Maluku, a province tattered over the ample space separating Sulawesi from Papua. It comprises thousands of islands, many too small to feature noticeably on maps of the region. Yet the Moluccas have been known to the outside world for longer than any other place in Indonesia, not in the least because they were once the treasure trove of clove and nutmeg. These were the fabled Spice Islands, whose produce was in such high demand in Europe, that the search for which fired the great sixteenth-century European voyages of exploration. European nations raced to discover them first, it caused Columbus to ‘discover’ America. Spanish Portuguese, the English and the Dutch fought over its spoils and, more specifically, to obtain the absolute monopoly over the much sought after spices. Nowadays you can still wander on medieval European fortresses and nutmeg gardens, hang out on deserted beaches or attend a party, celebrating a wedding or mourning a deceased one. Some parts are covered with jungle, other parts offer great opportunity for diving and snorkeling. Some wild life parks offer great opportunity for bird watching.
The crown jewel of the Moluccas is undoubted the Banda’s, a forlorn group of tiny islands more than 100 miles out of the coast of Ambon. This is where the historical heart of Indonesia beats. Until recently difficult to reach, it took a long sea voyage to reach this former hamlet of European presence in Asia. The remnants are everywhere, from nutmeg trees and gardens to medieval fortresses. Immediately upon arrival by ship or flight, one is griped by a sense of isolation in space and time.