Seram – The Mother Island

Seram (formerly Ceram) is an island in the Maluku province of Indonesia. It is located north of Ambon Island. The main port/town is Masohi. Seram is traversed by a central mountain range, the highest point of which, Mount Binaiya, is covered with dense rain forests.

Most central Moluccans consider Seram to be their original ancestral home and it is still known colloquially as Nusa Ina (Mother Island). In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Seram was generally within the sphere of influence of Ternate, although it was often ruled more directly by the Ternaten vassal state of Buru.

Portuguese missionaries were active there in the 16th century. Dutch trading posts were opened in the early 17th century, and the island came under nominal Dutch control c. 1650. In the 1780s, Seram provided a key base of support for Prince Nuku of Tidore’s long-running rebellion against Dutch rule.

Its remarkably complex geology is due to its location at the meeting of several tectonic microplates, that has been described as “one of the most tectonically complex areas on Earth”. Seram actually falls on its own microplate that has been twisted around by 80° in the last 8 million years by the relatively faster movement of the Papua microplate.

Meanwhile, along with the northward push of the Australian Plate, this has resulted in the uplift that gives north-central Seram peaks of over 3000m. Seram includes two of the regencies within the province of Maluku. West Seram (Kabupaten Seram Bagian Barat), capital at Piru, had a population (2003) of 140,657; and Eastern Seram (Kabupaten Seram Bagian Timur), capital at Bula, had a population (2003) of 78,336.

Ora Beach, a hidden paradise

Hidden in the north of Seram Island in Maluku province is Ora Beach, with its sugary white sand beach and crystal-clear water surrounded by lush tropical forest. The sight was enough to wash away exhaustion resulting from the six hours trip to the island from the capital city Ambon. The beach, largely unknown — even among the province’s residents, is also home to rich coral reefs and marine life, making it a favorite destination for ecotravelers.

Along the way to Saleman village in Seram Utara Barat district where the beach is located, tourists can be captivated by its tempting natural beauty, to the backdrop of a line of limestone hills and pristine tropical forest.

Just before reaching the beach, at a distance, five bungalows appear to be floating on the sea. The bungalows belong to the Exotic Ora Beach Resort, the only resort in the area. It can only be reached by sea, with a longboat or speedboat.

Inching closer to the resort, the crystal-clear water displays its hidden treasures, with colorful fish swimming around a huge expanse of coral reef, creating a dramatic vista with the thick tropical forest and the limestone hills in the background.

Several fishermen in traditional fishing boats were deep in their working routine in the Seram Sea, which holds the province’s third biggest supply of fishing resources.

The resort’s bungalows were the best place to stay the night as they allow guests to directly view the coral reef and colorful fish down below the bungalows. Apart from the five bungalows, the resort also has six rooms on land, all facing the ocean. Around the resort, a visitor would be entertained with more natural attractions, from birds singing to sighting rare animals.

Just before sunset, at around 5 p.m., thousands of bats would come out of their caves located in the back of the village, creating a huge straight line formation. Residents around the village believe that the cave is sacred, naming it Lusiala — which means ancestor (Lusi) and heirs (ala) — believing the bats fly with the spirits of their ancestors.

Cave lovers could also embark on explorations among lots of caves found in the limestone hills in the back of the village. A cave expedition team from SUCC and Wessex Cave Club from England documented 30 caves in the Saleman-Sawai limestone hill in a major exploration in 1996.

Ambon’s archeological office also discovered paintings on the cave’s walls illustrating prehistoric men’s daily activities in the caves.  The pictures, believed to be made with color from tree resin, show boats, fish and the sun.

How to get there

  • From Ambon, take a 25-minute drive to Hurnala port in Tulehu village in Salahutu district, Central Maluku regency.
  • Continue the trip from Tulehu to Amahai on Seram Island by speedboat, which serves the route twice a day — at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., excluding Sunday. The trip will take around two hours.
  • Arriving at Amahai, continue the trip to Central Maluku regency capital Masohi by car for 10 minutes. Here, visitor can have lunch and rest.
  • With another two-hour drive, one will arrive in Saleman, where the trip to the Ora Beach has to be taken by sea. It takes 25 minutes to reach the beach from the village.
  • Foreign tourists, who had made reservation, would usually stay the night at Baguala Bay resort, which is 30 minutes east of Ambon. They would be taken to the Ora Beach the next morning by the hotel staff.

Manusela, The National Park

Manusela National Park in Maluku is made up of coastal forest, swamp forest, lowland rain forest, and montane rain forest ecosystem types, with a range of associated vegetation types including mangrove, riparian, and sub-alpine.

Among the plants that grow in this Park are tancang (Bruguiera sexangula), mangrove (Rhizophora acuminata), api-api (Avicennia sp.), lime (Dryobalanops sp.), pulai (Alstonia scholaris), ketapang (Terminalia catappa), pandan (Pandanus sp.), meranti (Shorea selanica), benuang (Octomeles sumatrana), matoa/kasai (Pometia pinnata), cajuput (Melaleuca leucadendron), and various species of orchid.

There are about 117 species of bird, 14 of them endemic, like the eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus roratus), purple-naped lory (Lorius domicella), salmon-crested cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis), lazuli kingfisher (Halcyon lazuli), sacred kingfisher (H. sancta), Seram friarbird (Philemon subcorniculatus), and Moluccan king parrot (Alisterus amboinensis). The population of the endemic salmon-crested cockatoo is now gravely threatened due to hunting and the destruction of its habitat.

Other animals include the Timor deer (Cervus timorensis moluccensis), common cuscus (Phalanger orientalis orientalis), water-hagedis dragon (Hydrosaurus amboinensis), wild pig (Sus celebensis), marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), giant skink (Tiliqua gigas gigas), dugong (Dugong dugon), common green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and various species of butterfly.

Steep, fast-flowing rivers traverse the Park. Mount Binaya, at ” 3,027 m asl, is the highest of the Park’s six mountains. Four villages-Manusela, Ilena Maraina, Selumena and Kanike-form an enclave in the Park. The local people who live there believe that the mountains within the Park area give them their spirit and protect them from harm. This belief implies that the local people take care to protect and conserve the balance of nature that surrounds them.

The Exotic Sawai

Sawai is a small Muslim water village on the north coast of Seram Island, in Maluku, Indonesia. To reach it we drove across the island from Masohi, going through the mountainous Manusela National Park. Our first view of Sawai was looking down on it from the hill above. The mosque is a prominent feature. Much of the village is a water village, with the houses built on stilts in the sea. There are only a couple of lanes through the village, barely wide enough to take our car. The water supply for the village comes from a cave and the ladies do the washing in the canals.

We did various trips, to Pulau Raja to see the fruit bats but none are left. The government built boardwalks through the mangroves to see the bats, but now no one goes. We went along the scenic sea cliffs to the Muslim village of Saleman, to watch the evening bat flight from a cave. We walked through areas of nutmeg and cocoa trees to Gua Lasai. Later that day a welcoming dance was laid on for me by the villagers of Masihulan .

We did a trip up the Salawai river and watched sago being processed. On the last night another cultural dance was held for us by the villagers in Sawai.

Natural beauty of beaches, clean air and cool, and beautiful underwater wealth, make the  village is at visit to admire if you want there. If the tour to Sawai village you do not need think place for staying, because there have been a beautiful floating inn  and elegant, built directly above the beach. Addition of rare flora and fauna saleman-owned  village Sawai, we can also see directly cultivating pearls using traditional techniques, I believe for the visitors who travel to there will not