Maluku Travel Information - The Southwest

The Southwest: Maluku's Remotest Region

The southwestern islands between Tanimbar and Timor are some of the remotest and least accessible in all Indonesia. They have basically no facilities for visitors, and not even too many obvious attractions for that matter. Most of them are quite arid and somewhat barren, just like the neighbouring region of East Nusa Tenggara, though the northern arc stretching from Wetar to TNS is greener. Of course, some fine beaches and snorkelling spots can still be found here too, but the islands' original claim to fame, their once splendid forms of art, was effectively eradicated by heavy-handed Protestant missionaries long time ago and their finest masterpieces can now only be seen in overseas museums.

Attractions Off the Track Shopping Getting There Accommodation
Main Attractions

Babar Islands

Like the Tanimbars, the more remote Babars are known for traditional ikat weaving and woodcarving, and also have some fine beaches. The two largest islands here are round, hilly Babar, and flat, elongated Marsela.

Leti Islands

Once famous for producing the very finest wooden ancestor figures in Eastern Indonesia, these flat and barren islands are now better known for their herds of livestock. They also produce ikat.
Moa is the largest island, and has recently been chosen as the site for the administrative centre for Southwest Maluku Regency. It has huge herds of buffalo grazing on its savanna, some fine white-sand beaches, and skull-caves.


Kisar is culturally and geographically closer to Timor than to the rest of Maluku. Not surprisingly, it has a real Timorese feel to it, with villages scattered in the dry, scrubby interior, rather than along the coast.
Sights are limited to a very few colonial buildings, of which this ruined church is the most impressive.
The island is also noted for producing some of the finest ikat weavings in all Indonesia.
The best of these are made by the people of Oirata village, which also has a few unusual, traditional-style houses left.

Off the Beaten Track

Luang Islands

The Luang Islands, made up by largish, forested Sermata and small Luang itself, with uninhabited, flat Pulau Kelapa between them, are between the Babars and the Letis, to which they are culturally similar.
Tiny, largely barren Luang has traditionally been considered the cultural centre of the Luang and Leti archipelagos. It is also a major regional trading centre, with an economy based on fishing.
The island has only two villages, but they preserve lots of interesting crafts like ikat weavings and historical relics including an old Dongson drum. Golden objects are still occasionally discovered hidden in caves.


Remote, rugged, forested, sparesly populated Wetar is one of the most inspiring islands in South-West Maluku.
It is also as far west as one can get there before crossing into East Nusa Tenggara province at Alor or Timor.
Unfortunately, while I did sail around Wetar I didn't have the time to stop there - another island to go back to!


Wonderfully green with inviting beaches, Roma looks one of the most beautiful islands in Southwest Maluku. For now anyway... I heard that a mine might be coming here too, so the island may see dramatic changes soon.


East of Roma, Damer is an dominated by an active volcano
Apart from the volcano, it has beautiful, pristine coral reefs, and an endemic species of flycatcher.
It also has some very inviting-looking little satellite islands nearby.
The local people are very friendly Christians.


Teun, Nila and Serua, commonly known together as TNS, are little active volcano islands just east of Damer.
Decades ago, the government forcibly resettled their entire population on Seram, and administratively they remain part of Central Maluku.
Many of the people returned here during the years of the conflict when Seram saw fighting yet these isolated spots remained far removed from such troubles.
They are very beautiful, and during my visit to Teun and Nila, I also found their coral reefs stunning.
It remains to be seen what effect the returning population will have on them.


Crafts & "Antiques"

The Southwest was once home to Maluku's finest handicrafts, notably carve wooden statues and ikat cloth. Sadly, most of these traditions have been lost by now, and your best chances of seeing such items is in museums, especially overseas!
The islands' reputation for their craft still draws here the occasional collector though, and a few locals are only too happy to try and sell some "antiques" to them. Of course, these are basically invariably fakes. You could try and get some good-looking new pieces, but make sure you let people know you are NOT looking for "antiques" and will only pay the price for new pieces, based on actual quality!

Getting There and Around

By Air

The only airport in this region is on Kisar, served by heavily-booked Merpati flights from Ambon. Kisar flights MAY sometimes continue to Kupang.

By Sea

Traditionally, this region was only accessible by Perintis cargo ships of the most horrible sort. That is still the case with most islands, however a few (Babar, Leti, Moa, Kisar) are now also on a route served by a somewhat irregular Pelni ship (the KM Pangrango) between Ambon, Tanimbar and Timor.

By Road

Only a few of these islands have roads, and those roads tend to be in horrible shape. You are most likely to be able to travel on them by ojeks or trucks, or even by walking.


Just Maybe...

When I toured this region, I heard rumours of basic accommodation existing on Babar and Kisar, neither of which I actually got to see with my own eyes once there. With the new regional capital now being developed on Moa, that's another island that could have something by now. Don't expect to be able to stay in hotels or guesthouses though. This is a region where staying in villages is likely to remain your option for quite a while.