Biak - first impressions of Indonesia

Dec 21st 2019

If you are thinking of cruising to Indonesia and are considering Biak as your check-in port, do yourself a favour and make it one. It’s a bustling town with everything a cruiser could possibly need within a short walk or ride away.

Now according to various blogs and guide books, some Indonesian officials apparently may need ‘greasing’ and can be slow and or difficult. I don’t know if we just had a lucky run but the officials we dealt with could not have been more friendly or helpful if we had paid them off! Our dealings with immigration, customs, quarantine and finally the port captain were as smooth as a baby’s bum despite (our) disorganisation and failure to follow basic instructions. The Indonesian officials had already been alerted of our arrival since Family Circus had arrived a day earlier, with quarantine and customs boat inspections booked for 9:00am for us and Zig Zag.

You’re not really supposed to leave the boat until cleared in Indonesia (or anywhere else probably!) but by 9.30 and no officials in sight (and five days being stuck on a boat), we decide to visit immigration first (ok ok, also to buy some internet credit). All is very straightforward at immigration but it is possible that five loud kids playing in the same room sped things up.

The kids plan their assault on immigration

After a group selfie with immigration officials, we run back to the beach where customs and quarantine wait patiently. With four quarantine and two customs officials plus the full Toc and Zig Zag crew, several dingy trips are required. The harbour is very unsettled with relatively big waves making the trip back wet and boarding the boat from a rolling dingy plainly dangerous for the unaccustomed. We take quarantine first, with three of them insisting on staying outside in the cockpit while only one agrees to come inside. She is friendly but very rushed offering some very strange facial expressions throughout the formalities. I finally figure out that she is seasick and probably trying not to puke. They could not wait to get off the boat!

Quarantine finally able to smile once formalities were completed- note how most are facing towards the exit

Even happier to be in the dingy
The two young customs officials are next. The vessel declaration we completed online a couple of months back is not in their system. No problem - do I want to hotspot to their phone to log in and try to retrieve it? When this doesn’t work, well how about one of them returns to the office with our details to complete it for us, while the other one drives Irene (from Zig Zag) and me to the supermarket to do some shopping? Well sure - that will work!

On our way to the supermarket, Igo - the friendliest customs official in all of Indonesia, asks us if we are hungry. Yes. Well, if it’s not too much trouble, he could take us to his favourite food spot for a bite.

Irene and I wait for our first taste of Indo food

After a delicious meal, he takes us to the supermarket, waits for an hour until we finish shopping, drops us back to customs to pick up the forms. then drives us and our shopping back to the beach. I feel very welcome in this country already.

Toc and Zig Zag kids are relieved Santa comes to Indonesia

The rest of our time in Biak is a heady mix of last minute Christmas shopping, selfies, laundry (using a washing machine!) and fresh food markets to die for.

Food for the soul

A very intriguing sign in the public bathrooms
Night street market fun
Buying phone credit and selfies go hand in hand
Little bottle, little bottle, where are you?

Despite severe sleep deprivation combined with heat exhaustion, we are all elated to have made it to Indonesia. After two days, shopping is complete and right on schedule, on 23 December we sail to nearby Padaido islands for Christmas. But that’s a story for another day.