Maluku Travel Information - Central Maluku

Central Maluku: The Main Gateway to the Moluccas

North Maluku might have the historical prominence, but after the Dutch had gained control of the Spice Islands, they eventually decided to set up their main base in the central part of the archipelago, and the city of Ambon remained the capital of all of Maluku right until 1999. Not surprisingly, that has blessed (or cursed) it with the most developed infrastructure in the islands, including the widest choice of accommodation and the best transport links, which in turn has resulted in most visitors making Ambon their first port of call in the Moluccas.

  But there are other very good reasons to come here, too. Ambon and the neighbouring Lease Islands all sport a good mix of fine beaches, diving possibilities and relics of the colonial era. The latter is not limited to all the forts standing by the seaside, but is even obvious in the local culture. The Christian "Ambonese" - the term also covers the people of Lease and SW Seram - have gained a reputation throughout Indonesia for wholeheartedly embracing their Dutch rulers and their culture, going as far as resisting being integrated into an independant Indonesia! Till this day, relations with the Netherlands remain strong, all the more so because just about everyone seems to have relatives living there. Unsurprisingly, western visitors, Dutch or not, tend to be welcomed with open arms here.

  Yet even so, many visitors treat Ambon merely as a transit point, with their eyes set on the Bandas, a tiny cluster of volcanic islands 8 hours' sailing away out in the middle of the open sea. Maluku's most coveted travel destination, these islands were once the World's main source of nutmeg. That cost them dearly, resulting in a bloody history, but it also resulted in leaving them a beautiful little colonial town that has survived pretty intact to this date. Colonial ambiance apart, the Bandas main lure is their exceptionally rich marine life, with some of the finest coral reefs and largest schools of big fish that you can access with relative ease anywhere. For more active types, there is considerable scope for exploring, even for multiday hikes, on the two large islands of Seram, home to Maluku's highest peak, and Buru, long a place of political exile and still hardly ever visited. Both of these islands host a number of endemic bird species in their dense rainforests, and even some interior villages that have staunchly preserved much of their traditional culture. For those with lots and lots of time on their hands and knowledge of the national lingo in their heads, there are some largely undiscovered islands off the eastern tip of Seram, too. Central Maluku sure has a lot to offer - try to see more of it than just the city of Ambon, and the Bandas!