Information about Manokwari


Manokwari is a small and compact town, situated around Teluk Doreri, a narrow bay facing south, and surrounded by hills covered with primary rainforest. The main government buildings and the deep-sea port are in Kota, on the east side of the bay, while the central market is in Sanggeng, on the west side of the bay. West of Teluk Doreri is another bay and the suburb of Wosi. Pasir Putih, a beautiful white-sand beach, is a 10-minute drive to the northwest, and the offshore island of Mansinam is accessible by a short ride on an outrigger.

The airport is a 10 minute drive past Wosi to the southwest of town, while the conference venue, Universitas Negeri Papua, is the hills to the north, in a suburb called Amban, about a 5-10 minutes drive from town.


Rendani airport is situated a few kilometers southeast of town. Getting in to town you have two options. Airport “taxis” will take you to your hotel in town for Rps 150,000, which, given how close it is, is pretty exorbitant. It’s possible you might be able to bargain a bit, but probably not by much. Though if you’re in a group then it works out more worthwhile. The second option is to walk out past the gate to the street in front, and negotiate with an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver, recognizable by their yellow helmets. Don’t worry if you have lots of luggage, they can usually manage that as well. Unlike elsewhere in town, you’ll need to negotiate hard, but prices should be Rps 15,000-20,000 for most places in town, maybe 25,000 for the Mansinam Beach Hotel, which is out of town in the opposite direction. On the way back, some but not all hotels offer free transportation to the airport.

Safety and Security

For the visitor, Indonesia is one of the safest countries that there is, and Manokwari is one of the safest places in the archipelago.

Unfortunately, the western half of the island of New Guinea is a zone of political strife. Actual armed conflict, however, is localized and sporadic, and Manokwari has been totally peaceful for years. Moreover, foreign tourists and travelers are never targeted, as it is generally assumed that they are supportive of the local population. As visitors, though, we should remember that our presence in Manokwari is due to the gracious hospitality of the Indonesian authorities and the local population, which means that we must tread a fine line in order to meet the divergent sensitivities of our different hosts. In practical terms, though, Manokwari feels as though it’s a million miles from any conflict, and in your short stay you are unlikely to see anything more threatening than a smiling traffic policeman.


Like most of the region, Manokwari is in a malarial zone, so take your pills.

There are several pharmacies located around town. The following two, both near the hospital, have good supplies and are open 24 hours.

Apotik Wondama Farma
Jl. Bhayangkara, next door to the Hotel Aries.

Apotik Sehat
Jl. Bhayangkara, opposite the hospital.


There are ATMs at the Hadi supermarket downtown (next to the Swiss Belhotel), and at the main entrance to the Unipa campus, as well as various other places around town. There is a branch of Bank Mandiri downtown on
Jl. Yos Sudarso. Most establishments around town are cash-only.


Internet access has improved greatly in recent years, but is still spotty and unreliable, and as changeable as the weather and the flight schedules to Manokwari. Most of the larger hotels have, or had, or will have, or would like to have either wifi or their own terminals with internet access. There are also lots of internet cafes (warnet) all round town. One day one is the best, the next day the other one has a better connection …

As of mid-January 2017, two good places to get online were (1) the Permata restaurant (see food section below for directions), where, for the price of a fresh fruit juice, they’ll give you their wifi password; and (2) the Mansinam Beach Hotel, whose wifi seems to be available for all users, without a password. But of course this could change within hours.

Local Transportation

There are no taxis other than the few airport taxis, and no buses or trains in Manokwari.

Minibuses ply the main routes, and the fare is a flat Rps 4000. The two most important routes for conference participants are:

  • route A: around the bay, from Sanggeng to Kota (and onwards to Kwawi)
  • route B: from Sanggeng to UNIPA (and Amban)

(If you want to get from Kota to UNIPA, you need to change at the corner where routes A and B meet.)

Ojeks (motorcycle taxis) are ubiquitous, and are easily identifiable by the drivers yellow helmets. For anywhere around town the fare is a flat Rps 5000, no bargaining needed. (And the driver will readily have change for a 50,000!) From town up to UNIPA the fare is 10,000, perhaps 15,000 from the Mansinam Beach Hotel.

Outrigger boats (perahu or jonson) make the trip to Pulau Lemon and Mansinam. Regular departures are available from Kwawi, about 1 km along the road from the harbour east towards Pasir Putih, but these are infrequent. For chartering, boats are available from just about anywhere along the waterfront: try the wooden bridge behind the Hadi shopping center, or the fish market in Sanggeng. Prices will vary from Rps 100,000 to 150,000 depending on where you’re going, how long you want to stay there, and so on.

Transportation from the hotels to the UNIPA conference venue will be provided each morning, as will the return trip each afternoon.


Used to be that you needed a guide to find the good food in Manokwari, but things have improved substantially over the years, and now there are exciting eating possibilities almost everywhere. The following is just a short list of some of my own personal favourites.

Papuan food is a bit harder to find, since, when Papuans go out to eat, they tend to want something different, which for them means rice or noodles. The signature Papuan dish is papeda ikan kuah kuning (sago mush with fish in yellow sauce), which can now be found in many upmarket restaurants. More down-market, about a 5 minute walk against the traffic from the Swiss Belhotel on the one-way road leading to Borobudur, a row of stalls sets up every night selling typical Papuan fish, pork, veggies and tubers. It’s mostly meant for takeway, but you can ask to sit down and eat there, if you’re comfortable eating with your hands. Alternatively, when a big Pelni ship is docking, the same women will be selling the same food from makeshift stalls in the harbour.

Manado food, one of the most outstanding cuisines in Indonesia, or, for that matter just about anywhere, is probably the best food you’ll find in Manokwari. If you haven’t yet developed a taste for RW (dog) or paniki (bat) this is your chance. But for the less adventurous, there are also excellent pork and vegetable dishes, as well as good soups, and a wonderful bubur (congee). There are now quite a few Manado restaurants around town. My favourite is Wenang, out in Wosi, on the waterfront near the bridge, just past the market.

It’s a source of wonder how the same island has room for two cuisines as different as Manado and Makassar. Makassar is, how to put it, not quite up to the standards of Manado. Their signature dish is coto makassar, a beef broth with meat, liver, and (on request) brain, lung, and other organ meats in it. Their best dish, however, is konro, large chunks of meat on the bone in a dark brown broth; one of the most convenient places to try it is in the little warung just outside the Orchid Mall, to the left.

Javanese food is ubiquitous, most of the street-side stalls you’ll see all over town are Javanese, offering fried rice, noodles, and lalapan, which in other parts of Indonesia is known as pecel: rice with slightly boiled veggies and grilled chicken or fish. These are the cheapest places to eat, starting at Rps 15,000 – 25,000. There are also lots of slightly larger restaurants offering a wider variety of dishes; perhaps the best selection of these is a row of eating places in Wosi, by the traffic light where the coastal road meets the road coming down the hill from the centre of town. The Aneka Batik Papua downtown has reasonable food in a pleasant garden setting (expect to sit on pillows on the floor at low tables) and a good selection of fruit juices, with batik cloth and clothing for sale upstairs. Near campus, Magetan Ms. Marr on Jl. Gunung Salju sells a good nasi campur (various toppings such as fried noodles, veggies, meat, fish, and eggs over rice) at lunchtime for Rps ~15,000.

Wherever the Minangkabau people from West Sumatra go, they bring their cuisine with them. But as the distance from Padang increases, the quality decreases, so by the time it gets to Manokwari, it’s deteriorated from spectacular to just mediocre. The best of the bunch is probably the Sederhana, which is by the traffic light opposite the entrance to the Angkatan Laut (Navy) headquarters, on the road from Sanggeng to Wosi.

Batak cuisine is focused on pork, euphemistically known as B2, for the two b’s in babi (pig). Their most interesting dish is saksang, which is pork cooked in its own blood, and with a special chili pepper called andaliman, similar to its Szechuanese counterpart. My favourite Batak restaurant is Marinam, on the steep road leading up from the centre of town towards Reremi.

There are no “real” Chinese restaurants of the kind you find elsewhere in Indonesia, with Teochew or other regional Chinese dishes. However, there are a handful of places offering Chinese/Indonesian style seafood and other generic Indonesian dishes. Not surprisingly, the fish is usually fresher here than in many other places, such as Jakarta. The best is probably Rumah Makan 89, on Jl Merdeka, half a block south from the Mokwam hotel.

Generic Indonesian
There are lots of these around, often with a sign saying “cafe & resto” out front. Most are okay, but one that definitely outshines most of the competition is Rumah Makan Permata, on Jl. Merdeka, almost opposite the Mokwam hotel, easily recognizable by its garish pink paint job. Out front it says “Jakarta food”, but it’s actually food from all over the archipelago, in the form of a self-service buffet a bit pricey, but well worth a visit.

Hotel Food
Most of the larger hotels have their own restaurants, usually offering the usual Chinese/Indonesian style dishes. While some are relatively busy, and offer a convenient location for a meal, others look as though you’re going to be their first customer this month, which means that you might experience a long wait before somebody musters the courage to tell you that they’re out of food.


Manokwari does not have much to offer for the serious shopper. The main market, called pasar tingkat, is in Sanggeng, opposite the Hotel Mutiara, and is worth a stroll. On the second floor, facing the street, there’s an arts and crafts store which seems to be permanently shut. A couple of hundred meters behind the market (follow your nose) is the main fish market. There’s also a good market in Wosi. There’s a souvenir shop right at the base of the hill near the corner of Jl. Merdeka and Jl. Yos Sudarso, and Aneka Batik Papua on Jl. Sudirman ner te Mokwam Hotel sells batik cloth, clothing, and other items with Papuan patterns. For those who cannot survive without malls, well there’s Hadi, situated right at the apex of the V shaped Doreri bay, which has a supermarket, a department store, and that’s about it. Otherwise, there’s a smattering of general stores along Jl Merdeka in Kota.


Beaches don’t get any better than the ones located in and around Manokwari. And what’s more, there’s an incredible variety: for sand you can choose between white powder, golden granular, or fine grey, and for sea you can take your pick of calm turquoise, rocky reef or crashing surf. Having said that, Doreri bay, around which Manokwari is situated, is a garbage-littered tidal flat: to get to the good beaches you have to go out of town. Except on Sundays, the beaches are generally deserted, which is wonderful, but don’t forget to bring your own water and whatever other supplies you may need.

To get to the beaches on the mainland, you can take one of the infrequent taksis (shared minibuses), or hire an ojek. A group of people may consider chartering a taksi: for Rps 100,000 – 150,000, you can go out to any beach, and arrange for your driver to pick you up a few hours later. Alternatively, you might want to rent your own motorcycle and go exploring. To get to the beaches on the offshore islands, see under “Local Transportation”.

Pasir Putih
This is the most easily accessible beach, just a few kilometers east of town, and it lives up to its name “white sand”. Good swimming, generally calm water, and a picturesque village just up the coast, but lots of garbage. Gets relatively crowded on Sundays.

Past Pasir Putih beach and Arowi village, Bakaro is a tiny village situated in a beautiful cove facing north. Two patches of golden sand are separated by strange black rock formations, and backed by seemingly impenetrable jungle. Good swimming, with occasional surf. At a particular point on the beach, the villagers whistle to summon the fish and then feed them.

Heading north past UNIPA, the road goes down to the coast, and then continues west, hugging the northern coast of the bird’s head. Miles and miles of deserted beach with grey sand and crashing surf. A good spot to stop is just past the bridge over the first major river, here you can go surfing and then paddle in the sweet-water lagoon. But beware, the sandflies can be vicious.

Pulau Lemon
This is the closest and the smallest of the offshore islands. The sand is so pristinely white, the water so stunningly turquoise, and the trees such a rich deep green that your pictures will look as though you’ve been playing around with Photoshop. (Though you might want to use Photoshop to get rid of all the trash lying around.) Facing Manokwari is the best beach, with calm water and a steep drop off.

Pulau Mansinam
This is the second closest of the islands, and is considerably larger. Similarly spectacular beaches, plus, on the side facing Manokwari, a small village with a church and a historical site: the location of the first missionary activity in Papua. (A big celebration takes place here every year on February 5th, attracting people from all over the province; this year was the 152nd anniversary of the missionaries’ arrival.)

Or you can go exploring and find your own beach, either the old fashioned way, or using GoogleEarth. But if you do use GoogleEarth, remember that it may be great for locating white sand beaches, but it doesn’t tell you what lies beneath the water: more white sand, or perhaps rocks and sea urchins and other nasty thingies. Just one thing: if you do find the perfect beach, keep it perfect by not telling anyone.

The Linguistic Landscape of Manokwari

The island of New Guinea contains about 20% of the world’s languages, and although only a small proportion of them can actually be found in Manokwari, that’s still quite a lot.

The official language in Manokwari is of course the national language, Indonesian. However, the language of everyday oral communication, the language that you’ll hear all around you most of the time, is Papuan Malay. Like in many other parts of Indonesia, there is a continuum of registers from the acrolectal standard language to the basilectal Papuan Malay. Thus, the kind of Malay/Indonesian that a vendor in the market would use to an Indonesian-speaking visitor will be quite different from that he or she might use to another local person.

An example of Papuan Malay can be seen in the advertisement slogan above, for a mobile phone provider: Trada Yang Blok Tong Pu Kartu ‘Nobody blocks our card’. In Standard Indonesian this might read Tak Ada Yang Memblok Kartu Kami. The above slogan thus exhibits a number of peculiarly Papuan Malay features: (a) a suppletive form trada for the combination of negative plus existential; (b) the absence of prenasalization marking an active verbal form; (c) the absence of a first person plural exclusive pronoun, the general first person plural pronoun tong being a reduced form of kita ‘we’ plus orang ‘person’; (d) a prenominal genitive construction containing pu, a reduced form of punya. In general, Papuan Malay is seldom written; its use in advertisement slogans such as the above may thus be considered to be “emblematic”, reflecting a conscious effort to sound folsky and authentic.

Like most cities in Indonesia, Manokwari is a magnet for migrants. In the central parts of town, around half of the population are from outside of Papua, from other islands to the west. One obvious measure of this diversity is in the foodstalls: if they advertise paniki they’re probably from North Sulawesi, coto and they’re Makassarese, soto and they’re Javanese, nasi Padang and they speak Minangkabau. Of these languages, at least Javanese would seem to have already developed its own indigenous Papuan variety.

Most of the Papuan residents of Manokwari are also migrants from other regions. When asked, a large proportion of the population will identify themselves as either “orang Biak” or “orang Serui”, however these are both labels covering a variety of ethnicties and linguistic groups. Biak is the name of one of the two major islands in the Cenderawasih bay; it is also the name of the Austronesian language spoken on the island, and in many other parts of the Cenderawasih bay region, where it functions as a lingua franca. Serui is the name of the major town on the other major island in the Cenderawasih bay, Yapen; but there is no Serui language. Rather, there are around a dozen Austronesian languages spoken on Yapen, plus the non-Austronesian language Yawa, and an “orang Serui” could speak any one of them. In addition, speakers of yet other languages, on the New Guinea mainland opposite Yapen, might also identify themselves as “orang Serui”.

Speakers of different languages typically congregate in little “diaspora” villages, some located right in the middle of town. If you walk down to the waterfront behind the Hadi mall, you’ll find that everybody there speaks Ansus, one of the Austronesian languages of Yapen. Keep walking along the shore towards Kota, and you’ll pass through a settlement of Butonese migrants from Southeastern Sulawesi. Next, you’ll reach a village where most of all of the inhabitants are from Roon (a small island in off the southwest shore of Cendrawasih bay), and whose language is closely related to Biak. All in a leisurely 10 minute stroll.

The two local Non-Austronesian languages of Manokwari are Hatam and Meyah, both belonging to the West Papuan family; although typologically similar, they have a low rate of shared vocabulary. However, these languages are spoken in villages that are not accessible to the casual visitor to Manokwari. Still, if you spend enough time in Manokwari, you’ll probably come across speakers of dozens and dozens of the local languages of Papua.

Where Is Manokwari These Days? A Note on Geographical Terminology

The Indonesian-controlled half of the island of New Guinea has recently undergone a number of official name changes. During the Suharto era it constituted a single province that went by the name of Irian Jaya. This name is still commonly understood. However, in the post-Suharto period, it was decided to split Irian Jaya into two provinces: a larger eastern one called Papua, and a smaller western one called Irian Jaya Barat. Then, in February of 2007, Irian Jaya Barat was renamed as Papua Barat. So Manokwari is now the provincial capital of Papua Barat.

Unfortunately, there is now no obvious way to refer to the geographical region that was once known as Irian Jaya.The Former Irian Jaya? The Western Half of the Island of New Guinea? Ex Dutch New Guinea? Indonesian-controlled New Guinea? Papua Plus Papua Barat? However, in everyday parlance, the region is usually referred to simply as Papua. If you need to refer to the somewhat smaller province of Papua you can specify Propinsi Papua, and if you’re talking about the independent country to the east, well that’s generally called PNG.)

A term that has been gaining ground recently is “Tanah Papua”, or “the land of Papua”; for a recent discussion of this term see the following blog.

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