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Maluku’s biggest island is eccentrically shaped, like a starfish, with four mountainous peninsulas, several volcanic cones and dozens of offshore islands. As it’s sparsely populated and hard to get around, the island’s potential for diving, birdwatching and beach tourism remains almost entirely untapped. In the riverine interior, the nomadic, seminaked Togutil people still hunt deer with wooden spears, but change is coming with gold mining at Buli and the Weda Bay nickel-mining concession near Kobe. The creation of new regional capitals at Sofifi (North Maluku province), Weda (Central Halmahera) and Jailolo (Western Halmahera) is also stimulating local building booms. The movement of big bureaucracies out of Ternate and Tidore may finally reverse a history throughout which Halmahera has been largely dominated by those tiny islands. Halmahera has a predominantly Muslim population, with Christian villages in several areas of the more developed northern peninsula.


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