One of the most beautiful places in the world to go cruising is Indonesia. The entire country is one massive archipelago with over 17,000 islands, and there are some epic places to explore. If you find yourself debating which islands to visit, here’s an idea: give the Spice Islands a go!
These spectacular islands are also known as the Moluccas or Malaku Islands but Spice Islands is the most common way of referring to them. It’s a nickname that stuck over the years, and it’s well justified – so let’s discuss the island’s geographical name and what you can do when you visit.
Geography of the Spice Islands
Located west of New Guinea, east of Sulawesi, and northeast of Timor, the Spice Islands archipelago is part of both Asia and Oceania. The population was predominantly Melanesian at the beginning but unfortunately during the Spice War most of that population ended up being massacred.
Up until 1999, there was just a single province in the Spice Islands. However, at that point, North Maluku decided to split into a different province, taking control of the area between Sula and Morotai. The rest of the territory, from Wetar to Buru and Seram, is still under the original Maluku Province. Religion-wise, most of the population in the original Maluku Province is Christian, while North Maluku is predominantly Muslim.
How the Name Came to Be
The islands’ name is actually the Maluku Islands and there are a couple of theories on where it comes from. One theory is that it comes from “Maluku Kie Raha”, which is a concept where “Kie” means mountain, whereas “Raha” means four. According to this theory, the name refers to the four major mountains of the archipelago: Jailolo, Bacan, Tidore and Ternate.
There is also another theory that it comes from “Jaziratul Muluk”, an Arabic phrase that translates into “Country of the Kings”. And then there is the nickname – the Spice Islands. At one point in history, the islands were the only place where you could find valuable spices like nutmeg and clove.
This made them a very in-demand destination, especially considering the fact that nutmeg was actually worth quite a bit of money back them. Due to this, plenty of nations wanted control over the trade, which is why the Dutch-Portuguese War (also known as the Spice War) ensued.
Eventually, the Dutch would become victorious, which gave them complete monopoly over the nutmeg trade. In turn, this made them one of the richest nations at the time. This is also why most of the architecture that remains around the islands is predominantly of a Dutch style.
Things to Do in the Spice Islands
Visit the Capital of Maluku: Ambon City
The first destination most travelers head to is Ambon City. It gives you a combination of incredible historical locations and some stunning beaches you can spend some time on – so it has something for everyone!
In terms of historical spots, Fort Victoria is the oldest fort built by the Portuguese colonists. You will love the fact that it’s well preserved and we aren’t just talking about the architecture! There are also the remains of large statues, the cannons, as well as some stunning paintings too. And don’t get me started on the view over Ambon Bay – it’s stunning.
Fort Amsterdam is definitely worth a visit as well, and the name probably gives it away – it was built by the Dutch. It’s in a solid shape, and also gives you a neat view over the ocean, which is always a nice touch.
When it comes to the best beaches of Ambon City, Liang Beach and Pintu Kota Beach are the two I would suggest you head out to. Liang Beach has pearly white sands which you can enjoy, while Pintu Kota Beach is surrounded by rocks and stones and has some incredible scenery.
Explore Seram, the Largest Island of the Province
The province’s largest island, Seram Island is well known for its incredible beaches – you should try and visit as many as possible, it will be well worth it! Ora Beach is the one you should head to if you only have time for one because it’s a hidden gem that tourists have yet to discover. The coral reefs and crystal clear waters make it a must-visit spot, so don’t miss out on it!
Spend a Few Days in the Banda Islands
Last but not least, visit the Banda Islands which are a group of ten volcanic islands. Even though the overall surface area is small, they do have a lot to offer. Benteng Nassau is a historically popular destination, known as the location of the Banda Massacre. There is also Fort Belgica, which is a classic star fort that you can visit by asking around for the key-keeper: it’s normally closed, but they will be happy to let you take a walk around.
If you are planning on visiting the Spice Islands and would like to travel in a comfortable and luxurious way then check out the Ambon & Spice Islands 7-night cruise expedition with Aqua Expeditions (click here for more info). Cruise across the Banda Sea on an enthralling adventure as you embrace nature and culture, and bring a forgotten chapter of history back to life!