Maluku Travel Information - Kei Kecil

Kei Kecil: Maluku's Premier Beach Island

The island known as Nuhu Roa to locals, and as Kei Kecil to the rest of the world, certainly has some of the very finest white sand beaches not only in Maluku and Indonesia, but in the whole world.
After revisiting it for the fourth time at the end of a long trip around the South Pacific, I concluded there may be some truth to it... its main beach rivals any I have seen in Polynesia for sure!

Attractions Off the Track Activities Getting There Accommodation Food

Main Attractions

Pasir Panjang Beach

The star attraction of the Kei Islands, this long white sand beach is only about 12 kms from Langur. Two villages, Ngur Bloat and Ohoililir, are located at its southern and northern ends, both offering simple accommodation. This is probably the best beach in the Keis, yet it remains very quiet and unspoilt most of the time.

Ohoidertawun Beach

The village of Ohoidertawun has another white sand beach that used to be a popular local picnic spot some time back. However the water here is very shallow, and in fact the beach turns into what looks like a white mud flat at low tide.
Perhaps for this reason it is now less popular and mostly deserted.
However it has great accommodation, and could perhaps appeal to families with small kids who are wary of deep water.

Bukit Masbait (Calvaria Hill)

On the way to Ohoidertawun you will pass the highest hill on Kei Kecil.
A stepped trail complete with stations of the cross leads to its top.
Once up there, Catholic statues and a gorgeous panorama of the islands awaits you.
This is very popular local pilgrimage spot, but foreigners may be asked to show their passport and sign into a guest book before the climb.

Goa Hawang

Well south of Pasir Panjang but still along the west coast of Kei Kecil, the village of Letvuan has two interesting caves known as Goa Hawang. Both are quite similar, with a trail leading down to their chambers thick with large stalagtites hanging into ponds full of cool, sparkling blue, crystal-clear water below.

Evu Spring

At the southern end of the west coast road, the village of Evu has a large pool fed by freshwater springs that are also the source of much of Kei kecil's water supply. It makes a great change from swimming in the sea, and while busy at weekends, it is almost empty during the week. Nearby stalls seel soft drinks and local snacks.

Off the Beaten Track

Danau Ngilngof

Just a few kilometres south of Pasir Panjang, this beautiful freshwater lake is hidden in the forests a kilometer or two off the road. A local guide may be necessary to find the way. It is also a popular fishing spot.

Elomel "Beach"

Over on the eastern coast of Kei Kecil, just south of the village of Sathean, a sign advertizes Pantai Elomel. That's a bit of a wishful thinking as there is no real beach here as such, just a collection of shelters in the bush and on stilts that serve as a very atmospheric and secluded drinking or hanging out spot, overlooking the unusual island of "Pulau Kapal", supposedly once a real ship that carried the ancestors of the Kei Islanders here from wherever.

Disuk

Turning up to a peninsula from the east coast, you will eventually come to Disuk village. Here another restaurant built on stilts looks across a deep, narrow bay towards a monument that commemorates the arrival of Catholic missionaries to the Keis. The restaurant makes sure its fish is always fresh by keeping them alive in enclosures nearby - pick your meal while it is still alive! Again, this place gets busy at weekends but is quiet on weekdays.

Off-shore Islands

All the way from Pasir Panjang to Debut, you will see plenty of inviting off-shore islands surrounded by white-sand beaches and crowned by lots of coconut palms. It would be easy to hire a local boat for a day of island-hopping at any of the coastal villages, or you could join locals returning home to the inhabited ones from Debut.

Ohoidertutu Beach

In the very far south of the island, this beach rivals Pasir Panjang in beauty. It faces south, so it may have calmer waters in the western winds' season, but its sand is a bit less fine. With no accommodation or other facilities at all, and only very scarce public transport, it is best visited as a day-trip by ojek or a chartered car.

Activities

Fishing

Judging by the fact that locals make a living of it, fishing is definitely a possibility here!
Don't expect to be able to hire any fancy gear, but it should be easy enough to hire a boat to take you out to good spots.

Birdwatching

Three of the four species of birds endemic to the Kei archipelago can be found on Kei Kecil, and they can be encountered in just about any forested area of the island.
If you are not a twitcher, you can still spot plenty of birds - even right on the beaches!

Getting There and Around

By Sea

The main port on Kei Kecil is in the village of Debut. Small boats travel from here to the small inhabited islands off the west coast, such as Ur, Warbal and Tanimbar Kei. It is easy to rent a boat for the day to tour several even smaller uninhabited islands off Pasir Panjang.

By Road

Minibuses run to villages around Kei Kecil from two terminals in Langgur. Those to Ohoidertawun and Pasir Panjang leave from Pasar Ohoijiang, while those to Debut and villages further south leave from Pasar Langgur.
To tour various places around the island in a single day, hiring an ojek (motorcycle taxi) might be the best bet. This should cost around 100.000 Rp for a day.

Accommodation

Savannah Cottages

Perhaps the most atmospheric beachside bungalows in the Keis, these ones are in a quiet location at Ohoidertawun beach - which, as you remember, is not the best for swimming. Could be the perfect place to relax... It is a pity that the rustic tatched roof has now been replaced by the usual ugly iron one!

Coaster Cottages

Up at the northern end of Pasir Panjang near Ohoililir village, this place is a collection of various "villas" built in a quiet location on a forested hill overlooking the beach. Owned by a Dutch, an English and a Sumatran owner, these are the nicest beachside accommodations in Kei, and while not owned by locals, they are run by a lovely local lady and guests are encouraged to put money into local pockets via boat charters and the like. Call Bob in Tual (+6281343472978 or +6281945042000) to book.

Penginapan Delima

This small place at the southern end of Pasir Panjang has a very friendly owner keen to help with organizing tours around the island (you can contact Pak Beny by sending an SMS to +6281945023766), and a nicely secluded location amidst tropical foliage.
Unfortunately it also has a karaoke bar attached, though it only opens on weekends and the owner swore it will stay closed whenever tourists are in residence!

Note that this, and all the following places near Pasir Panjang village, are set back in the bush ca. 50 metres from the beach. The reason for this is to keep them protected from seasonally strong western winds, but this also means you won't be able to gaze out at the sea from your verandah at any of them. However, this part of the beach has lots of little open-sided shelters along it where you can do that!

Losmen Ngur Bloat

Just next door the the Delima, this slightly bigger  and more expensive block is the place Lonely Planet recommends. It has recently received a facelift, but is still a bit dark - shaded by big trees.
However as these two are close to each other, check both to compare. The owners are certainly a very nice couple (contact cell number for Pak Alex is +6285354023451).

Penginapan Romeo

A short distance further north, a sign on the coconut palms points towards these similarly simple bungalows hidden in the bush. They weren't open for inside inspection when I passed by, but at least one of the bungalows had a nicely decorated terrace. As this place is not in the LP guide, it is a bit more likely to have rooms at busy periods than the others. You can contact the owner Pak Americo (+6287806379815). He also gets high marks for friendly, helpful service from those who have stayed at his place.

The "Tourism" Cottages

To raise the standard of the accommodation at this end of the beach, the local tourism office has decided to add a few more upmarket cottages, too. The first ones opened for business in May 2011, with  more spacious rooms, air-con, individual terraces and electricity at similar rates to the cheapest of the Coaster Cottages. Unfortunately, like the previously described places, they also stand set back from the beach in the bush. They are supposed to be run by the "local community" for common benefit - an arrangement that immediately made me feel uncertain about their future! As I had expected, by 2012 the first cottages near Pasir Panjang village were already very run-down, though 2 newly built ones near Ohoililir village, and one near Ohidertawun looked much better. You could call Tuty Borout (+6281247460395) in Langgur to book, or else ask for the local caretakers upon arrival: Berny Yamlean in Ohililir, or the owner of Savannah Cottages in Ohoidertawun.

Food

Nothing Special!

The towns have the usual assortment of warungs serving the standard Indonesian dishes. The Chinese-run hotels in Tual and Langgur are probably your best bet for something better. Those staying on the beaches will almost certainly eat where they stay - expect the usual fish and rice meals!