Ambon is the capital of Maluku province. Together with North Maluku province, they are better known to Europeans as The Moluccas. The islands had been of interest to spice traders from as early as the 1st century, and later became known as The Spice Islands, due to the cloves, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon which grow there. It was these East Indies that Columbus was looking for when he accidentally found America in 1492. However, Ambon is not as famous for spices as some of the other islands, such as Banda and Saparua, where more of these spices are grown.
Pulau Ambon resembles two horseshoes back to back. Ambon City lies on the south side of the beautiful Ambon bay. The airport is located in the north, across the bay, and although a ferry connects the two, it is quicker to drive the 36 km. We went through a series of small villages, and the first thing that struck me was the number of churches. They were of many different designs and some villages had up to 4 churches of different denominations. Many were still under construction. Although Indonesia has the world’s largest Moslem population, Maluku is home to a large number of Christians and it was common to see a mosque and church side by side.
Since the end of the heyday of the spice trade, The Moluccas became largely forgotten. Then, in recent decades, tourists discovered the great beauty of these islands, straddling the equator, and which have some of the world’s most stunning dive sites. Sadly, the peace and religious harmony of these islands was shattered in 1999, when a minor dispute between a Christian and Moslem led to full scale riots, which lasted until about 2004. During that time many buildings were bombed and burnt, and whole villages were wiped out. The riots spread throughout many islands of Maluku.
Now peace is restored and the people are busy rebuilding and getting on with their lives. There is a building frenzy going on as Moslems and Christians help each other rebuild homes, as well as churches and mosques. Maluku is now safe again and tourists are slowly returning. Ambon and the surrounding islands are totally unspoilt by tourism, and remain a hidden, unknown gem nestled between Sulawesi and Papua.
Pintu Kota Recreational Park is located near Namalatu. Pintu Kota is a natural arch in the sea cliffs with a small cave to the side of the arch. The area at the top of the cliff, the Pantai Pintu viewpoint, provides a great view over the bay and coastline. From here, a rough trail leads vertically down the cliff to the base of the arch. The beach is formed from stones and corals and is fringed by sea pandans.
Further along the coast is Tanjung. The ground here is made up of some unusual rock formation, appearing like rings of rosette shaped stones enclosed by a layer of black stones which appeared burnt. I presume it is a form of basalt. Villagers in the nearby kampung make bricks; a cottage industry, where the women make the bricks and the men bake them in a kiln. Fishing is the other means of income and one can watch the small prahus come in during the afternoons with their catch of fish, such as the skipjack tuna.
Amahusu is the finishing point for the Darwin to Ambon yacht race. It is located on the beautiful Ambon bay, just a few kilometres west of Ambon City. Ambon is Darwin’s twin sister.
Soya Atas is a village located high on Gunung Sirimau, immediately behind Ambon City. The church here was rebuilt in 2003, after the riots. From the village one can walk up the hill through the dusung (I thought it was dusun, but apparently not). It’s a beautiful walk past lots of fruit trees and flowering shrubs. The trees include gandaria, mangosteen, cloves, durian, langsat and nangka. There is also kutikata, lychee and salak. The hibiscus are of several colours and some are large in size. Kampong Soya is known for its delicious durian which fruit from March to April. We saw some traps for cuscus in the trees. Cuscus (phalanger) is a marsupial, like a possum, and locals eat them.
On the northeast coast of Pulau Ambon, just beyond the port of Tulehu, is the small kampung of Waii. This is famous for its eels. These live in a natural river, but the area has been concreted to form a rectangular pond and a ‘cave’ where the eels shelter. I was expecting small eels and was quite stunned when these huge giants appeared from out of the cave. If paid, a local man will call the eels by slapping the water and coaxing them with a raw egg. I was invited to get into the water with him and was then told to hold the eels by putting my hands around them. I was startled when I felt how slippery the eels were. They must have been covered in algae. They were so big, and at first I was unnerved to have 5′- 6′ eels swimming around my legs. I managed to hold and lift them slightly. One gave my leg a slight nibble, probably looking for food. There seemed to be little natural food in the water for the eels, and I was told that they feed on eggs. But of course one egg won’t keep all those eels alive. Apparently there’s an even bigger eel that remained hidden. There were also several fish in the pond, and a dam hindered the eels and fish from escaping. It was incongruous to see the local women use the downstream area below the pond for washing their clothes.
The cemetery is laid out in a series of terraces approached by short flights of steps on the central axis. The Ambon Memorial, which is in the form of a shelter, stands on the first terrace. It commemorates over 450 Australian soldiers and airmen who died in the region of Celebes and the Molucca Islands and have no known grave. The Cross of Sacrifice stands on the highest terrace in a wide expanse of lawn; the terrace below it contains most of the burials from Makassar. All the graves are marked with bronze plaques mounted on concrete pedestals and set in level turf. Tropical trees and shrubs are planted throughout the cemetery and around its boundaries. There are 1,956 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war here,357 of these are unidentified. There are 186 Dutch burials here, 15 being unidentified, and 1 American Airman. The American airman was killed with 7 Australian airmen in July 1945; all were buried in a collective grave in Plot 28. The non-war grave is that of a seaman of the Merchant Navy, whose death was not due to war service.
There are two natural hot springs in Ambon. The first one, called Hatuasa, is located just outside the port of Tulehu, on the foothills of Ambon’s highest mountain, Salahutu. It is about 2 km in from the main road. A local couple live there and keep the place clean. There is no sulphur smell. From here it is a 1_ hour walk to the Waii Waterfall. The other hot spring is on the beach at Tulehu, near the hospital.
Museum was founded November 8 ,1973. It is located on Taman Makmur hill.
Maluku’s heritage is preserved and displayed in this museum. Most of the collection comes from South – East Maluku. There are collections of ethnographic, historical, cultural, and scientific interest. These include ancient and modern objects, a marine exhibit and a complete whale skeleton. The museum is located only 3 kms west of the down town. To get there, one can board Taman Makmur minibus or Amahusu minibus, with a stop at Taman Makmur or Batu Capeo.
Upon special request, one can watch the local music, dance performances, and hand weaving demonstrations.
Museum visiting hours are as follows:
- Tuesday 8.30 am – 1 pm
- Wednesday to Friday 9 am – 11 am
- Saturday 8.30 am – 12 am
- Sunday 12 am – 3 pm.
You are allowed to take picture inside the museum, with a certain charge. Further information is available at place.
Fort Nieuw Victoria
This fortress was first built by the Portuguese in 1580, then in 1605 successfully captured by the Dutch under the command of Rear Admiral Steven van der Hagen, who later gave the name Victoria in this castle. The fort is a couple of times severe enough damage by the earthquake that hit Ambon and its surrounding area ie in the year 1643 -1644 and 1673-1674. In the year 1689, conducted a number of improvements and expansion at the fort. In addition to repair the castle, a residence for the governor built a house outside the fort, situated opposite the church. In 1754, the great earthquake occurred again destroy the fort and other buildings in the city and surrounding areas. In the reign of Governor van Pleurren circa 1775-1785, made significant improvements in building the fort's defense that made the overall appearance of the castle changed. To the amendment, the fort was later given the name Nieuw Victoria. On February 17, 1795, Mayor Alexander Cornabe handed this castle without any resistance to the British Admiral Rainier. 1802, the Dutch regained colonies from England, but on February 19, 1810 by the Dutch commander, a French colonel JPF Filz Ambon and surrounding areas handed over to the British without a fight means that after the siege the day before. On March 25, 1817, the fort was handed over officially to the Netherlands by the British. On November 3, 1950, Lt. Col. Slamet Riyadi led forces killed in close combat to seize the fort Nieuw Victoria, but the entire city of Ambon been won by the Armed Forces of the United Republic of Indonesia. With the fall of Ambon city, the strength of the South Maluku Republic was proclaimed earlier on April 25, 1950 by Dr. Robert Steven Soumokil successfully broken.
Today, the huge walls facing the bay are still exist, while the other parts of the fort are in ruins. The old buildings inside are rebuilt to be the residences for the Indonesian army officers and soldiers.
It is an easy walk to the site when you are in the downtown area.
This is the most visited beach on the island of Ambon, only some 14 kms from the centre of town. It has a very shallow beach of more than 30 mtrs wide at low tide.
At low tide it extends even further. Natsepa is an ideal spot for recreation activities on the beach and in the water (swimming, rowing, sunbathing, games). Ambon’s people said, you never go to Ambon if you never go to Natsepa beach.
After swim and walking around the beach, you can relax at the small tent at the side of the beach. You can order fried banana, tuber, fried cassava, sweet coconut, or Natsepa’s rujak which famous with its peanuts spices.