25,
called The Atoll, is said to be best for large fish, including several 2m long
dogfin tuna and large schools of very friendly batfish. In general, at the
Padaido sites, the guides attest to frequent sightings of several varieties of
sharks, eagle rays, jacks, turtle and barracuda.
This seems right from my limited dives there. Coral cover was
none too good and we saw some dynamite fishing damage. Clams, including a couple
of giant ones, were evident during one dive. Another plunge featured a deep
cave-like cleft with 3 large, spectacular openings. Biak's most spectacular
dives, both for the fishes and the bottom profiles, are in the Padaido Islands.
Diving in Biak is not for those with little time and even less money. It's
neither cheap nor quick to fly there from Bali or Jakarta, but a bit more
reasonable from Manado. Once you are there, you might as well stay a while.
There are over 3 dozen dive locations to choose from, and more exploratory dives
will probably expand the potential dive sites.
Rain, waves and spray made for some pretty uncomfortable rides to and from the
Padaido sites and precluded our diving off southwest Biak.
within September 1997 a larger dive boat, built right there, was due for
completion. This should make for more pleasant journeys to the further
locations, especially to the Outer (or Upper) Padaido Islands, an area due for
exploration by the guides as soon as the larger dive boat becomes operational.
You could found the dive guides competent, especially underwater. Topside,
their English leaves lots of room for improvement as do the dive plans which
tend to be very brief and without much vital information as to currents or
description of any special features. But all of our underwater surprises were of
the pleasant kind. The typical day trip leaves in the morning, does a dive,
breaks on some convenient beach for a box lunch and after a rest, another dive
before heading back in mid to late afternoon
It is a long way to Biak and if you have travelled this far, there's plenty to
explore with either time or money (best, as anywhere else, is to have both!).
Biak island itself offers overland minibus jaunts and boat rides along the
coasts. This is all very cheap but crowded and time-consuming if you use public
transportation. These trips, however, reveal Biak's traditional lifestyle of
small-scale farming and fishing by a generally well-educated and dynamic group.
Many of the larger villages have weekly markets, when the island's colourful
agricultural products are on display. This is, of course, the best time for a
visit, with plenty of transportation available.
In any jaunt around Biak, by land or sea, always bring your mask, snorkel and
fins; there are many tempting locations to check out. Just a bit further afield,
for instance, the island of Numfor boasts of a magical lagoon on its west coast.
When we checked out this mini-paradise, the tepid waters swarmed with bright
fish. An occasional canoe squeezed in under the narrow coral overhang at the
lagoon's entrance, manned by fishermen skilled with spears. Palms and mangrove
ring this lovely lagoon with bright red parrots squawking overhead.