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Baronda Maluku's finest

Coffee till Sunset: A woman sipping coffee before swimming in Ngurbloat Beach. Photo by Indohoy/The Jakarta Post

Publication Date : 25-06-2013

 

Explore the magical seas of Indonesia's Maluku Islands

 

With the help of a travel promotion project called #BarondaMaluku, the Maluku Islands are ready to greet travellers once again.

The project's initiator, a native to the islands, Achmad “Mad” Alkatiri, gathered last month 10 avid travellers, each with his or her own area of expertise including a photographer, videographer, journalist and bloggers as well as a celebrity traveller to experience Maluku in five days and five nights.

I was one of the 10 lucky travellers to join the project and here are my highlights of beautiful Maluku province.

Ambon

Only a few people know that Ambon city holds many attractions, which range from perfect beaches to mouthwatering local cuisine. The islands alone can keep any traveller busy exploring the area.

It is safe to say that this city is the perfect gateway to Maluku province, as symbolised by the Pintu Kota (City Gate) rock. There are several beaches here, including Namalatu and Natsepa beaches.

However, if we dig deeper we find it is not the beaches that catch the eyes of many; it is the island’s underwater world, and food.

Taking three dives at Laha Port was amazing, as the port is home to some bizarre-looking marine organisms, such as the Frog fish, Flounder fish and the nudibranch.

Laha holds treasures worth the time and effort to see, but the icing on the cake were the Mandarin fish that travel in schools.

The typical food in Ambon comes in a set of delicious dishes, though some seafood dishes are high in cholesterol.

Papeda, or sago porridge, is an Eastern Indonesian carbohydrate; it is usually eaten by slurping the gooey texture directly from its plate. Not everyone acquires the taste, but we were game enough to try it.

Nasi kelapa or coconut rice is another source of carbohydrate. The rice is cooked in coconut milk with a flavour that was more familiar to most of us than the exotic papeda.

My favourite side dishes were the freshly grilled fish, papaya leaves and flowers, accompanied by the famous colo-colo or lime juice dip with tomatoes and chilies.

Alas, snacks are not to be missed. From the signature roti kenari or walnut bread, which is a popular gift to take back home, to local fried bananas and breadfruit (without butter), local cakes made from sago and, occasionally, with walnuts, were the additions to main courses that we just had to try.

Seram Island

The one destination on Seram Island that the team, especially the marine enthusiasts, was really looking forward to seeing was the Ora Beach Resort.

This luxury resort is located on the north coast of Seram Island and on the fringe of Manusela National Park.

The ever-adventurous travel blogger, Marischka Prudence, called Seram Island the "Maldives of Maluku" because the island is so secluded.

Suspended above a seemingly endless coral reef and claiming its own small, private beach, the Ora Beach Resort is a fabulous getaway. We arrived at the right time, with the sea below us smooth as glass and the sky clear as a summer sky should be.

The private jetty was our plank of joy, where we took turns to jump over it just for the sheer fun of it. With its seventh hut being built, the Ora Beach Resort is slowly preparing for more visitors this dry season.

Kei

Kei Kecil or Little Kei is home to an array of beaches. It has abundant sandy stretches -- enough for everyone.

Some beaches are better known than others. Ngurbloat Beach or Pasir Panjang has quite possibly the finest sand in the world. With a texture like fine powder, this 2-kilometre beach is heavenly to walk along, let alone swim in its clear waters.

Ngurtavur Beach is a sand bar shaped like a snake; so, it comes as no surprise that it is known locally as Pasir Ular or Snake Sand.

Indeed, its shape makes it a wonder to view from the air. The highlight for us was the presence of Australian pelicans on the beach. Known for their lengthy migrations, these pelicans travel to wherever the food is most abundant.

 

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