Six Months Cruising Northern Indonesia

Published 11 years ago, updated 4 years ago

We have just returned to Australia from 6 months in Northern Indonesia (West Papua and Celebes).

Our Boat is M/V Beaujest 40 ft long 2 ft draft aluminium custom built Trimaran, which can be dismantled and shipped in a 40 shipping container. Powered by 2 x90 hp Tohatsu two-stroke outboard motors. We cruised with one motor at 2,500rpm at 5 knots for the economy.

We are Australian citizens and the boat is Australian registered. We obtained Visas from the Indonesian consulate in Darwin by post, social visas valid for 6 months. We obtained a CAIT from Helen de Lima in Ambon. After securing our CAIT we were told by another cruiser who visits Indonesia often, that a CAIT is not necessary. In fact, not one official asked to see our CAIT. You can just say you are “in transit”. Nobody ever asked for a “bond”.

West Papua – Merauke

We entered via Merauke, West Papua. Went to Immigration for Entry. He was friendly, but took our passports and said he would stamp them and we could have them back the next day. We did not get our passports back for 2 weeks and only after we paid 2 million rupiahs and were asked for a bottle of Scotch Whisky (we didn’t have any!).

We had difficulty with the language, nobody speaks English. An “Agent” wanted to help us for a fee, we told him no. The Port police were helpful but warned us to be very careful of the local West Papuans. They had a guard placed near our boat for our protection.

We tried to buy Petrol (benzene) from a service station using jerry cans but they would not sell us fuel. I don’t know why. The price was 45 cents a litre Australian. I ended up getting a fisherman to buy Petrol for us for 55 cents a litre.

Onward Cruising

We left Merauke and travelled along the coast, through the straits of Muli (very primitive).

We stopped at Agats (where Michael Rockefeller was eaten in the 1950’s). The local police were friendly and helpful (the police are all Indonesian and not West Papuan). We were heading for Ambon, but the local police advised us that there had been trouble between Moslems and Christians in Ambon and avoid it if we could.

We had not been impressed with West Papua, very shallow mud banks, nothing to buy except fish and rice. We met a local, Captain Said, who advised us to cruise north to Kaimana West Papua. The water up north was clear and blue but now we had coral reefs to contend with and our Cmap charts were not very accurate.

We stopped in Fak Fak. Again, the police were friendly and helpful. No mention of a Bond etc. but a few packets of cigarettes helped. We left the boat in Fak Fak and flew to Darwin, for spare parts and to extend our visas. One police officer asked that when I return could I bring him some vodka. I said, but you are Moslem, his reply – “only a little bit Moslem”.

We finished our trip in Bitung/Menado (Sulawesi) where we placed the boat into a 40 ft shipping container and shipped it home. We flew.


Indonesian authorities were friendly, but some officers interpret their own laws differently. Some want a bribe (Merauke), some just make it difficult, (Menado). Sometimes it will cost you money, but not very much ($20.00 maybe).

I would however NOT go back or recommend West Papua or Northern Indonesia for cruisers. There is no wind and it is very shallow for keelboats. The locals are friendly but always want gifts.

Beau Lyons

M/V Beaujest

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