Maluku Travel Information - Galela

Galela: Halmahera's Far North

Galela is the district covering the eastern side of Halmahera's northern tip.
It consists of two major regions.
A coastal strip is stretching north of Tobelo to the island's tip.
Soasio, Galela's district capital is also located on the coast.
Inland from Soasio, the other major region, the interior centres on three volcanic lakes.
Most of the population lives around Danau Galela, the largest lake, which is surrounded by a dozen villages.
This is the Galelarese heartland, where all Galelarese are thought to have originated before populating the coastal region and even other islands.
The Galelarese people are great migrants and can also be found on Morotai, the Bacan and Obi Islands, and in the Gane region of southern Halmahera. Religiously they are divided between Muslims and Christians, with the Muslims being more numerous. Unlike in other parts of Maluku, followers of both religions still speak the same language, live side by side, and there is much mixing and inter-marriage.

Attractions Off the Track Shopping Local Culture Getting There Accommodation Food

Main Attractions

Danau Galela

Large and beautiful, surrounded by volcanos and villages, Danau Galela is both very much the heart of the Galela district, and the main attraction for visitors. It is just a few kilometres from the district capital on the coast, and a road goes right around. The most scenic part of the ring-road is the bit at the foothills of the extinct volcano Gunung Tarakani (on the left of the 2nd photo). Elsewhere it may go too far from the lakeside to actually see the lake - though there are some good views from Igobula village on the southern shores, too.
For the lakeside villages, Danau Galela serves as fishing ground, source of drinking water, and a place to wash all at once!
To keep it clear, using motorised boats on the lake is forbidden. There are canoes instead, but the most interesting watercraft are bamboo-rafts, widely used by Galelarese fishermen!

Mamuya Hot Springs

Just behind Mamuya, the first village as you enter Galela from Tobelo, is a large pool of refreshingly clear hot springs.
They are used almost only by locals, so if you want to join them for a dip, please follow local standards of dress - no swimsuits: shorts for men, and shorts and T-shirt for women!
Recently the springs have been "developed and a fee may be charged for using them.

Gunung Dukono

Dukono is a very active volcano beyond the village of Mamuya, near the border with Tobelo district. When quiet(er) it may be climbed even in one day from the village of Mamuya - check with the volcanology office there, and get a local guide.
I found it the most impressive volcano in North Maluku!

Telaga Biru

Back on the coast, the road towards Tobelo passes little Telaga Biru (Blue Lake) hidden in a grove of trees. Despite being located in a rocky area, this small pond is always full of crystal clear water.
The Galelarese seriously believe it is a port of the Moro, who are a race of invisible people living all over Halmahera and the surrounding islands! Therefore when approaching the water, they will ask the Moro's permission in Galelarese language: "Nia ake mianano."

World War II Relics

In the village of Pune just before Soasio there are two old Japanese canons in good condition. They are pointing at Morotai, which was an important American base at the time.
They are hidden behind the houses in overgrown gardens, so you will have to ask around to find them.

Somola Bay

The beaches in the accessible southern half of Galela are all of black volcanic sand.
Of these, Somola Bay, close to the port in Soasio has been developed for (local) tourism.
Don't let the way there through the port put you off: the beach itself is very fine, with some unique, black lava islets sheltering it from waves.

Off the Beaten Track

Maleo Beach

North of Soasio, the black-sand beach near the village of Simau is the largest known nesting ground of the Moluccan Scrubfowl, known as "Maleo" in Indonesian. Hundreds of these birds fly to the beach from the forested hills at night to dig their eggs into the volcanic sand, where they will be incubated by the heat of the sun.
The eggs are harvested by local villagers and also sold on the market in Soasio. They are about twice the size of chicken eggs and very delicious!

Japanese Tunnels

During WW II, the Japanese forces stationed here have dug tunnels into the steep shores of Danau Galela at several places.
You can find these at Dokulamo, Duma and Samuda villages.
Few people ever enter these tunnels nowadays, so they can take some scrambling through the bush to get to. Be prepared to find spiders, bats and the like inside!


Behind the lakeside village of Samuda, there are a couple of impressive waterfalls.
Getting to them will involve some hiking and maybe crossing one of the rivers.
Motorbikes could take you part of the way on the muddy trails though.

Danau Makete

At the village of Gotalamo on the road around Danau Galela, a side-road branches off towards the interior. Following it takes us first to Makete village, which is located on the shores of a smaller, but no less beautiful crater lake, Danau Makete. The people of Makete are Sangirese migrants from North Sulawesi, and their canoes which you can see on the lake are quite different from those of the Galelarese.

Danau Ngidiho

Continuing on the inland road beyond Makete, we reach the village of Ngidiho.
This ethnic Galelarese village also has its own crater lake, full of lotus flowers.
Like on Danau Galela, locals use bamboo rafts here, too.
The lake is a bit of a distance from the village through gardens, so a local guide might be helpful to get there.Or simply continue along the road which will eventually turn right and bring you to the other side of the lake, too.


Galela's northernmost village has some of the finest white-sand beaches you will find not only in Halmahera but in all Indonesia!
And they have rich, largely undamaged coral-reefs in front of them, too...
On a less positive note, I found the people of Jere quite money-minded and greedy, especially when it came to trying to arrange boat charters. However even without a chartered boat, the surrounding beaches and reefs alone are stunning enough.
Note that the village has no tourist facilities - you should speak some Indonesian and be prepared to live in very basic local conditions here.


Local Products

The main, daily market of Galela is in Soasio.
However, more interesting is the market held a few times weekly in the interior village of Dokulamo.
It mostly sells fruit, veggies, fish and clothing, but occasionally a few traditional crafts such as betel-nut boxes, baskets and mats turn up, too.

Local Culture


Like elsewhere in Halmahera, weddings offer the best chance to experience traditional costumes, music and dancing in Galela, too. The wedding customs of the Christians and Muslims are different. Christians prefer more modern style, Muslims are more traditional.
Therefore I am showing here pictures taken on a Muslim wedding.

In the morning, the groom, dressed in traditional wedding costume, is escorted by his family members to the home of the bride.
They are also carrying traditional presents for the bride's family.
They are followed by lots of people, some of whom play traditional music along the way. Here an old oil-drum has been converted to a musical instrument for the drumming.

The beautifully dressed young bride is waiting with her family in the living room of the house. Here the groom and his family pay their respects to them and hand over their presents.

Once the ceremonial part is over, the young couple are ushered into a decorated room with female members of the families, and here the groom kisses his new wife - on the hand only! :-)

When the young couple return to the groom's home, music keeps on being played and a traditional Malukan cakalele dance may be performed.
This was originally a war dance (hence the shield) but is nowadays mostly performed to welcome important guests.

In the evening when temperatures cool down, a party is organized at the groom's house. For this event the area in front of the house is decorated in traditional manner, which is Galela includes these enormous, decorated packages of rice and other foodstuff.

To beat up the atmosphere, on Muslim weddings like this one, traditional Galelarese music is played on drums and gongs, without singing. It is very tribal in nature, still largely free of Islamic influences.
Christians nowadays prefer modern music though.

To the sound of this traditional music, North Maluku's traditional rongeng or tide-tide dance is performed by the guests.
Women and men first stand in lines facing each other dancing in one place, then eventually start dancing around in a circle.
There may be a male 'komandor' directing the movements of the dance.
The dance is of the refined Malay-style, possibly with old Portuguese influences, and is rather more graceful and refined than the cakelele.

Eventually the groom and the bride, who spend much of their time sitting on a stage overlooking the festivities, will be joining in the dance. Guests will show their appreciation by placing banknotes on the bride's head, tucked into her tiara.

Getting There and Around

By Air

Expressair runs commercial flights to Galela from Ternate and Manado. In April 2011, NBA took over operating the subsidized flights from Ternate. The airport is near the lakeside village of Dokulamo.

By Road

There are shared taxis to Soasio and the lakeside villages every morning from Sofifi, waiting for passengers from Ternate.
Minibuses also run from Tobelo throughout the day to the same places.
The more distant villages along the northern coastline only receive one or two minibuses from Tobelo daily.
Once in Galela, ojeks (motorcycle taxis) are the easiest way of getting around.

By Sea

Longboats cross between Soasio and Morotai on market days.
They are also the traditional way of reaching the most isolated villages along the northernmost coastline of Galela, mostly connecting them with Tobelo.



A few years ago, an unmarked, simple penginapan/homestay opened in the lakeside village of Soakonora. It is in the same house as the Wartel Dua Putri, right by the side of the main road.
Due to lack of guests, it's kind of inactive nowadays, but you could always ask - the owners, who live in the same building, will probably still take you in.
The rooms have great views of the lake!
See the photo...
There is another simple place in the district capital Soasio, but I can't see why anyone might want to stay there and never checked it out myself.


Very Limited Choice!

There are few very simple warungs in Soasio and a few lakeside villages.
More interestingly, you can buy some traditional local food on the markets, notably at the one in Dokulamo.