Maluku Travel Information - Fordata

Fordata: The Gem of Northern Tanimbar

The cultural center of northern Tanimbar, the hilly, elongated little island of Fordata is just north of Larat. It is quite a beautiful spot with green hills and white sand beaches. It also happens to be pop[ulated by very friendly people who preserve more of their traditions than the ethnic Fordatans livingon other islands. Unfortunately, I have only had time to visit (and thus can only describe) the northern part of the island so far, but this is a place I am definitely planning to return to!

Attractions Off the Track Local Culture Getting There Accommodation
Main Attractions


Fine beaches are found right around Fordata, with some of the best up towards the island's northern tip.


The island's northernmost village has a unique, though vanishing shark cult. Sharks are supposed to be the ancestors of certain village clans, and the village traditionally held yearly shark-calling ceremonies. Sadly, they have ceased in the past decade. Still, a statue of a shark reminds us to its local importance right in front of the main church in the center of the village.

Burial Caves

Like other islands in Tanimbar, Fordata also has/had ancient burial caves. Unfortunately, here they seem to have fared particularly poorly, and a few scattered bones were all I could be shown.

The Lighthouse

On the northern tip of the island stands a lighthouse. It was unguarded during my visit for a strange reason. Locals claim a female spirit inhabits this area, and will try and seduce, then kill, any man who doesn't respect local traditions. This had apparently happaned shortly before my visit to one of the Ambonese guards of the lighthouse. His body was found on the shore one morning, and afterwards the post was vacated by his horrified collegues, too!

The Views

Though the lower section of the metal stairway up the lighthouse is badly corrugated, if you dare to clim the tower, you will be rewarded with the usual splendid views. To the west lie fine beaches, to the east an offshore sandy island and the wreck of a ship run on the reefs.

Off the Beaten Track

The Rock

This rock shaped like a crocodile's head near the island's northern tip is home to nesting colonies of seabirds and also to seasnakes. Unfortunately, local collect the eggs of the former, and the latter just failed to be present when I visited. Unless the sea is very calm, getting onto the rock itself is a very dicey undertaking, and to avoid disturbing the nesting birds it is best viewed from the sea anyway.

Local Culture

Ikat Weaving

Fordata is the stronghold of traditional ikat weaving in North Tanimbar. Though mostly colorful factory-made thread is used, the pattern and the techniques are still traditional. Just about every local woman still knows how to weave, even young girls like the one on this photo. Actually, weaving has been made part of the local school curriculum here!


Making sopi (alcohol) out of coconuts is a major source of income on Fordata. Massive, traditional style "walang" huts are used to make the spirits, and these and the process can be seen all over the island.

Getting There and Around

Boats from various villages on Fordata go to Larat practically every day unless the weather is very bad. 

Once on the island, a track connects the villages. It is pleasant to walk, but ojeks are also available.

There are no formal places to stay or eat on Fordata.