The Moluccas are the original Spice Islands; a magical destination, beautiful, remote and unspoiled, with a long, fascinating and turbulent history. For millennia these fertile volcanic isles were the world’s only source of the ‘holy trinity’ of rare spices; cloves, nutmeg, and mace, which were once worth their weight in gold. Be transported back in time on this expert-led cruise as you wind your way through dramatic volcanic islands interspersed with stops at pristine white-sand beaches. Relish the opportunity to swim and snorkel in waters rich in marine life. Learn about the colonial history of Indonesia and its role in the international spice trade during the 17th century; visit historic outposts and colorful island villages and experience the marketplaces and inhale the aroma of the spice plantations.
Visit Hitu Lama's market and see a traditional Balieo house
Snorkel over the black lava stream of Gunung Api's last eruption
View how sago, the traditional Moluccan food staple, is produced in Manipa
Upon arrival at the Ambon airport cars will be waiting to take you to the Ombak Putih at her mooring in the harbor. After you have settled in on the vessel, and had a safety briefing and freshened up, you will take an optional short tour of the surrounding area. Start with a visit to the Commonwealth War Cemetery, where many Allied troops from World war II are buried. Then head to the north of the island and visit Hitu Lama, the ancient port of the Spice Trade that was in use for centuries before Europeans made it to the Indies. Visit the market and see a traditional Balieo house. On your tour, you can also visit the Waipauwe Mosque (1414), the Immanuel Church (1512) and finally to Fort Amsterdam (1514) one of the first European forts built in Maluku. After this, you will return to the boat for lunch before heading out and on your way to the Banda Islands.
Today reach the renowned, remote Banda archipelago. Famous for natural beauty and cultural heritage, and their well-preserved remnants of an extraordinary history of the imperialist rivalry, these islands are quite simply one of Indonesia’s highlights. Banda was originally the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace, valued for their rarity and high cost by aristocrats and elites. Today Banda’s quiet and charming ambiance belies a dramatic and often tragic history, including war, massacre, earthquake and eruption. This is a very special destination. Since conditions of wind and tide will determine the order in which we visit various Banda islands, your activities here can’t be assigned to a particular day. In the capital Bandaneira, on the biggest island, Neira, you land near the elegant arches of Hotel Maulana – a little slice of Somerset Maugham. It’s a pleasant stroll through the quaint colonial outpost’s characterful streets, inspecting notable residences, a museum, churches and a waterfront market. Brooding over all is the medieval-looking Fort Belgica, its five crumbling bastions now solidly rebuilt. The population is a handsome mix of Malay, Arab, Dutch and Melanesian. Just across the harbor is Banda’s perfect, jungle-clad volcanic cone Gunung Api (‘Fire Mountain’ – 640 meters). The fit and ambitious might make an early morning ascent up a challenging track to the top for stunning views. Or you can snorkel over the black lava stream of its last eruption.
Choose from some of the other small islands of the Banda archipelago – Lonthoir, Ai, Run, Hatta – each of them with its own remnants of old plantations, Dutch cemeteries and fortifications. The tiny outlying island of Run was the subject of an unbelievable real estate deal when in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda, it was ceded by the English to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. Yes, the Manhattan where New York stands. On the island of Ai visit Fort Revenge, built by the English before being captured by the Dutch. On Lonthoir you can enjoy the tranquil beauty of nutmeg groves, where the shapely fruit-bearing trees grow in the shelter of towering, gigantic kenari or native almond trees. You can observe the age-old technique of harvesting by hand, and can taste (and buy) baked goods, condiments and jams flavored with fresh mace, nutmeg or their fruit casing. Climb up to fortress Hollandia and go on to meet the last of the ‘Cruise’ – the small-holder farmers who managed the plantations for the Dutch, on land parcels known as ‘perken’. You’ll learn of more recent wars and eruptions that shook these lovely islands, and value even more their current peace and tranquility. Leaving Banda you will navigate through the Sonnegat (‘Sun’s gap’) between Neira and Gunung Api, possibly escorted by kora-kora – the big Moluccan galleys used traditionally for ceremony and warfare, propelled by banks of warrior-oarsmen.
On Saparua you land beside Dutch Fort Duurstede (1691), stormed in 1817 in a revolt led by Ambonese Kapitan Pattimura, a national hero and martyr. His story is told by vivid museum dioramas. Brightly painted bemo mini-buses will take you to a morning market before you sail to nearby Nusalaut. Rarely visited by outsiders, this island is home to a Christian community after early missionaries planted their faith here at the same time that Islam was spreading through the archipelago. Visit the Eben-Haezer church founded in 1719. Nearby is the restored Dutch Fort Beverwyck, built from 1657 in a distinctive architectural style you’ve not yet encountered. A highlight here is a lunchtime feast of wonderful local dishes – freshly prepared by villager hosts from Cruiseforest, garden and sea produce. It’s your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try papeda, the most famous and unusual of the many sago dishes. Your next destination is the Island of Manipa.
Manipa Island is said to have magical powers, because none of the Portuguese, Dutch or WW2-Japanese who occupied the surrounding islands ever landed here. The spell doesn’t apply to Indonesian ships, so you land at Uwe township for lessons in village technology. Its gardens produce cashews, while the leaves of forest Melaleuca cajuputi are pot-distilled to make a volatile oil called kayu putih or cajeput. It’s famed throughout Indonesia as a universal panacea: cosmetic, antiseptic, insecticide, decongestant, analgesic, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, stimulant and tonic! View production of the traditional Moluccan food staple, sago, a nutritious flour washed from the fibrous trunk of the cycad-like sago palm. Sago can be baked into easily transportable cakes, while the palm also provides building timber and thatch. After an afternoon of snorkeling, cruise on towards Belang-Belang.
Deserted, white-sand Belang-Belang is a real beachcomber’s paradise, where you can launch your full flotilla of watercraft, kayaks and paddle boards. At Obi Latu, mountains clad in forest and clove plantations plunge spectacularly into the sea. Visit isolated Manatahan, a village of migrant Butungese from Sulawesi hundreds of miles to the west. Migration is not unusual in this island world where people are accustomed to moving by boat, and islands are sparsely populated or uninhabited. In past times the picturesque channels around Obi were dotted with the sails of local spice traders, Portuguese caravels, Spanish galleons, Dutch yachts and English pinnaces. Now encounter friendly fishers and their outrigger dugouts, colorful timber island-trading craft and sometimes little lambo sloops still trading under sail.
By today you will have lost track of time and place, but your crew won’t have. They will have delivered you on schedule to the Patinti Strait and Doworalamo, where you visit a village of the famous sea gypsies, known in Eastern Indonesia as Sama-Bajo. Scattered widely through South-East Asia, sea gypsies spent their entire lives from birth to death on their small sailboats called lipa-lipa. Now the modern world has pushed them ashore. Landless, their homes are always built on stilts over coral reefs or the tidal margins of remote islands such as this one. You will also have opportunities for swimming, snorkeling and beach-combing before your ship continues on its northerly course.
Wake up off the north shore of Bacan, another seat of Indonesia’s historic spice sultanates. Go exploring ashore at the isolated village of Geti or its neighbor Goro-Goro, walking up a rainforest-clad river valley. Bacan is where Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the golden birdwing butterfly and the giant mason bee, Chalicodoma pluto. We’ll keep a close watch for these and a host of species, some of them endemic, including parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, hornbills, the elusive cuscus or a rare black macaque – the only monkey in Maluku. It’s the wrong side of the Wallace Line for monkeys; these ones were introduced from North Sulawesi.
Sunrise finds you in Indonesia’s most stunning seascape. Four perfect, brilliant-green volcanic-cone islands emerge from the sea in a straight line stretching south to north, parallel to the rugged, forested spine of the big island called Halmahera. They are Makian, Moti, Tidore and Ternate. Makian is dominated by volcanic Mount Kiebesi (1357 metres) towering over its palm-fringed, white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. There are interesting expeditions ashore and good places to snorkel. Later cruise towards Payahe Bay on the mainland of Halmahera, which was another of the Spice Sultanates, formerly called Gilolo. Your landfall is a remote beach full of outrigger fishing craft, for an easy afternoon trek towards a forest waterfall.
Today wake up just across from Ternate off the coast of Halmahera, with the mighty peaks of Ternate and Tidore as your dawn backdrop, ready to head ashore to the village of Dodinga after breakfast. This is the very place where Alfred Russel Wallace was staying when, in a fit of malarial delerium, he came up with the idea for the mechanism for evolutionary theory. He promptly wrote to Charles Darwin when he recovered and set in motion the formalization of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Dodinga is a pretty little riverside village with friendly people, colorful houses and the ruins of an old Portuguese fort, and its importance in the history of science I cannot be understated. After spending some time with the villagers, sharing some fresh coconuts and enjoying their hospitality, you will head back to the boat for lunch and then go off for an afternoon of snorkeling and relaxation.
Day 12: Ternate | Disembark
Reach the island of Ternate and your final destination. This colorful city has been the center of the spice trade for several centuries, where the imprint of the Dutch and the Portuguese can still be seen. In fact, its warehouses are still filled with fragrant piles of clove and nutmeg. Nearby is the splendid 17th-century, pagoda-style royal mosque, and the Sultan’s Palace with its rich collection of heirlooms. There’s a choice of forts to visit, introducing the turbulent colonial era, such as well-restored Fort Tolukko (Portuguese, 1540). After your tour return to the Ombak Putih to say goodbye to your expert guide, the captain and the crew, and you will be transferred to the airport and your flight to Jakarta or Bali.
Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
TrustScore 4.6 | 107 reviews
TrustScore 4.6 of 5
Based on 107 reviews on
20 hours ago
Clara and Rhenee were gracious and available. Phone contact is so important to answer questions and discuss all aspects of trip. If not immediately available they scheduled a time to speak.
They were knowledgeable, honest, realistic and very friendly. They are both very professional and take their role seriously.
20 hours ago
Jason has been wonderful. He is full of information and was very willing to listen to what was of interest to us.
2 days ago
The ability (of Kassandra) to tailor a guided trip to my exact preferences is very valuable to me, as well as the ability (of Kassandra) to provide expert guidance on destinations and travel dates. I also appreciate the ability of the backup staff (Maria Ignacio, Exito Travel) to coordinate all the details to make the travel logistics easy for the customer.
2 days ago
Our Costa Rica trip was amazing! Kassandra planned everything and the excursions, hotels, overall organization were outstanding. Everything worked out smoothly, the excursions guides were knowledgeable allowing us to see so much of the fauna and flora of the country. The hotels were great as well, all in fantastic locations and with beautiful views.
2 days ago
This is our 7th trip Kassandra has planned and she is wonderful to work with. She is responsive, helpful, patient and knowledgeable. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to work together with her. We love Adventure Life!