Back in the days, the famed ‘Moluccas’ was a place where a great wealth grew on the trees – quite literally.  Mace, nutmeg and cloves were found nowhere else in the world, which reinforced the Dutch colonial power. These days, it is rather the Polynesian look that draws the visitors. Indeed, some of the islands in Central Maluku could easily compete with Tahiti.

Pulau Seram, Central Maluku


Historically, Ambon Island is the most important island in Maluku. Being a former Dutch colony and a battlefront during the WWII, there are many interesting sights to see. Although it is much smaller than its sisters Seram Island, Ambon has several universities and the major airport in Maluku.

It is also the most visited tourist destination in the ‘Moluccas’. Ambon surely is a place of great beauty; defined by tropical rainforest, active volcanoes, hot springs, white powdery beaches and fantastic diving sites, the island simply cannot fail to delight.

Christina Martha Tiahahu Statue, sunset in the Gulf of Ambon


  • Ambon City – Fort Amsterdam, Al-Fatah Great Mosque, the Commonwealth War Graves, Siwa Lima Museum
  • Pintu Kota – spectacular rocky beach, rugged coastline
  • Waii Christian Village – famous for the sacred eels, snorkel in the river and if you find one it is supposed to bring you luck
  • Leihitu – visit the Muslim villages and appreciate their distinctive architecture and customs
  • Pombo Island – a deserted tiny island with idyllic beaches
  • Liang Beach – the favourite beach on the island
  • Hunimua Beach – ideal for snorkelling
  • Tanjung Setan – awesome scuba diving site

TO GET THERE: fly directly from Java/Jakarta or Sulawesi/Makassar.

Liang Beach is the most popular in Ambon


For the locals, Seram is the ‘Mother Island’ and a site where all Moluccans once came from. The island is huge, compared to the others, and it is hiding plenty of natural attractions.

The highest mountain is Gunung Binaya (3027 m), and it offers excellent hiking opportunities. Fauna and flora on Seram are pretty abundant, with rare colourful birds, exotic plants and flowers.

The indigenous people will greet the visitors with a big smile, especially at the Sawai village, which should be on every traveller`s itinerary.

Sunset over the Sawai Beach, Seram

Seram has quite a good road infrastructure, and it is a smart idea to rent a scooter and self-drive around the island to explore some of the hidden spots and secret beaches.

For instance, the Ora Beach Eco Resort resembles any of those in Tahiti – private overwater bungalows are built amidst a secluded lagoon, right above crystal-clear shallows filled with corals, and the image is amplified by volcanoes in the background. Naturally, it is much cheaper here in Maluku than in Polynesia.

Ora Beach Resort, Seram


  • Sawai Village – search around the countryside and enjoy its picturesque setting, there are many walking tracks and good snorkelling
  • Goa Akohi – inspect the mysterious caves at Tamilouw village
  • Manusela Reserve – breathtaking landscape, trekking, wildlife, rare butterflies and birdlife spotting
  • Gunung Binaya (3027 m) – climb the majestic volcano (only with an expedition, the whole trip takes up to 6 days return, the starting point is the Huahulu village)
  • Ora Beach Eco Resort – some say that this is Heaven! Private cottages are built above the azure waters filled with corals and the impressive forested volcanoes in the background will literally make you feel like being in Tahiti (but much more affordable)

TO GET THERE: catch a fast boat from Ambon to Masohi.

Ora Beach, Seram


Saparua is a Christian island, typical of traditional villages, churches, lovely markets, laid-back lifestyle and fine sandy beaches.

There are many pleasant homesteads and snorkelling just off-shore. Mangoes, bananas and the sirsak fruit grow everywhere, and if you never tried the secret Jungle Juice, Sirsak Juice or the world`s stinkiest fruit – Durian, this is the right time! Saparua is a fantastic island to unwind.

Haruku has no tourism development, but it is definitely worth a day visit. Pelau is its humble capital, and there are some spectacular deserted beaches at the Hulaliu Village.

Sunset at Porto Saparua


  • Markets – stroll down the local street markets where cloves, nutmeg and mace are more precious than gold (Pelau Market in Haruku is lovely)
  • Snorkelling – little visited hence untouched, the marine environment is spectacular (Pulau Pombo has one of the best coral reefs)
  • Traditional villages – Ouw and Nolot on Saparua are worth a visit for pottery, Hulaliu village in Haruku is great
  • Beaches Haria has fabulous beaches (Saparua), Pulau Molana island has nice bungalows, Pantai Yanain Hulaliu (Haruku)
  • Forts – Fort Duurstede in Saparua, Haruku Fort

TO GET THERE: catch a public ferry from Ambon (Tulehu) to Saparua (Kulur) or Haruku (Pelau). NOTE While Saparua offers some resorts and travel lodges Haruku has almost no tourist accommodation – you will need to ask one of the local homestays or pitch up a tent!

Pulau Pombo offers fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving


The third largest Maluku Island is a developing eco-region, and although tourism has not much to provide yet, for those who are sailing past, Buru will offer a delightful stopover.

Buru`s pristine forests and fertile lowlands make sanctuaries for more than 200 species of exotic birdlife. Nutmeg and cloves are the most precious commodities here. The highest point is Mount Kapalatmada (2700 m) – a fantastic extreme trekking location.

Waplau Beach, Buru

Moreover, Buru is associated with sad events and all fans of history will want to come. Indonesian prisoners (teachers, journalists, artists, intellectuals and politicians) used to be transported to this isolated island for forced labour during the Indonesian communist revival. There are several sites on the island where you can learn about what happened during the Indonesia Killings in 1965-66.

TO GET THERE: speedboats are running from Ambon to Namlea if you do not sail your own ship.

Nutmeg, mace and cloves drying on the sun, Namlea


  • Sawanajaya Village – a former jail/forced labour camp for political prisoners
  • Jiku Merasa Beach – gorgeous white sand beach
  • Waplau Beach – another idyllic beach
  • Air Tenjun Waeura – a beautiful jungle waterfall

Jikumerasa Beach, Buru


Religion – Maluku is partially a Muslim region and conservative dress are expected at all times, especially women. Many female travellers reported case when they felt extremely uncomfortable at some places, e.g. tried to be touched by the locals due to their skin colour or bright hair, been subject to loud mockery for their “lack of clothing” and so forth. Be aware of the fact that many residents might have never seen a person of a Caucasian race or a person wearing “Western clothes”.

Health – There is a high risk of Malaria in Maluku, particularly during the rainy season (May-Aug). Vaccinations such as Hepatitis A, B and Tetanus are recommended. Some countries require the Yellow Fever Immunisation (check up on your national health policies).

Transport – To get around the Maluku Islands you will need to use the local boat ferries that are fairly cheap. It is necessary to use boats not only between the islands but also between the towns within islands as the road network is very poor here. Locally, the best means of transport are bemos, ojeks or becaks.

Island hopping is the best way to travel around Maluku – local ferries are easy and cheap


It is very difficult to estimate the weather in Maluku. Central and South Maluku Islands often get strong winds from December to February which makes it hard for snorkelers and scuba divers.

Central Maluku gets hit by the wet season roughly between November and March

Overall, it seems like the ideal time to visit Maluku is the shoulder season (April-May and Oct-Nov)


Fly to Jakarta or Denpasar from where you can catch a domestic flight or take the Pelni Ship to the desired destination.

For all international flights go to or

For all domestic flights visit

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Eva Bodova

Saturday 11 August 2018

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