Halmahera, Prepare for Festival Teluk Jailolo

Halmahera, Prepare for Festival Teluk Jailolo


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Prepare for Festival Teluk Jailolo …

Posted By Timothy Wirjo Pawiro on Apr 20, 2012 | 2 comments

Jailolo …

Have you ever heard about that name before?

I haven’t until recently.

It’s apparently a name of the capital of West Halmahera regency (Kabupaten Halmahera Barat) in Maluku (Moluccas). Maluku itself has many islands, and Halmahera island is the biggest island there.

Apparently, the tourism department of West Halmahera regency, has organized a festival called Festival Teluk Jailolo since 3 years ago, and next month is their fourth festival. It will be held on 17-19 May 2012.

This festival is actually to promote the tourism in the area, and also to showcase their cultural and nature beauty to the world. And for this year theme is The Amazing Year of Golden Spice Island. This is to remind us about their richness in spices.

The organizer of the festival has made the agenda for the visitors, so the visitors will have a great time in Jailolo.

17 May 2012
Spice Expo
This expo is to showcase the handicraft or souvenirs made by local people. In this event, you can see the Art and Cultural performance too, and also there’s a media expo trade. So I guess, this one is more to business purpose, to help promote the local products.

Ritual Laut Ceremony

This ceremony is a local custom to give an offering for the gods of nature so this event will run smoothly. This ceremony will start from Bobo beach in Jailolo to Buabua island. Kesultanan Jailolo (Jailolo empire) will also involved in this ceremony, and follow by many decorated boats.

18 May 2012
Spice Trips

We know that Maluku is famous with it spices, so why don’t we go explore the spices plantation, such as cloves and nutmeg. Do you know that the people had to chew the dried cloves flower before they meet the emperor of Tang Dynasty of China? Well you could try to chew it here
What will you do when you face a 10 tonne of fish in front of you? Eattttt … !!! Haha … This event called Horom Sasadu. With many delicious food, and the rituals that the local do, it’s surely an event that we shouldn’t miss. Just mingle and socialize with the local people ;)

19 May 2012
Spice Parade
This parade is one of the series of spice adventure in this festival. We could see farmer from the area with their traditional dress parade and showcase the spices. And one more thing, get ready and prepare your stomach! They will display delicious and yummy food that is cooked with the spices. Humm :)

Cabaret on The Sea

This is the main event on the festival. A cabaret that is played on the sea. With colourful costumes, an interesting story, and beautiful sky and sea as the background, this will give you something different to watch. It’s an contemporary show that is mixed with traditional dance and songs is the icon of this festival! :)

Festival Teluk Jailolo - 2011 - Cabaret on The Sea

Photo credit: Festival Teluk Jailolo 2012

Those are the agenda of the festival!

But, don’t you want to explore the other area in the region? Haha! Well because I can’t dive yet, so I will prefer more to land adventure! :)

First why don’t explore the Ternate island?

The airport if we want to go to West Halmahera is here in Ternate Island. And actually there are many things to explore here. With Mount Gamalama as the background, you can find the Sultan’s Palace. Then, there are Dutch fort called Benteng Oranye, and Portuguese fort called Benteng Tolukko. Here also sits The Great Mosque that becomes the ‘Indonesia’s 100 Most Beautiful Mosques.’

The next day, you can have a one-day trip to the neighbouring island of Ternate. Tidore Island.

Just like in Ternate, you can also find a Sultan’s Palace, museum, forts, and many other things. The different with Ternate is, Tidore is not as crowded as like in Ternate. You could also go to the most popular beach in Tidore, beach Akesahu with its hot spring. In Tidore also lies the Magellan’s Monument (Magellan was one of the Portuguese explorer).

Next one is a 20-minutes travel by speedboat to Sidangoli from Ternate. You will pass small islands that filled with mangrove, and between the islands you could see coral reef. This place is very nice to do snorkeling or perhaps sailing with boat fishing, and kayaking. And if you like tracking, just go explore the land. The journey will take about 2 hours, but you could see the Kingdom of bird-of-paradise. This area has the most unique and endemic species of fauna that only can be found here. Interesting :)

Interested in having a cultural adventure?

There are a lot of tribe in West Halmahera, such as Sahu ,Wayoli ,and Tabaru Tribe.

Sahu tribe lives in Sahu village. They preserve their local custom and culture so well, that make their culture and life unique. The traditional house has roof that is made from sago leaves, calles Sasagu.

How about Wayoli tribe? They are mostly farmers, because their land is so fertile.

And lastly, Tabaru Tribe. Tabaru’s people loves to sing. They appreciate music in their daily life (but actually the people in Halmahera loves music, so not only in Tabaru). They will play music in their religious ritual and festivals.

How about one last destination? It’s Loloda.

It’s located in the north of Jailolo. There’s a speed boat that you can use to go there. It will take about 3 hours. And, hey, don’t sleep during this trip :) You could see a waterfall on the cliffs of the beach, and the water falls to the sea. :)

In the village of Loloda, you could see some Cakalele dance accompanied with traditional music.

Actually the activity in this area is diving. Humm … Again as I can’t dive, so perhaps I just explore Loloda :D

Well, I’ve never imagined to go to Maluku before, probably the main reason is because the flight ticket is quite expensive. After I know that there’s such festival and the beauty of the islands and the surroundings, I surely want to visit here someday :) It’s something that I don’t want to miss.

Halmahera: Foli

Remote Halmahera: Foli


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Already three years ago we had the plan to bring a visit to the North Moluccan island Halmahera. Halmahera is the biggest of the North Moluccan islands and is a great place to see many of the North Moluccan endemic birds. Three years ago, we were already on the nearby volcanic island of Ternate, but due to continuous bad weather back then, we had to cancel our plans. But this year we came back. And his time with more luck.

We flew from the city of Manado in Sulawesi with a small propeller plane of Wings Air to a small Halmahera village with the name Kao. Our final destination for that day was Tobelo, the only settlement on Halmahera that can be called a ‘town’. A couple of days earlier, Ivonne was frequently bitten by mites in Tangkoko NP in Northern Sulawesi, and because of the allergic reaction (swollen feet and liquid blisters), we had to take a rest day to let things heal.

From Tobelo we took a shared car (the main form of public transport on Halmahera) to Daru. Daru is a small fishing village from where small boats serve settlements on the north-eastern peninsula of the whimsical formed island of Halmahera. Our travel destination was the small settlement Foli where 800 people live. Infrequent public boats serve these settlements on an erratic schedule, so we had to hire our own boat. It was still early in the morning, the sea was still calm, which meant that a very small ‘palm boat’ with outriggers should be big enough to make the crossing safely. Of course, as everywhere in Indonesia, we had to settle the price first. After some negotiations we agreed a price of 250,000 Rupiahs (Euro 20) for the one-hour passage.

Arrival in Foli

Halfway the crossing, our boat broke down. The boatman overlooked a floating bamboo stick which destroyed the tiny screw propeller of the boat. It probably happens more often, because he had some spare ones in his boat. Twenty minutes later everything was fixed again. When we approached Foli we immediately realised that we arrived in the ‘middle of nowhere’. Foli has no boat landing which meant that we had to wade the last hundred metres through the delightful warm water. Our arrival was quickly noticed. People from everywhere in the village came to the beach front to observe the arrival of the ‘orang putih’ (white people). It is usual to report yourself at the village head when you arrive in a small and remote Indonesian village. So when we asked for the ‘kepala desa’, an older man came to the fore to accompany us to the house of the village head.

The village head is most of the time also the person in the village who has basic accommodation available for passing travellers. And because Foli is visited by birders on a regular basis, the village head was prepared, despite the fact that we didn’t announce our visit. The family of the village head has some very basic rooms (boxes) in a separate wooden building. The boxes have no lights and they only contain two wooden beds. Fortunately, the village head had some foam mattresses available, which increased the chance of a comfortable night of sleep significantly. There is also a communal area with wooden benches. For the bathroom and shower, you have to use the facilities of the family. The toilet is a separate little building with a squad toilet behind the house. Flushing the toilet is done by scooping water from a bucket into the toilet. The shower is a different little building with a concrete floor, in where a big barrel of water is placed. Again, a plastic beaker is used to scoop the water out of the barrel, and this time over your head to wash yourself. It is important to keep the water in the barrel (called mandi in Indonesian) clean, because it is also used by following users.

A female Blyth’s Hornbill
We arranged with the village head that we do not only use his accommodation, but that we also wanted to have three meals a day. The village is very small, and more than a little shop for basic necessities, is not available. Despite the fact that we didn’t have any alternatives, we ask for the price; just to avoid surprises at the end of our stay when we get the bill. The prices appeared to be steep. A bed in the little box costs 100,000 Rupiahs (a little bit more than Euro 8), which make the price for a two-person room a staggering 200,000 Rupiahs! The food costs an additional 125,000 Rupiahs per person (Euro 12) for three meals a day. And that is a lot for Indonesian standards. For 200,000 Rupiahs you can have a middle class hotel room in the city, often with breakfast. And for 125,000 Rupiahs per person per day, you can eat a lot of delicious food in the Indonesian archipelago. The biggest disappointment however was the fact that they didn’t do a lot of efforts to make some nice meals, which must be possible for these amounts of money, even in a remote village like Foli. In the morning we got Nasi Goreng (fried rice), while the lunches and dinners wasn’t more than watery soup, rice, a vegetable dish and a piece of fish or skinny chicken.

The village of Foli is on walking distance from the ‘forests’ where many of the North Moluccan endemics can be found. The original forest is completely chopped, and the area now consists of younger tree and a lot of bushes. But still, many species of birds can be found here. However, trip reports show that is becomes more and more difficult to see certain species. It is known for example that some species are very popular cage birds (like the White Cockatoo and the Chattering Lory), which results in the fact that more than 10% of the population of these birds is caught on a yearly basis. This is of course a destructive catch rate. Later, during our stay in the hotel Losmen Kita in Kota Ternate, we were eyewitness of the sad future for many of these birds. Losmen Kita alone had four White Cockatoos and four Chattering Lories small cages in the courtyard of the hotel. Very sad!

We stay two and a half days in Foli and see the most common species that can be found in the area around Foli, including exotic doves and pigeons, spectacular Lories and Parrots, several species of raptors and the two species of Birds of Paradise that can be found on Halmahera: the Wallace’s Standard wing and the Paradise-Crow. Our visit to Foli was absolutely worthwhile. At the end of our visit to Foli, the village head arranged two places on a public boat back to Daru. However, the public boat wasn’t really a cost saving in comparison to the chartered boat that brought us to Foli. We still had to pay an inflated 100,000 Rupiahs per person, which meant that the village head sucked money out of us till the last moment. A little bit of competition in the village would be a good development. It would mean that prices would become more reasonable and that the money spent by visitors, would be distributed over more than one family.

Ambon, Kei, Getting To Maluku – One Night in Ambon

Ambon, Kei, Getting To Maluku – One Night in Ambon


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Leaving Rantepao behind, I took the long overnight bus back down to Makassar, as usual finding it not quite ideal for sleeping. Even though this bus had more legroom, the seats just aren’t designed for taller people, and I don’t know if the word ‘ergonomics’ exists yet in Indonesia, at least not in the transportation sector. Just moments into the ride, a horrible melody came over the speakers, and I looked up to see cheesy Indonesian karaoke on the tv screen in front of the bus. I couldn’t decide which was worse – the traditional folk and Indonesian pop songs or the American classics, redone by three Indonesian women, slightly too old to be trying their teenage dance moves and teeny bopper personas. The karaoke seemed to never end, and when it did, the driver would tempt me with a few moments of silence and a black screen before loading the next disc of torture. I eventually got a little bit of sleep, though the windy roads and fast driving made it a little hard to stay in the same position for long. But I made it to the airport with about four hours to spare, so I had an uncomfortable nap on the chairs (not benches, as that would encourage overnight sleepers), and even stopped by the local Dunkin’ Donuts, where the workers loved watching me eat the donuts, as they seem to think that you should eat it with a knife, but I showed them how we gracefully stuff our faces back in the US and eventually had a quick bowl of nasi goreng, the cheap national dish of fried rice, perhaps an egg and some chili sauce, before getting on my plane. As expected, the leg room was really tight in the plane, but it was only a few hours, so it wasn’t that bad.

I was heading for one of the Easternmost provinces of Indonesia, Maluku aka the Moluccas. Maluku had its moment in the sun back in the 1600s when this area was the original Spice Islands that countries all over Europe clamored to find. The Dutch colonized the area and held a trade monopoly on the area, the only place where the two important spices of nutmeg and cloves were found in the world. After making tons of money off the spices, the secret eventually got out, and the British cultivated a few spice islands of their own, thus ending the monopoly and the main reason for anyone knowing about that little blip on the map. More recently, the islands were in the news as a civil war tore through the region. It had been hailed as an example of a place where Christian and Muslim villages could live peacefully side by side, but that peace didn’t last. From 1999-2002, neighbors fought each other, killing many and burning paths of destruction. The war ended quickly, both sides a bit ashamed of what happened, blaming extremists from outside the country for part of the problem. Things have been fairly quiet since then, with tourists slowly coming back to Maluku, the name given to basically the whole region of random, isolated islands in Eastern Indonesia apart from New Guinea/Irian Jaya. For me, this was one of the most anticipated areas of my trip, luring me with tales of pristine, deserted beaches, friendly people and very, very few tourists in the entire group of islands.

To get to the Kei Islands, I had to stop off in Ambon, the capital and hub of the region. I could have tried to make a quick turnaround at the airport, but with Indonesian flight delays and cancellations, I figured it would be safer to spend one night in Ambon and then make my way to the Keis the next day. The only problem with the plan was that Ambon’s airport was about an hour away from the main town, meaning I’d have to take a relatively expensive taxi, and even in town, there weren’t many real budget accommodations, according to my guide book. So as I exited the plane, I decided I’d just try my luck and see what I could find. Before I could even leave baggage claim, I was greeted by a friendly Indonesian guy about my age, telling me about a place to stay very close by. The price was right, and the location sounded good, so I hopped on the back of his tiny scooter, and he took me just two minutes down the road. The ‘hotel’ was more of a homestay, just two extra rooms in his aunt’s house, about 100 feet away from the end of the runway. This was exactly the type of place I was looking for, though, so I was really happy, especially when I saw my room, as it was one of the cleanest and most comfortable beds that I had in the entire country. And at $7.50 a night, I got a nice home-cooked meal, a small breakfast and even lunch before my plane ride the next day. I watched a few of the locals play soccer in the lot next door, deciding that I’d rather have a nice nap than join them, though I was abruptly awakened when a plane took off, shaking the entire room. In the evening, I talked more with Michael, who spoke almost perfect English and told me about plans to open his own hotel on the beach someday. He also has some great connections with others in the tourist industry in the area, since he works at the airport information booth, so I actually think he might do well with it.

I was actually a little sad to leave the place and Michael behind the next day, as it was the perfect stop for me. There are supposed to be some good diving spots and a few beaches on the mountainous, green island of Ambon, but I was excited to be getting on my next flight, heading for the hard-to-reach Kei Islands. In addition to having great beaches, the Kei island group is also far enough South that it was in the middle of its dry season, as opposed to much of the Maluku region that was in the midst of the rainy season (opposite from most of the country).

alt(This is the deck outside of Michael’s aunt’s house where I spent the night, literally across the tiny road from the airport. Luckily there weren’t any night flights, as you are certainly aware when a plane is taking off or landing.)

alt(Included in the $7.50 a night for the cozy room was three home-cooked meals, so it turned out to be a great deal. This one was some fried chicken, instant noodles, rice and a few vegetables. That’s Michael, the guy I met at the airport who turned out to be a great guy.)

Morotai, The Adventure Island You’ve Never Heard Of: Morotai

Morotai, The Adventure Island You’ve Never Heard Of: Morotai


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Ever heard of Morotai?


You’re not alone. But, when it comes to desert island bliss, this smallish island off northern Halmahera in Indonesia’s Spice Islands (Maluku or the Moluccas) packs some serious punch.

Over the last four days we’ve splashed by night in luminescent water on the soft white sand of our own private island (accommodation free), got up close and personal with critically endangered dugong, the origin of the mermaid myth, visited a pearl farm, and handled Japanese bayonets and American dogtags from World War II battlefields.

Also? We’ve seen some turtles, the odd dolphin, 6-metre saltwater crocs. And eaten fantastic crabs.

And there’s much, much more to Morotai.

Underground rivers, mines, spirits, traditional villages, butterflies, birds, the rusting remnants of WWII amphibious squadrons, amazing diving potential, the jungle hideout of the last Japanese soldier of WWII, Tesuo Nakamura, who fought the war for three decades after it ended…

(I’ll tell you his story in a subsequent post. It’s not quite what you read in the newspapers…)

Not, however, visa extensions. Or any international money facilities. Which is why we left… (Take much, much more money than you’ll think you need, as this is the sort of place that really grips you.)

Our private island? Dodola. It’s a little island off the coast of Morotai, fringed with white sand as soft as powder snow, paired with an even smaller island by a narrow isthmus which disappears altogether at high tide.

Uninhabited with the exception of a Moro, one of the ancestral beings from whom the nineteen tribes of Halmahera claim descent and Morotai takes its name, Dodola is an amazing place by day.

By night, occupying one of the grandiose wooden beach chalets constructed by the government and then, well, quietly forgotten about, it’s stellar. Cooking on the beach, splashing in the crystal waters with glittering droplets fluttering around you, all under a dazzling night sky…

Seagrass not far off shore draws a decent turtle population. A stay here during nesting season, when the critters lumber out of the sea trailing luminescence behind them to lay their eggs, would be –- well, pretty phenomenal, as it goes.

Our hands-on museum? Well, that’s a little one-room place in Daruba, run by Muhris Eso, an early standout in my personal competition for nicest man alive.

Morotai, y’see, was the site of a major battle during World War II, a key staging post in MacArthur’s campaign to retake the Philippines, a nation to which he had said “I will return”.

And did. Preceded by, erm, a hefty tonnage of TNT…

Muhris has been lovingly exploring and cataloguing Morotai’s myriad WWII sites. (It’s little by Indonesian standards, but this li’l place spans a good couple of hundred square miles…)

And working through his electic collection – a dogtag for a Mrs E. Callaghan of Two Forks, Montana, a Japanese bayonet, American canteens, Australian pennies, endless ordnance, galaxies of Coca Cola bottles – is genuinely moving.

It’s the kind of anecdotal, personal insight into the human experience of war that you don’t really get in larger, more organized establishments. Pretty much up there with the dinosaur bones we got to hold back in Laos.

The dugong? Well, that’s a sad story.

These outsized dolphins with hippopotamus faces (as the nine-year-old so age-appropriately remarked, the sailors who mistook them for mermaids must have been on the rum that night) are the last remaining subspecies of their family, so critically endangered that even wildlife organisations have no idea how many there are.

Their slow reproduction rate makes them vulnerable even without human habitat destruction. Let alone hunting.

On arrival at Pilowo, the sort of place where several hundred kilos of dugong meat at a few thousand rupiah a kilo can make a family wealthy beyond its wildest dreams, we are offered the opportunity to see the skin of a dugong caught earlier this year…

Out in the bay, we see two or three adults, feeding on the seagrass. But I guess it will take a lot of tourist rupiah – and hopefully some eco-investment in education and/or jobs – to make up for that tonnage of flesh. If you’re in Maluku, do make the effort to pay a visit.

You could spend a week or even two, to be honest with you, simply bouncing around the myriad islands off Morotai’s coasts. As much again exploring the island itself.

Now, as you’d expect in a young destination, Morotai has its challenges. You can spot a foreigner a mile off by the curious crowd trailing in their wake or standing in a silent semi-circle: it’s definitely not a place for the camera-shy.

Power cuts are legion; internet is non-existent; plastic and foreign exchange is unheard of; mobile phone signal is hard to find; pesticide fishing has just been introduced; you will need to speak quite a bit of Indonesian to get by without a translator; a section of Daruba harbour currently functions as the island’s only rubbish dump; and Morotai is (technically) dry.

Furthermore, the combination of the Indonesian obsession with obyek wisata (“tourist objects”) and the deep belief in the supernatural that almost all Moluccans share can make for some curious results.

Take Zum-Zum atoll. Home to MacArthur’s World War II headquarters (and a pretty little coral garden amid some potent currents).

The obyek wisata? Not the rusting remains of the pier on the beach. Not the Indonesian war graves behind the pier. Not the underground stuff which apparently lies behind those.

But a bust of MacArthur which bears a close resemblance to Chairman Mao and a bashed about steel globe with, so far as we could tell, two continents omitted and at least one upside down.

The underground structures? Well, this is where the supernatural comes in. For fear of “snakes” (clue: snakes, like ghosts and vampires, can be warded off with garlic, at least in the mornings), to get anyone to guide you, you will need to go early. And expect your boatmen to draw anchor with or without you at the earliest sign of dusk…

In a way, though, this combination of magic, mystery and sheer frustration adds a little bit of extra charm. And sitting in Tobelo right now, plotting tomorrow’s assault on the underwater volcano a couple of hours from here, I’m seriously contemplating heading back for round two.

Or, then again, maybe wait for 2012. When a planned investment in tourism will either have sorted the basics out, spawned a demonic proliferation of obyek wisata signs or made the place like Piccadilly Circus. On balance, I’m figuring now.

Banda, Journey to the Spice Islands

Banda, Journey to the Spice Islands


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We recently returned from a trip to the Banda Islands, also known as the Spice Islands. These islands have both a European and a local history. They have long been a major point of conflict for their riches. Getting there is an adventure in itself. This is about the journey.

We are in our mid to late 50s, we don’t do hard travel, long bus journeys or speed boats (hard on the back). We know no Bahsa Indonesian, but we are trying to learn. We spend a little extra to smooth the trip out, try to avoid too much moving about, hire porters where possible. The journey was from Europe, with a stopover in Jakarta.

We don’t care for basic accommodation in cities. We booked the Cipitura Hotel at $75.00 per night. It was good for swimming and resting after the flight. Also, it was close to the airport, had a pool with an attached shopping mall for SIM cards and getting cash changed; exchange rates in Maluku are abysmal.

Our flight to Ambon from Jakarta was purchased in advance. To get flights from outside Indonesia, you have to email your credit card details to a reliable agency. The risk is yours alone. Indonesian banks don’t issue secure web pages for payment. Banker’s drafts, money orders, etc. are a pain and expensive. You can get a reservation over the web for so many hours/days, but they will only hold it so long without payment.

Ambon airport is a long way from Ambon. It’s possible to go by Bemo. We took a taxi for 150,000 rupiah, about $15.00. On arrival at the airport, the police called us into their office. We expected the usual shakedown, however, they only registered us as being in Maluku, offered travel advice.

It’s not possible to book your onward travel from Ambon unless you are actually there, and you can’t be sure if the flight to Banda will go – not much point for travel agents to put your name down. They deal mostly with local tourists. For travel information in the area, we found a travel agent in Ambon who speaks English and is connected – P.T. Daya Patel Tour and Travel service, spicetr@qmail.com. Contact Tony Tomasoa. He can give you ferry days, flight days, (if they fly) and make reservations, even though they do expire. Advanced times for boats remain pretty much hit and miss, even on the day of. The most reliable way to Banda is by Pelni ferry which runs once a week.

It takes seven hours to Bandaniera – all within two days when we were there, but that was a 2006 schedule. Commercial flights to Bandaneira are on an 18-seat plane, Mondays only. When we were there, other flights didn’t go to the Islands for the next 16 days due to high winds. If passengers are carrying heavy dive gear or are overweight, fewer people get on. When we left the island, there were 30 people on the list for the next Monday’s flight.

Getting off the islands has to be planned. A good option, in my opinion, would be to link in flights from Ambon airport directly to Langgur in the Kei Islands. There are daily flights, the Kei islands have some fantastic beaches with accommodation. There is supposed to be an airport hotel in Ambon. The Pelni ferry ships currently go Ambon/Banda/Kei Islands, then around a small loop, two to four days back to the Kei Islands/Banda/Ambon. This gives you two options per week to get to and from Banda, if you can afford 400,000 rupiah, flight costs between the Kei islands and Ambon.

Here are more choices. Hire one of the larger wooden boats around Bandaneira and charter to Seram. The price when we were there was 1,400,000 rupiah and you can share. I think they go to Tehoru, it’s the nearest point and takes around six hours. The problems are small boats in open waters, however, some of them are as large as the yachts that sail around. It depends on the weather and your comfort level.

Watch for larger vessels and the oil tanker that does the round trip from Seram to Banda. You can hitch a lift with them. The issue of unreliability, though, is always present. Delays are common. The bigger the boat, the better. See the captain and rent a cabin with someone, or stay on deck. If language is a problem, find someone who can communicate for a good deal before you get on. People who speak English will find you.

Once you get to Seram, it’s road transport to Amahai or Namano, then ferry to Ambon. We had to stay a few days in Ambon before we could get a seat on the flight to Denpasar. If you leave, say 1,000,000 rupiah per person with the travel agent, you can phone him from Banda, book your ticket once you are sure of the date. You can also book a hotel in advance. Use the travel agent’s airport bus, cheaper than a taxi.

There are many other options in the area, most popular being Lease Islands, and Teluk Sawai bay on Seram. People also go to Ternate and Tidore, alhough I wouldn’t recommend them if you want to hang out with tourists.

Was it worth the bother to get to the Bandas? Absolutely. It’s a good place for history buffs and snorkels. There’s the Museum Siwa Lima – two and a half hours from Ambon – well worth it from what I hear. We went to Namalatu for a dive operation that never took place. People have reported good dives in the area, though. Santi Panti is friendly, non threatening. I will write about my perception of the situation after the conflict in another article.

It was our first time on a Pelni boat, some folks take it often and choose whichever class they want. If that’s you, then no point in reading this. It was my first time. Finding out when the boat was in wasn’t easy. Knowing Bahsa would have helped. For a two-day trip, we could only get economy. Purchase your ticket and keep on enquiring when the boat will come in. We were told 1500 hours on Sunday. When we got up on Sunday morning, the hotel receptionist said the boat had left. We were devastated – no more boats for two weeks, no flights on Mondays. What to do?.

The receptionist then phoned the Pelni office, was told a 1200 hour departure. We packed, dashed to the port to be informed that no, the boat was leaving tomorrow. By then, we were getting the hang of it. We stayed around asking questions, eventually finding the boat due in at 2000 hours, i.e. tonight. On Banda they blow the ship’s horn on arrival, wake the town – night or day. We arrived at the dock about an hour early, went into the economy waiting oven. Everything was closed, no air conditioning, everyone looking shattered. Eventually, the boat came. When the doors opened, there was a crazy rush for the gangway (to get a bed). People were still coming off!

We hired a porter, told him we were in economy, he took off immediately with us in hot pursuit. He ran straight into the fray at the bottom of the gangway, forcing his way through. Everyone – families, babies – coming and going on the same gangway. It’s nothing to see a porter with a full sized refrigerator on his back, fighting his way on or off the boat. Somehow we found ourselves on board in economy class, (which is a rat hole on the Ceramai). The porter dumped our bags, charged us more than the agreed price, forcing us to pay him to go away and stop hassling us.

There we were with overpriced beach mats to sleep on that were “on sale”. We weren’t happy, that’s for sure. Off I went for an upgrade, kept getting lost, couldn’t find my wife. Eventually, I got us out on the deck. (Although a seaman, I don’t know my way around passenger ships). I found the purser and was upgraded to first class – clean cabin, not to many cockroaches, if you left the light on.

A Dutch lady offered to watch our bags if we didn’t find a room. Foreigners are targets. Keeping your entire luggage safe can be a major headache, especially if you sleep. Locals kept their stuff on and around them in descending order of importance. The crew try to get you something better to stay in even if there are no cabins. They know as foreigners, you stick out.

This is basic stuff I already knew but we were exhausted at the time. Once you sort everything, go for a walk around the ship, See where you’d like to stay next time. If economy is fine with you, good. For us, though, it isn’t.

What an experience! The next time we go to Pelni, we’ll have to deal with new hassles we hadn’t anticipated but still, we’ll return. We urge others to go also – for the adventure.


A nice video from the Pelni


Haruku Island

Haruku Island


This tiny island is in the south part of Moluccas archipelago, located east of Ambon Island and south of Ceram. The postman never rings here. They do have electricity. But form me the hot water springs give more thrills. There is no banks, hotels, museums, supermarket, nor shopping mall. Only time, abundant of them. Spending time on the forest growing nutmeg, hunting wild pigs, looking for shells and fish at low tide. Reading is not a favorite passing time here (I guess literature is discovered when suffering becomes unbearable…). Women are looking for each other lice. Children playing barefoot. Men hanging on the street talking to each other.

Is this simplicity enough? For a life time? My ancestors were born and died here. For centuries. I believe that I see less suffering in their faces compared to faces that I see in Jakarta or other big cities in this country. They wonder how it feels to fly in airplane or stay in a hotel. While they sometimes want to escape from it, remoteness seems to be a blessing for them. The sea, Banda sea, protects them from outside world. I wonder whether living in and together with nature is our

Unfortunately, the modernization has marked its way here. The discovery of plastics is not accompanied by the thought of how people get rid of it after the use it. At least not in this place. Recycle does not mean so much to them. Centuries of using only natural material like banana or sago leafs as packaging material seems to be over. Trashes and garbage just lie on the ground along the path. Well, once in a while they throw them to the sea, to get rid of them. That what I heard from my uncle. That is a pity. I guess things are not perfect.

Some facts and tips:
Haruku has several villages, both christian and muslim. A village is either christian or muslim (not both). The fastest way to reach this island is by taking the boat from Tulehu (Ambon Island) to village Haruku (Haruku is a name of the island and on the villages here). It takes appr. 15 minutes. Go only during october-february because the sea can be rough outside this period. Don’t forget to take your own life jacket; like many in Indonesia they don’t have appropriate safety requirements. Haruku

village seems to have a lodge, but this I am not sure. I am staying with my family at village Oma, a 20 minutes drive with motorbike from Haruku village. Bathroom, shower and toilet are not common. They go to a community bath or to hot springs to wash everything (bodies, clothes, motorcycle). Many do ‘toilet’ on the beach. It seems that nobody speak English.