Spice Islands Indonesia – compact travel guide

There’s no denying that traveling is in a bit of a limbo nowadays, but if you’re ready to take a bit of a different vacation, that doesn’t really have to be the case. We are, of course, talking about private cruises to the Spice Islands, which allow you to visit exotic destinations that have quite a lot to offer. These kinds of cruises are a really nice way to relax for a while, enjoy a change of scenery, and take your mind off things.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try out, here’s a destination suggestion – Indonesia and the Spice Islands. There are over 18,000 islands as part of Indonesia, but few can say they have a history that’s as rich as that of the Spice Islands. They’re also known as the Maluku Islands or Moluccas, and if you’re keen on visiting, here’s a short travel guide that will give you a few ideas on what to do there!

spice islands indonesia
North Maluku: a walk on the shore of the Spice Islands in Indonesia. Copyright: Unsplash | CC0 Public Domain

Spice Islands history

History is a major part of the Maluku Islands, so let’s kick things off with the story of how they got the name of Spice Islands and why they’re so popular. Well, as a group of islands, they’ve been inhabited for thousands of years, and that was long before Europeans ever set foot on them. They were nicknamed the Spice Islands for one simple reason – there was a vast variety of aromatic plants that were scattered throughout the islands. Even the native people recognized this and encouraged the spice trade as much as possible.

But of course, the most notable spices on these islands were cloves and nutmeg. True, you can get them in a variety of places nowadays, but back then, it wasn’t the case. They were only native to this group of islands, which is why they became a point of contention. Whoever controlled the Islands, controlled the herbs spices trade, and that meant a lot of wealth.

Once Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India, nations acknowledged the importance of the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, and expeditions started heading there pretty much instantly. The Portuguese were the first to establish themselves on the islands, in 1512. Shortly after, the British, Dutch, and Spanish joined them, which led to something that was pretty much expected – a war for control. The Dutch would emerge victorious, in 1663, which gave them the ability to completely control the trade, a monopoly which they maintained up until 1769. Then, a Frenchman managed to smuggle some of the seedlings for nutmeg and cloves and started to cultivate them in Mauritius, which meant the spice monopoly existed no longer.

Now that we’ve got the history of the Spice Islands out of the way, let’s take a look at what you could be doing in Ambon City, the place to go to, and all around it.

kota ambon spice islands indonesia
Around Kota Ambon on the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Copyright: Unsplash | CC0 Public Domain

Things to do in and around Ambon City

The city itself is a popular tourist destination, and there are quite a few locations to visit. The two we would recommend are Liang Beach, a beach that’s about 40km from the city, and has stunning white sand and crystal clear waters, and Natsepa Beach, a slightly more popular alternative to Liang Beach. Of course, how calm (or not calm) you want things, is up to you.

Trading is something the people in Ambon do for a living, which is why you have a lot of traditional markets scattered throughout the city. Each one gives you a different thing to buy, from fruit and vegetables, to meat and fish. Everything is fresh, and everything is as delicious as it comes. Of course, these are the Spice Islands we’re talking about, so you can get quite a lot of different spices, too.  

If you aren’t limited to just visiting Ambon, you can head to the Banda Islands. This is a destination that has yet to be discovered by the masses, which means it’s intimate, it’s private, and most importantly, it’s a snorkeling paradise. It’s full of untouched nature that’s left for you to enjoy, and the ecosystem is as diverse as they come.

Then, you’ve got Ternate and Pulau Seram – the largest islands in the Maluku province. Pulau Seram is, however, the main island. It’s popular for quite a few things, such as the Sanggar Budaya Seram Museum, a museum that allows you to learn quite a lot about the cultural and historical background of the Maluku Islands. Oh, and we should also definitely mention Ora Beach, which is full of stilt bungalows you can enjoy!

After that, you should head to Fort Belgica. This fort was built right next to Fort Nassau, to provide better protection, and it is in surprisingly good shape even nowadays. It was built around 1660, and in 1667, it was replaced by a much larger fort. The entire thing was finished in 1673 and restored a short while ago, in 1991. Now, it’s a rather popular tourist destination, although one that’s somewhat difficult to get to, especially in the scorching summer heat of the Spice Islands in Indonesia.

Last but not least, you should check out the Spanish forts on the island of Tidore.

About the author

gloria mabery guest post writer on the travel bunny blog

Gloria Mabery is a passionate traveler who has given up trying to tame her nomadic streak. She’s been backpacking around the world for seven years, transforming her travel experiences into stories. She works as a content writer, mostly administering her interest in digital marketing. Gloria is also a musician, occasionally performing as a busker, wherever she sets foot. Currently, Gloria lives in Bogota, Colombia.

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