English | Dutch
Back in the Moluccas
Manado (Indonesia) to Kei Islands (Indonesia), May 2012

It is half past three in the morning when a taxi picks us up at the Rex Hotel in the centre of Manado. Today, we take an early morning flight to a small village called Kao in the north-western part of the island Halmahera, the biggest island of the Indonesian province North Maluku. The whimsical shaped island of Halmahera is rarely visited by foreign travellers, because of the fact that the island doesn’t offer a lot of typical tourist sights, especially if you compare it with many other islands in this huge archipelago. But we had a very specific reason to travel to this remote part of Indonesia: the very small village of Foli.

The province North Maluku, and especially the island of Halmahera, has a lot of interesting birds, including two species of Birds of Paradise. Many of the species than can be found on Halmahera are endemic, which makes the place even more special. Foli is one of the places where you can see a significant amount of these birds, including the two Birds of Paradise. So we travelled to this little village and checked in at the kepala desa’s (village head) house, as is the rule in Indonesia when you visit a village without formal accommodation. We had a great time and saw many of the species we hoped to see. Of course, we also missed a few (see also the article: Remote Halmahera: Foli). The day we left Foli, it started to rain and the bad weather hold on for several days. We travelled south to Sofifi, still on Halmahera, before we crossed by boat to Kota Ternate, on Ternate Island. Ternate is the most famous and well-known destination in the northern part of the Moluccas, due to the fact that Ternate is one of the famous Spice Islands. However, the picturesque little island with the perfectly conical shaped volcano brought us bad luck; like it did three years ago during our first visit to this part of Indonesia. Also then, the weather was bad which even resulted in the cancellation of our planned visit to Halmahera.

View on the small town of Tobelo on Halmahera
We had the plan to take the Pelni-ship with the name Lambelu from Ternate to Ambon, planned for May 10th. Pelni is the famous or infamous shipping company that operates many Indonesian style cruise ship vessels between many of the Indonesian islands. Some of the ships are quite new and comfortable (if you take a bed in one of the cabins), while other ships are old, slow and overcrowded. When we arrived in the harbour to ask for the departure details of the ship, we were told that the ship was docking for maintenance reasons. It is exactly the same thing as happened to us three years ago, when we tried to take a ship from Ternate of Sorong on Papua. Also that boat was docking at that time. It pissed us really off, especially because of the fact that another ship, less comfortable and very slow, was scheduled for over ten days. And we did know one thing for sure, we didn’t want to spend ten days in rainy Ternate. We went to a travel agent to see what flight opportunities were there, but the information we got didn’t get the smiles back on our faces. Express Air was the only airline with a direct flight to Ambon, and because of this monopoly in combination with the cancellation of the Lambelu ship, pushed up the prices. The price for the flight was almost the same for the coming days, which meant that we decided to take the first flight out. And that was the next day.

For many people, Ambon is a city with bad image. At the beginning of this century, which is only twelve years ago, Ambon was the heart of the violent clashes between Muslims and Christians. The city is quiet again, but the tensions are still there. Once in a while a minor issue or incident can explode to renewed clashes. However, it is difficult to see these tensions when you visit the city as a tourist. Everybody is extremely friendly, both in the Muslim and Christian areas. But during the morning of our departure, we witnessed the explosive atmosphere in the city. A celebration in memory of a freedom fighter ended in clashes. Several people died and some houses were burned down is what we heard. We had to charter a boat to take us over the bay of Ambon to reach the airport without crossing some sensitive areas around the market. But still, we like Ambon very much. When it is quiet in the city it is an extremely friendly and pleasant place. During our previous visit to Ambon, three years ago, we met some very nice people who we consider our friends now. But we are worried. Not only about the future of Ambon, but of course also about the future of our friends who live in the restlessness place. Let’s hope things will change to the good soon.

A great sunset on the Kei Islands

The recent weeks on Sulawesi and in the northern part of the Moluccas were quite expensive. We had to take several flights in a short period, and also the costs involved in visiting national parks (guides are often mandatory) can be significant. So, it was time for us to slow down a little bit, both in travelling pace and in spending behaviour. We decided to look for a couple of destinations in the Moluccas to spend a month or so. We decided to go for two weeks to the Kei Islands and for two weeks to the famous Banda Islands (Spice Islands). We took a flight to Tual on one of the Kei Islands, where we stayed for a couple of days to wait for the boat to Dobo on the Aru Islands. We had the plan to bring a short visit to these nearby islands (6 hours by boat), just to see how the atmosphere is. But when it turned out that the Pelni-ship had more than ten hours delay, we decided to cancel the visit to Aru. It has no use to travel 12 hours by boat (return), for a visit of just two days. So, there was no reason anymore to stay in Tual (the main village on Kei). We moved to a room in a low key resort called Coaster Cottages on Pasir Panjiang (long beach), approximately twelve kilometres from Tual. The setting was tremendous. The beach is picture perfect, with a white sand beach, a green/blue sea and the typical overhanging palm trees. And most importantly, the beach was completely deserted most of the time. Only on Sundays, local people came from Tual with their Karaoke equipment, to have a day off. We didn’t do a lot on Kei. We hiked in the area, did some reading and writing, enjoyed the quietness, had some great talks with other travellers who managed to find this paradise and enjoyed the spectacular sunsets. It was a great time!


<Previous weblog>
Go back to home pageGo to Articles sectionGo to Columns sectionGo to Photos sectionGo to countries sectionGo to weblog sectionGo to about us