Eastern Indonesia is an archipelago maritime paradise dotted with rows of islands set against a mesmerizing backdrop and with clear seas as far as the eye can see. Whenever West Papua is mentioned, then Raja Ampat is name that comes to mind, and smack dab in the middle of the area lies the charming little island of Arborek.
Getting to Arborek Island takes about 1.5 hours-2 hours by sea using a fast boat from Waisai Island, depending on sea conditions. The journey across the high seas pays off when the ship docks at a humble wooden wharf. Warm smiles, typical of eastern Indonesia, immediately greet visitors, a welcome full of local wisdom.
Arborek Island is in the Meosmansar District of the Raja Ampat Regency, West Papua and has an area of about 7 hectares which, to circle it by foot, takes approximately 30 minutes. Although short, the scenery is magnificent, with stretches of white sand, crystal clear sea, local houses, and neatly arranged homestays to spoil the eyes.
‘Arborek’ comes from the Biak language which means thorn and the Biak tribe have long been known as skilled sailors, nicknamed the Vikings of Papua. One day, Biak sailors sailed from Cendrawasih Bay to the north and accidentally found an empty island with white sand. After exploring and making sure that the island was uninhabited, they decided to stay and make settlements. Since it was originally filled with thorny bushes, the island was named Arborek.
In the middle of the island stands a simple but meaningful Monument to the Gospel of Marthen Mambraku. The monument was built as a memorial for the early entry of the Bible into the Arborek Tourism Village in 1936 by religious leaders, namely Mr. Wilhemus Mambrasar, Mr. Rakibu Mambrasar, and Mr. Permenas Mambrasar. Remembering the teachings of the Bible, another religious leader from PAM village named Marthen Mambraku was invited as the first Bible teacher. This iconic monument is located close to the Arborek Tourism Village Church and the Gospel Monument itself was inaugurated on November 4, 2017.
Papua’s Underwater Paradise
Not unlike Raja Ampat itself, Arborek Island is deemed one of the best locations for diving which is why you will find many certified dive centers in and around the island with their own diving packages. But fear not, if you haven’t got a diving license yet, the island’s snorkeling activities are also something to look forward to. The wharf you arrived at is a great place to start with a wealth of underwater flora and fauna. The wooden foundation of the pier is home for colorful coral reefs. Dive a little away from the pier, the coral reefs and schools of fish are even more pleasing to behold as the Arborek Sea is also known as a location where manta rays are to be found.
Local Wisdom in Creative Products
As precious as the life underwater, the women of Arborek (commonly called the Arborek Mamas) are creative, and especially in hats and bags. Arborek hats look like manta rays with a wide shape which is very useful in providing some respite from the blazing sun on your vacation.
Alongside Arborek hats are woven bags made of sea pandanus, a plant that grows on the beaches. The manufacturing process requires high precision and perseverance, because the sea pandan leaves must be dried and shaved into small strands prior to the weaving process. Then, to give a motif to the weave, some of the small strands are given natural dyes that come from indigenous plants. There are 3 types of pandan leaf bags, namely the large kapowen, the small box kabiren which is useful for storing betel nut, areca nut, and cigarettes, and kokoya for sago. The price range for this woven sea pandanus bag is Rp. 100,000 to Rp. 300,000 per product depending on the size and level of difficulty. However, this price speaks to the artistic and cultural value of the original work of the Arborek Mamas.
photo by Dody Wiraseto