Maluku Travel Information - Selaru

Selaru: The Tanimbars' Second Largest Island


The southernmost island in the Tanimbar archipelago, Selaru is also the second largest one after Yamdena. Just south of Saumlaki, it is also relatively accessible, although it totally lacks visitor facilities of any sort. It definitely does not lack attractions however. The native Selarunese ethnic group are the most traditional in the Tanimbars, and are known for their traditional ikat weavings, often still using handspun cotton thread. There are also fine beaches and interesting off-shore islands around here.

Attractions Off the Track Local Culture Getting There Accommodation
Main Attractions


The island's largest settlement, Adaut is also the easiest to reach from Saumlaki. It is the only village on the island whose inhabitants are ethnically Yamdenan, not Selarunese. As such, you will not find Selaru's weavings here, but it is the gateway to nearby islands and skull caves.

Skull Caves

Like in much of SW Maluku, caves containing skulls and skeletonsare scattered around the island. Two large caves near Adaut have now been sealed by zelous local Christians, but across the bay others remain intact. As usual, the locals claim to have no memories as to whose bones these caves contain: they could be either ancient burial sites of the locals, or the remains of enemies slain back in the headhunting era.


A more cheerful excursion is to the nearby island of Nuyanat, home to some of the most stunning white-sand beaches and clearest waters you will find anywhere. It aso has extensive coral reefs, though the fish were not as numerous as in many other places. The island is used by fishermen and farmers from Adaut but has no permanent settlement.


North of Nuyanat and actually closer to the SW corner of Yamdena than to Selaru but traditionally owned by the people of Adaut, the larger, hilly and bushy island of Angwarmas is the best known locality for seeing the Tanimbars' famous orchids. Visiting it involves asking the village elders for a special permission.


In case you don't make it out to Angwarmas, you should be able to see its famous Lelemuku orchids in Adaut, where plenty of locals seem to decorate the front of their homes with them. You might also be offered some for sale or as a present, but as they are protected species, customs will probably not like you having them!

Off the Beaten Track


South of Adaut, the large village of Kandar is the first ethnicaly Selarunese village you come to. It is an unusual village, ith its houses sitting close together on rocks. Picturesque it may not be, but Kandar has a reputation for producing the best traditiona ikat on the island!


A very rough trail cuts across the island's interior to thewest coast village of Namtabun. Unlike Kandar, this is a very spacious village set on a fine, white sand beach. For added interest, it has several vaguely traditional style structures along the coast, and is also producing fine ikat. Sadly, I found the locals (or at least a few of them) less hones and more greedy than elsewhere on the island.

Pantai Limian

Probably the island's finest beach, ocassionally visited by cruise ships, is further down the west coast from Namtabun, near the village of Lingat. From Lingat you can get here by motorbike, though from Namtabun you'd have to charter a boat.


The village of Lingat, one of the 2 oldest on the island, was a Japanese base during World War II. Quite a bit of war junk can still be seen scattered around the village, though as elsewhere in Indonesia, most of it was unfortunately sold as scrap metal long ago.

The Old Airstrip

The Japanese built an extensive airstrip inland from Lingat. It is now technically used by the Indonesian airforce, though in practice it is largely overgrown. However, the old Japanese flagpost still stands here.


As usual, the Japanese built a number of bunkers around the village, and several of these remain in good condition. They are also larger than many "Japanese caves" elsewhere in Indonesia, and may contain 2 or 3 rooms.

Local Culture


Like on Fordata up North, making sopi is a major source of income on Selaru, especially around Lingat. The huts where tjhis acticity is carried out are unique, standing on unusually high stilts. They may be a reminder of the island's traditional village architecture.

Bakar Batu

Like in Papua and much of the Pacific, but rarely elsewhere in Maluku, cooking in earth oven is the traditional way the Tanimbarese cook their meals. During my 2nd visit to Selaru, a whole huge turtle was cooked this way!

Getting There and Around

There are daily boats from Adaut to Saumlaki, usually leaving in the morning or the city, then returning in the early afternoon. Though less frequently, other villages on the island also have direct boat connections with Saumlaki.

Once on Selaru, you will find a track that connects Adaut with 2-3 other villages and is negotiable by motorbike in the dry season. Beyond that, and even there when it is wet, you will either have to hike between villages, or charter boats to take you around. Boat charter are also the way to reach off-shore islands like Nuyanat and Angwarmas.

There is no formal accommodation anywhere on the island - you will have to stay in village homes, or else just do a day-trip by a chartered boat from Saumlaki.