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.
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.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON AMBON ISLAND
TO GET THERE: fly directly from Java/Jakarta or Sulawesi/Makassar.
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.
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.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON SERAM ISLAND
TO GET THERE: catch a fast boat from Ambon to Masohi.
SAPARUA & HARUKU ISLANDS
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.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON SAPARUA & HARUKU ISLANDS
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!
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.
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.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON BURU ISLAND
USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS
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.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
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)
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Jakarta or Denpasar from where you can catch a domestic flight or take the Pelni Ship to the desired destination.
For all domestic flights visit www.garuda-indonesia.com
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