Memories of other magical tropical destinations came flooding back to me while exploring Maluku, Indonesia. From those bewitching blues of the Gili Islands and the Maldives, to Langkawi‘s palm-lined beaches where the jungle meets the sand. Add to that the islands’ rich and fascinating history and friendly local characters and Maluku may just be Indonesia’s best kept secret.
Maluku Island, Indonesia
Maluku or the Moluccas is a cluster of islands located between New Guinea, Timor and Sulawesi covering an area of about 78,897 square kilometres. Rich in natural spices and iron, the Maluku Islands have been the target of international trade interests for centuries. In the 7th century, the Chinese sailed to Maluku seeking cloves. Arabian traders soon discovered the islands too. In the 16th century, colonial powers later landed in Maluku during the Race to the East, hoping to control the monopoly on spices (cloves and nutmeg). The Dutch became the prominent influence with the exception of the British occupation during the Napoleonic war at the beginning of the 19th century. Sadly, Australia’s history also meets that of Maluku. Our troops travelled to Maluku and Timor to fight the Japanese during World War I, without success. Maluku was split into two provinces in 1999; the predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Christian province to the south.
During our trip, I explored the island of Ambon in the south where Maluku tourism presents as a destination with all the ingredients for a future honeymoon hot spot; fine white sand, crystal clear turquoise water, lush jungle covered mountains and the same warm welcome we had received during our time spent in neighbouring Sulawesi.
Flying to Maluku
- Travel information to make your arrival in Indonesia pain-free can be found here.
- We touched down at Maluku airport in Ambon from Makassar (South Sulawesi) with Garuda Indonesia. Garuda also runs direct flights from Jakarta to Ambon.
- It is hoped direct flights will open up between Darwin and Ambon in the coming years, but confirmation on when they will begin isn’t yet available.
Transport in Maluku
- Cars are available to hire from Ambon airport. A car with driver and petrol will cost around Rp 600,000 – 750,000 per day (about $AUD60-75)
- A motorbike or scooter from the airport will set you back about Rp 150,000 per day (around $AUD15). Expect to pay about three times as much when renting from a hotel.
- iLMI Tour can help you book a scooter or they can put together a tour package that includes a car and driver or scooter and recommend a sightseeing itinerary.
- For a traditional experience, try a becak (rickshaw) in Ambon town.
- Similar to Sulawesi, bemo (local minibuses) and ojek (motorcycle taxis) are also available.
Health and Safety
- Information on health and safety considerations in Indonesia can be found here.
Internet and Phone
- You will find wifi in Maluku isn’t exactly on tap. I spent about a day and a half without access to the internet as the signal is patchy and sometimes cuts out completely.
- Indonesian mobile SIM cards are cheap and relatively easy to find. Pick up one from Jakarta while in transit to ensure you don’t waste time looking for one later. Ensure your phone is not locked on a plan (like mine was). If you have an iphone you may need to cut the SIM down to fit it.
Cultural Considerations in Maluku
- Similar cultural considerations should be observed in Maluku as in Sulawesi. Read those here.
- One morning we found ourselves in the middle of a smoke-filled cafe in Ambon town (Kota Ambon), surrounded by mostly men seated at the tables to either side of us. We were the subject of a lot of chatter. Again, this can be part of the allure of destinations where you rarely see tourists. You will also find that you are asked for photos with the locals. I loved that they had the courage to approach us, particularly in such a big group. It felt like a fun and fair exchange too, given we were snapping so many photos of the people and surroundings.
- Like Sulawesi, Maluku is not yet an ideal destination for the luxury traveller. Currently, a Maluku resort is more suited to the backpacker or budget traveller. As we have seen in Bali and Lombok, we can expect that will change; with greater demand and tourist investment, the infrastructure should follow.
- We stayed at the Natsepa in Ambon, considered the most upmarket on the island. The rooms are large and the outdoor pool has a swim-up bar and a great view with access to Baguala Bay. It is about a 30-minute drive from Ambon airport and 30 minutes from the beautiful Liang Beach.
- A new eco-resort is in the planning and is expected to open in 2017. Contact Haical at iLMI Tour for more information.
Maluku Tourist Contacts
- For guided tours, cars and general information in Maluku, contact Haical Abas Binthahir from Ilmi Tour.
- For general information about Maluku go here.
The Fit Traveller was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry for Tourism for this trip to Sulawesi and Maluku. As always, the opinions, imagery and words are authentically our own.
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
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