Asia > Southeast Asia > Indonesia > Maluku
The Maluku Islands, also known as the Moluccas or the Spice Islands consists of North Maluku Province and Maluku Province, are a region of Indonesia lying between Sulawesi and Papua. This region is largely very off-the-beaten track for travelers.
In the Dutch era, the Moluccas were known as the Spice Islands and were the only place on earth where nutmeg, mace, cloves and several other valuable spices were grown.
The over 632 islands Maluku are sprawled across a vast expanse of ocean, sitting astride one of the world’s most volatile volcanic belts. Maluku is blessed with incredible sea gardens, idyllic, tropical beaches and rugged, forest-coated volcanic mountains.
These are the famous ‘ spice islands’ which drew Indian, Chinese, Arab and eventually European traders in search of cloves and nutmeg. In 1511, the Portuguese built their first fort in the area on the island of Ternate, and cornered the clove trade. The Dutch, who arrived in 1599, mounted the first serious threat to Pourtuguese control of Maluku’s treasures. Armed conflicts broke out, taking a heavy toll from the island populations as well as the rival European powers. When the Dutch finally emerged as victors they enforced their trade monopoly with an iron fist. Whole villages were razed to the ground and thousands of islanders died, especially on the island of Banda.
The British briefly occupied Maluku during the Napoleonic Wars, but Dutch rule was restored in 1814 and it wasn’t until 1863 that the compulsory cultivation of spices was abolished in the province. Now fish and other sea products are Maluku’s major sources of revenue, but nickel, oil, manganese and various kinds of timber also contribute to the province’s wealth.
The main gateway into Maluku is through the provincial capital Ambon, which is served by regular flights to most parts of the archipelago. Air and sea transportation connect the islands with 79 seaports and 25 airports. Roads on many of the islands provide acces to the more remote places of interest.
Maluku is administratively divided into two provinces.
North Maluku (Maluku Utara)
- Halmahera — largest island in the Malukus, yet sparsely populated
- Sula Islands
- Ternate — tiny island that once ruled a mighty kingdom of spices, now a quiet provincial capital
Maluku, sometimes South Maluku (Maluku Selatan)
- Ambon — beautiful island which is home to the provincial capital of the same name. Wracked by riots in the early 2000s.
- Aru Islands — the eaternmost isalnd group in the province and extremely off-the-beaten track
- Babar Islands
- Banda Islands
- Buru - penal colony where author Pramoedya Ananta Toer was imprisoned
- Damer Islands
- Gorong Archipelago
- Kei Islands
- Leti Islands
- Obi Islands
- Sermata Islands
- Tanimbar Islands
- Watubela Islands
There are daily flights to Ambon and Ternate from Jakarta with transit in Makassar. There is also a direct flight to Ambon from Jakarta, but the fare is approximately double that of going via Makassar.
The Maluku islands cuisine is rich with seafoods
- Papeda kuah ikan- the staple food of Maluku is Papeda, usually eaten with yellow soup made from tuna, red snapper or other fishes spiced with turmeric, lime, and other spices.
- bluder sageru
Maluku experienced bad riots between 1999 -2004, but by now peace has returned and the people are getting on with their lives. Despite what certain Indonesian embassies and websites might tell you, foreigners no longer need special permits to visit Maluku, and the entire region has been completely safe to visit for years.