If you’re one of those people who can’t wait for travel restrictions to be lifted so you can start going around the world, we get it. And we can’t wait either. And since you’re probably using your spare time to look at options for your next journey abroad we suggest you look at charter cruise options and head to kaleidoscopic Indonesia!
But Indonesia is a country that has over 18,000 islands scattered throughout its category, so you can’t visit all of them in one trip, which is why we would suggest that you start with the Spice Islands, more commonly known today as the Maluku Islands. They’re surrounded by a rich history and are an incredible place to explore for pretty much anyone. That being said, let’s take a look at what they are, where they are, and what you can do when you visit.
The Rich History of the Spice Islands
The islands themselves have been inhabited for thousands of years as a group, and this is actually long before Europeans set foot on them. And one thing that the locals figured out was that the islands were a place with a variety of aromatic plants throughout. The natives used this to encourage the spice trade in order to put the islands on the trade map, and they were rather successful with that.
That being said, the spice that’s “guilty” for this success is nutmeg. Even though you can actually get it now pretty easily, back then, the Spice Islands were the only place that had nutmeg, which is why they got the name. To add to this, when people figured this out, the islands became a point of contention, because having control over them basically meant you had control over the trade monopoly, and that lead to incredible wealth.
Other nations started to establish themselves on the islands shortly after Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese discovered the sea route to India, and of course, the Portuguese were the first to establish themselves as a nation on the islands, which happened in 1512. It wasn’t long until the Spanish, Dutch and British joined them on the islands, which meant the inevitable would happen pretty soon. And of course, there was a war that lasted until 1663, when the Dutch won. This gave them both control over the islands and the territory, and the nutmeg trade. Of course, this didn’t last forever – in 1769 a Frenchman managed to smuggle nutmeg seedlings, and got them to Mauritius. With the Dutch no longer having monopoly and the trade picking up elsewhere, the islands lost a bit of significance.
How Do You Find Them?
The Maluku Islands are also known as the Moluccas, and they’re an entire archipelago. They’re located in eastern Indonesia, within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. They lie within Wallacea and are east of Sulawesi and the Greater Sunda Islands, so they’re considered to be both parts of Oceania and Asia.
Up until 1999, the islands formed a single province, but they were then split into two provinces. North Maluku is the new province, and it concerns the area between Sula and Morotai, while Maluku province (the existing one) concerns the arc of islands from Wetar, to Buru and Seram.
A thing that separates the islands is religion. Maluku province is predominantly Christian, with Ambon as its capital, while North Maluku is more on the Muslim side. Unfortunately, the Maluku Islands sectarian conflict between the religions has killed thousands and has been the reason for almost half a million people leaving the area.
Things to do When Visiting the Spice Islands
If you’re headed on a cruise, you will probably want to head to Maluku province. Ambon and its surroundings are the prime tourist destination, and you’ve got a whole lot of things to do, so let’s check out some of them.
People who are keen on history and historical architecture should check out Fort Belgica. Built by the Portuguese in Bandaneira, the fortress was initially made during their reign. However, during development, the Dutch obtained control over the islands, which is why the name was changed from the original Benteng Nassau to Fort Belgica. The fort was initially made as a military defense point, as well as a sea traffic monitoring location. Nowadays, it boasts a rather impressive view and is an excellent location to visit if you’re nearby.
Pulau Seram is another island you need to visit, and it’s the province’s largest island. There are a lot of things you can enjoy there, but the most notable is the Sanggar Budaya Seram Museum. This museum will teach you an incredible amount of things when it comes to Maluku Island’s historical and cultural background. If, however, you’d prefer to head to a beach instead, we can wholeheartedly recommend Ora Beach and its variety of stilt bungalows you can enjoy.
If you’d rather get a bit of privacy, the Banda Islands are a great location that’s still within reach if you’re in the area. The best thing about them is that tourists have seemingly yet to discover the beauties the islands offer, which makes them perfect if you want to get a bit of privacy. Of course, you also get an incredibly diverse ecosystem and more or less untouched nature, as well as some of Maluku’s most beautiful diving and snorkeling locations.
And then comes Ambon City, which is the capital of Maluku, and the largest city in the area. It’s a very popular tourist destination, and it’s got a lot of things you can explore. A prime example is all the traditional markets you can visit. Trading is a big deal in Ambon, and each market offers something new. And whatever you need, from fruit and vegetables to fish and meat, everything is absolutely fresh and incredibly delicious. And we shouldn’t forget the vast variety of spices you can also buy – we are, after all, talking about the Spice Islands.
Add to this the amazing locations such as Natsepa Beach, or Liang Beach, which are perfect for sipping a cocktail on the beach, and you’re covered!