The Kei Archipelago, Maluku

On the outer rim of southern Indonesia, much closer to Darwin than Jakarta, the 250 Kei islands are edging on to the visitor horizon. Best known for the snowy white Pasir Panjang beach, said to be one of the best in the country/world depending on guide book, they can give you the ultimate tropical idyll if you just want to chill.

The most popular destination is the island of Kei Kecil, which is connected by a bridge to the neighbouring island of Dullah. The bridge also connects the twin towns of Tual and Langgur that make up the capital of the entire Kei archipelago, and as such, the two islands form a practical unit. In contrast to these two flat, deforested islands, Kei Besar, the largest of the Keis, is long, mountainous and forested. The other islands in the Kei archipelago tend to be of the little white sands and coconut palms type, but the remotest of them, Tanimbar Kei, is noted for its traditional culture.

Kai Islands (or Kei) in Indonesia is located in the southeastern part of the Maluku Islands, part of Maluku province. Locals call these islands as Nuhu Evav (“Evav Islands”) or Evav Land (“Evav State”), but it knows as Kei or Kai by the resident’s outer islands. “Kai” is actually the title of the colonial Dutch East Indies, and it is still written in old sources book. The archipelago is located in the south of the Bird’s Head Peninsula of Irian Jaya, west of the Aru Islands, and in the northeastern Tanimbar Islands.

Kai archipelago consisting of several islands, which are Kei Besar or Nuhu Yuut or Nusteen, Small Kei or Nuhu Roa or Nusyanat, Tanimbar Kei or Tnebar Evav, Kei Dulah or Du, Dulah Sea or Du Roa, Kuur, Taam, Tayandu or Tahayad.

Tom Goodman with Duyikan expedition team from the University of Hawaii was one of the few foreign scientists who examined ancient cave Ohoidertavun that located at an altitude of about 15 meters above sea level in the small Kei. In the vicinity of this ancient cave, discovered stone wall along 200 meters of the engraved beautifully with a variety of drawings and paintings / ancient writings. The ancient paintings that lined the walls of the cave Ohoidertavun describe diverse society in the past in relation to the surrounding nature like the sun, moon, and stars, as well as boats for transportation, living fauna and flora, even painting the mask.

When on the islands, visitors can opt to stroll the soft, white sand on the beach or snorkel deep into the Banda Sea. They can also travel to Tanimbar Kei Island, which is only one hour away from Kei Besar Island, and explore a village where the majority of residents are Hindu. Dubbed “the most popular hidden gem in Indonesia” by the Tourism Ministry in 2016, Kei Islands are still less known compared with other similar destinations, such as Raja Ampat and Wakatobi. Only 300 travelers reportedly visited the place in 2016 — which is an increase compared to 2015 when it only welcomed 40 tourists

The Kei Islanders have almost no written history. Instead they have a Tom-Tad, the oral stories of the objects along with certain legacy as guarantor of the genuine history. Most of the fairy tale is spiced by symbols, but it generally believed by the local inhabitants. Kei Islands is given by productive and abundant reefs, and it surrounded by the sea. Like most people of Maluku, the livelihood of the Kei is a combination of the activities of planting, hunting, and fishing in the waters around the coast. Moreover, the tradition and genuine culture in Kei is still be done until present time. By those traditions, it makes Kai becomes the most genuine tribe of the island in Indonesia.

How to get there

Kei Kecil Island, a part of the Kei Islands, has become a tourist magnet as one of the latest must-visit marine tourism destinations in Eastern Indonesia.

Garuda Indonesia is flying from Jakarta to Langgur via Ambon – 7 flights per week. There are also two other flights betwen Ambon and Langgur on Wings and Trigana. Trigana also flies  between Langgur and Dobo (Aru Islands) both ways, and from Saumlaki (Tanimbar  Islands) to Langgur.

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