The under-explored mysteries of Indonesia’s Maluku Islands

An alternative to Bali perhaps? Pic: J.Croese/Shutterstock

HISTORICALLY known as Indonesia’s “Spice Islands”, Maluku offers some of the most pristine dive spots, beaches and natural wonders unlike any other in Indonesia.

But there’s more to this island than meets the eye.

Spices and volcanoes

Cloves are native to the Maluku Islands. Pic: Danie Nel/Shutterstock

To this day, the nutmeg, mace and cloves trade that once made these islands a valuable prize for 16th century European colonists is still thriving. These spices adorn Maluku’s (also known as Moluccas) 632 islands in vast plantations.

This cluster of Indonesian islands, located east of Sulawesi and west of New Guinea, can be a bit too hot to handle at times, with the eruption of its Gamalana volcano last year, as well as a 5.6 magnitude earthquake occurring in the islands’ vicinity early this year.

Yet, despite Maluku’s occasionally volatile tendencies, it remains a traveler hotspot.

Diving paradise

Pretty corals in Ambon, Maluku. Pic: fenkieandreas/Shutterstock

Maluku’s capital, Ambon, is popular with divers as it is one of the few places in the region to offer land based diving. After a rejuvenating night at your hotel, just head over to your favorite land-based diving spot and get suited up.

The most renowned diving spots are on the northern shore of the Ambon Bay with a depth of around 600 meters. Once you are beneath the waters here, a world of rich coral reefs and sea life awaits. Some of the underwater species you will encounter here are the Ambon Emperor (also known as the Ambon Pufferfish) and the Psychedelic Frogfish.

And if luck is on your side, you can also enjoy rare sightings of dugongs splashing in crystal-clear waters. Other popular dive sites to check out in Maluku include Halmahera, Saparua, Molana, Nusa Laut and Haruku.

Bird sightings

Maluku is home to many endemic bird species. Pic: Nadiia Diachenko/Shutterstock

How about adding bird-watching sessions to your travel itinerary? Maluku’s islands are home to 80 endemic species of birds. Meet your winged acquaintances at Halmahera (a birdwatcher’s paradise with 24 unique species of birds) as well as Seram, Buru, the Sulas, the Tanimbars, the Keis, Wetar, Damer and Obi.

Surf spots

Pic: Luca Vaime/Shutterstock

Maluku is also famous for its pristine beaches, especially the stony seaside paradise, Pintu Beach (which has a unique “peekhole” through a barrief reef), Liang Beach, and Ora.

You also ought to bring your surf gear to Maluku, for these islands showcase some decent surf spots. Between October and March each year, the winds from the Northeast monsoon season provide surfers quality waves including the famous Serenade, Indo-Jiwa and Short-Ledge.

Historical marvels

Pic: Edmund Lowe Photography/Shutterstock

Over here, beyond surf and dive, there are a whole lot of other activities that you can experience to make this a vacation to remember. Stroll through Kota Ambon, a large coastal city with a population of 400,000 people set against a backdrop of a mountain range, as well as stunning views of the bay.

Explore Maluku’s rich colonial heritage via its well-preserved monuments of the past, such as Benteng Victoria (a historic Dutch fortress), the Pattimura Memorial, the Martha Christina Tiahahu statue, as well as that of Francis Xavier and Marantha Catherals.

Along the bay-side suburb of Amahusa, you’ll encounter the Commonwealth Graves and the Taman Makam Pahlawan Indonesia (Heroes Cemetery). Admirers of modern architecture should also drop by the contemporary Masjid Raya Al-Fatah mosque.

The Kei Islands in southeast Maluku is also a significant venue for religious pilgrims, especially during Easter celebrations. Its Ohoidertawun village features a scenic bay and intriguing ancient rock carvings and paintings (petroglyphs). You’ll find yourself awash with the mysteries of yesteryear.

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