Discovering Ambon the island of Spice

Historically known as the Spice Islands, Maluku is now just as renowned for producing some of Indonesia’s biggest singing talents. Valentino Luis explores the musical legacy, natural beauty, and centuries-old sites in capital Ambon and surrounds.

Victoria Fort, a Portuguese relic from the 16th century, opens its gates to welcome visitors. Its original name was Nossa Senhora Annucida, but it was changed to Victoria when the Dutch seized control in 1605. Two centuries later, the fort was a silent witness to the execution of Thomas Matulessy. Victoria Fort is said to have been the embryo that grew into the city of Ambon.

Next to the fort, another monument stands in the middle of the road. It is called the Peace Gong Monument. It was erected both as a reminder and a reflection of the importance of preserving peace in our lives.

Today, the situation in Ambon is peaceful and pleasant. Numerous activities are being promoted to encourage the creative spirit of young people, in particular through sport and the arts. This is a necessary step to erase the trauma caused by the riots of two decades ago and to develop a positive mindset in the younger generation.

The Ternate and Tidore Islands have a rich history as the only source of cloves in the world during the 18th century, a time when Arab, Chinese and Javanese merchants visited for this strong, aromatic spice. Along with nutmeg from the Banda Islands, cloves were an important part of the Spice Islands trading power.

Ternate is now the bustling capital city of North Makulu and is a modern hub with historic relics and a vibrant harbor perfect for people-watching. Don’t miss the many food sellers lining the streets of Ternate’s business district if you’re a foodie. And to get your appetite going, hike up Gunung Api Gamalama volcano first and learn how cloves are grown and harvested.

Apart from the capital, Ambon’s beauty is perfected by the islands surrounding it. One of the most well known is Seram Island (‘Spooky Island’), which, despite its name, has an exquisite paradisiac beauty. The largest island of Maluku province, the main attraction of Seram is Ora Beach. Its name is currently a trending online topic of conversation. It is not easy to reach Ora, from Ambon, you need to take fastferry from Tulehu

Maluku’s tucked away beaches and turquoise waters stretch as far as the eye can see, reminding you just how remote these islands truly are. The Kei Islands’ Ohoidertawun Beach is one of the best beaches, offering a deserted tropical paradise that you won’t want to leave.

Make sure you save some time to explore the Kei Islands caves, rock carvings and ancient cave paintings while you’re there. For expansive ocean views, Sangliat Dol beach on Yamdena Island — the largest of the Tanimbar Islands — is well worth visiting as well.

There are actually three islands that lie between Ambon and Seram – Haruku, Saparua, and Nusa Laut. All three are home to beaches and historic Dutch forts worth visiting. Haruku is home to the Nieuw Zeelandia Fort (1655) situated right on the seafront, while Saparua’s Duurstede (1676) was built on top of a high coral rock that visitors must climb if they want to see inside. Nusa Laut’s fort, Beverwijk, dates from 1654.

The existence of these forts helps tell the story of the rich history of Ambon and Maluku in general. The Maluku Islands, also known as the Moluccas, have more colonial forts than all other parts of Indonesia, with a total of almost 40, a legacy of when the famous Spice Islands were a magnet for the rest of the world from the Middle Ages onwards. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and England were engaged in disputes for centuries as they fought to take control of the region.

Nowadays, people don’t come here to look for spices but to discover the stories and bring to life the nostalgia of the past. Whatever the reason, we welcome them in the same way: with the sound of music and singing.

Jakarta to Ambon: Flight Time 3 hour 10 minutes // Frequency 7 flights per week

Source: Colour Indonesia

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