You and your party will be met at the airport on the island of Ternate by a seasoned tour operator and crew-members, who will escort you to the port where you will have your first view of the Ombak Putih. There will be time for you to settle into your cabin as well as meet the other passengers and crew-members while we enjoy an alfresco lunch together on the main deck of this beautiful, traditional pinisi. Your tour operator will brief you on all the activities of the cruise. The afternoon is for sightseeing in the city of Ternate, a vital spice-trading outlet, which has retained its commercial and political importance as the administrative centre and main trading hub of the North Maluku province. Of the four historically powerful spice sultanates, Ternate is the only one where the institution of the sultanate has survived uninterrupted. We will visit Fort Toluko built by the Portuguese, Fort Oranje built by the VOC (Dutch East India Company), and the ‘Kedaton,’ the palace of the Sultan of Ternate, with its rich collection of heirlooms. If we are lucky, we may be privileged enough to enjoy the presence of the Sultan and his family.
Today we will visit the island of Tidore, another perfect volcanic cone rising from the tropical seas. Over breakfast, cruising around the northeast coast of Tidore, we will have a magnificent view of the extinct Kiematabu volcano that dominates the island. Its slopes feature plantations of graceful clove trees, once found only upon this and a few adjacent islands, and so valuable in world trade that European nations fought for centuries to monopolise them. When we reach the old town of Soa Siu, local vehicles will bring us high up the slope of the volcano to visit the age-old plantations. Here too, we can visit the palace of the Sultan of Tidore – a one-time rival to Ternate’s sultan – near a Spanish fort undergoing restoration. A seashore monument marks the 1521 visit of Magellan’s battered fleet on the first circumnavigation of the world. The afternoon will be spent snorkelling and exploring the vicinity around one of the adjacent islands.
When we wake at sunrise, the view will be of picture-postcard variety. The three sharp volcanic cones of Ternate, Tidore and Makian lined up in a row makes for an unforgettable image. Makian Island is dominated by the volcanic Mount Kiebesi (1357 metres). In 1988, a series of eruptions nearly split the island into two, and forced the temporary evacuation of the entire population, which was then about 15,000 people. Makian has palm fringed white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. We will make a stop here and visit some natural hot springs. Later, we will cruise towards Payahe Bay on the mainland of Halmahera. Here, we will go ashore for an afternoon trek towards a lovely waterfall.
We will awaken at our first southern-hemisphere anchorage off Bacan’s north shore, another seat of Indonesia’s historic spice sultanates. This island is just to the west of the large Moluccan island of Halmahera, a paradise for rare-bird watchers. After breakfast we will go exploring ashore at the village of Geti. The island is very rich in bird and insect life, so we will enter the rainforest in the hope of spotting some of the endemic species of parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets and perhaps even the elusive cuscus or a rare black macaque. These macaques are the only monkeys in Maluku; they were introduced here from North Sulawesi. The island is also home to the world’s largest bee, the giant mason bee or ‘chalicodoma pluto.’
Our destination today is the Doworas, a group of islands on the eastern side of the south entrance of the Patientie Strait. Here, we will stop at Doworalamo Island for a few hours of swimming, snorkeling and beach-combing. The Ombak Putih will then take a southerly course for an overnight passage across the Ceram Sea towards the Obi Islands.
Today, our destination is Obi Latu Island, where mountains clad in forest and clove plantations plunge spectacularly into the sea. We will go ashore to visit the village of Manatahan, whose people are migrant Butungese from Sulawesi Tenggara hundreds of miles to the west. Migration is not unusual in this island world where people are accustomed to moving by boat, and many islands are little-populated. The picturesque channels around Obi, like all of those we have just cruised through, were once were dotted with the sails of local spice traders, Portuguese caravels, Spanish galleons, Dutch jachts and English pinnaces. Now we will encounter communities of friendly fisherfolk and their little outrigger craft, or quaint timber island-trading craft.
Today we will arrive at the mysterious island of Manipa which is said to have magical powers because the seafarers on the Portugese, Dutch and Japanese ships never landed here despite occupying all of the surrounding islands. We will stroll through the village and visit a distillery for kayu putih oil (similar to eucalyptus oil and known for its antiseptic qualities) for which the area is famous. In the late afternoon, we will spend some time snorkelling before cruising towards Saparua.
This morning is dedicated to exploring Saparua, a former Dutch stronghold in colonial times. The historic Fort Duurstede, located in the heart of Saparua, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1691. In the early 19th century, it was attacked and conquered by Thomas Matulessy, also known as Pattimura, an Ambonese soldier and national hero of Indonesia. This story is told in the museum inside the fort in a realistic diorama. Later, we will pay a visit to a local earthenware-pottery maker. The island is filled with clove trees, sago palms and fruit trees. The sago palm produces a flour that has become the staple food for the native villages on the island, and the local people will show us how they extract the flour from the tree and make bread out of it. In the early afternoon we will make the crossing to the Banda archipelago.
Should the breezes favour us, as we approach Run, the first of the Banda Islands, we will experience the delightful fragrance of nutmeg in the air. The islands have had a long and fascinating history, including being among the most expensive real estate in the world. Spices, foreign traders, wars, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have all featured heavily in their chequered past. An amazing historical footnote is the fact that in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda, this small island was ceded by the English to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. The Bandas have attracted regional and international traders for more than 3,000 years. Prior to 1500, no European had ever landed on their shores, but there had always been Asian traders. After rounding Run, we will reach the Island of Ai. Here we will go ashore on a beautiful beach to meet with the villagers. A short walk brings us to Fort Revenge, which was built by the English before being captured by the Dutch. Behind the fort we will explore our first nutmeg plantation, where the evergreen nutmeg trees will be identifiable by the hundreds of ripening yellow fruits that hang from their branches. During lunch, the Ombak Putih will move to the main Island of Bandaneira. This charming and quaint little colonial outpost on the island of Neira is the capital town of the Banda Islands and is full of relics of the colonial era: forts, cannons and Dutch-colonial homes. With the Ombak Putih tied up to a palm tree on the waterfront, we will enjoy an afternoon strolling through the old town viewing the restored planters’ mansions, fortifications and churches and get a feel for its incredible history. We will find that Fort Belgica built by the Dutch East India Company was an early blueprint of the Pentagon. The population here is an interesting mix of Malay, Arab, Dutch and Melanesian. At the end of the day, we will spend a quiet evening under the stars in the lagoon.
Over the course of the morning we will cross over to Lonthor, the largest island in the Banda chain. We will visit the fortress Hollandia and the nutmeg plantation of the last ‘perkenier’ on the island. The perkeniers were the small land-holder farmers who managed the plantations for the Dutch; each land parcel was known as a ‘perk’ (plural: ‘perken’). We will have lunch on the boat, and in the afternoon there will be time to go snorkelling over the black lava stream that was caused by the eruption of Gunung Api.
The morning is free to spend at our leisure in Bandaneira. We invite the fit and ambitious to make an early morning ascent of the Gunung Api volcano. While this is a challenging climb up a narrow track to an elevation of about 600 metres, the reward when reaching the top of the ‘Fire Mountain’ it is well worth the effort. Revel in a stunning and unforgettable view over the Banda Sea, the surrounding islands, and the crater itself. When it is time to depart, we will navigate through the ‘Sonnegat’ (sun’s gap) between Bandaneira and Gunung Api, most likely under the escort of one or more ‘Kora-Kora’, which are long sea canoes, rowed by over a dozen muscled men and used in ancient times to attack the invading colonists. We will then proceed from Banda northeast to Ambon.
We will wake to find the Ombak Putih anchored in the harbour on the island of Ambon where the Portuguese arrived in 1513 to establish their regional authority. The Portuguese never managed to control the local trade in spices and failed in their attempts to establish their authority over the Banda Islands, being driven out by the Dutch in 1605 when the Dutch set up the headquarters of the VOC. Ambon therefore has a rich and colourful history having been within the centre of the world-altering spice trade. After breakfast, depending upon flight departure times, we may have a morning programme to see the town, the markets and explore Ambon’s history. A timely departure in the provided transportation will transfer everyone to the Ambon Airport for their selected onward destinations.
This itinerary will be enhanced by descriptions and presentations by the Australian author, Ian Burnet, who has spent 30 years living, working and travelling in Indonesia, and is fascinated by the diverse history and cultures of the archipelago. His first book, ‘Spice Islands,’ tells the 2000-year-history of the spice trade from the Moluccas of Eastern Indonesia through China, India and the Middle East until the spices reached Europe. It was the lure of the fabled Spice Islands, and exotic spices such as clove and nutmeg, that drove ‘The Age of Discovery’ and the first circumnavigation of our planet. ‘Spice Islands’ has been described as “A wonderful book – a triumph of passion and scholarship.” ‘East Indies,’ Ian’s second book, begins in the port city of Malacca, and tells the story of the 200-year-struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for trade supremacy in the Eastern Seas. It follows the rise of the world’s first joint stock and multinational trading companies and their conversion to huge colonial states ruling over millions of people in Indonesia, India and Malaya. The book documents the founding of the historic port city of Batavia (Jakarta) and concludes with the founding of the modern port cities of Singapore and Hong Kong.