Ambon and Saparua are two idyllic islands in the Maluku archipelago of Indonesia.
Why and How to Visit Ambon and Saparua, Indonesia
They are two little blissful spots yet to be touched by the massive development some of their sister islands have gone through already. They are quiet, serene, simple and peaceful little specs floating just east of Sulawesi.
With over 17,000 islands, Bali isn’t all Indonesia offers! While some savvy, off the path travelers, have found out about a few other exotic islands in the region, very few have found Ambon and Saparua in Maluku.
Hence, the reason I was so graciously offered a trip from the Tourism Ministry of Indonesia to visit these incredible islands.
On the trip with me were a group of other travel writers and journalists who hit the road and explored Sulawesi, another area not too common for travelers to visit, but not as obscure as Maluku.
During our short time on the islands, we saw a lot!
The reason to visit them now is simply because the lack of development and commercialization is bound to not last and this is what gives the islands their charm. When coming here, don’t expect infrastructure that you might find on the sister islands that have been developed long ago. Sure there are a few resorts and guesthouses sprinkled about, but overall the islands are probably what Bali looked like 40+ years ago.
I hope this guide on how to visit Ambon and Saparua will help as the info out there is a bit scarce. I’ve been to most of the places listed here and I’m quite confident this will entice you to visit Ambon and Saparua.
So what are you waiting for? The islands are calling you…
Here’s why and how to visit Ambon and Saparua, Indonesia before everyone else does.
A local man grinning from ear to ear pointed at a bag for me to look in. I peered inside and it seemed he was showing me a bag full of dirt.
I was sweating from every pore of my body under the hot sun and I was pretty drained considering the hectic schedule I was following. Why are you showing me a bag of dirt?
As I looked closer and took a bit of it in my hand, our local guide explained this was clove and it was almost literally money growing on trees for the locals of this area.
The grouping of islands in the eastern part of Indonesia, the Maluku islands, are nicknamed the Spice Islands for good reason. Clove and nutmeg were the island’s most profitable product and the reason for war just a few centuries ago.
During these times, nutmeg, clove, and mace were only known to grow in these parts. This caused many traders to be extremely interested in this region and in came the intruders. First, it was the Portuguese, and then the Dutch in 1599 who reigned for quite some time.
After the British decided to smuggle some seeds and plant them elsewhere like Sri Lanka and Malaysia, the Maluku islands weren’t the only producers and thus lost a bit of the title of being the center for spice sources.
While they still produce the product, fish, and other sea products are the main source of revenue.
Here are some of the things I got to see and do while visiting this incredible region, with a few other spots added that I thought you might enjoy. I hope to get to see everything these islands offer and they are definitely pretty high on my repeat list! Surely after your visit Ambon and Saparua will be some of your favorite islands in Indonesia with their diverse history, people, and beautiful locales.
Here’s what you’ll find around Ambon…
Martha Christina Tiahahu Statue – This young warrior joined up with the soldiers and Pattimura (local leader) in their fight against the Dutch colonizing their land. Now there’s a huge statue in a gorgeous garden overlooking the ocean to commemorate her bravery.
Ambon War Cemetery – There was a Japanese invasion on the island during WW2, this is where many of the men, mostly Australian, lay to rest in a peaceful garden.
Museum Siwalima – Another garden setting flanked with Japanese and Dutch weaponry, and a statue of the leader, Pattimura, standing tall, are a few of the things you’ll find at the modest museum just outside the town. Learn more about the archipelago and their interesting collection of bones, jewelry, and bamboo crafts.
Fort Amsterdam – Erected around the spice trade, this building still stands tall after some renovations and is open to visitors. It’s located on a peaceful beach about an hour from the city.
Liang Beach – Here’s one of the best beaches to chill on. It’s the spot for locals and foreigners alike. This spot is for beach bumming and snorkeling.
Namalatu Beach – Another beautiful beach to relax on or snorkel at.
Pulau Pombo – A little deserted island that’s a 30-minute boat ride from the port.
Here’s what to do in Saparua…
Duurstede Fort – This Dutch fort offers more insight into the fascinating history of the region as well as providing some great views. I felt very odd standing at a place where many had died and being able to describe it as beautiful, but it was, eerily, beautiful. There’s a small museum next to the fort with little dioramas explaining the grim past.
The Market – A stroll round the market will bring you right back down to earth with the locals. It’s a modest market with fresh produce being offered. Try some durian if you’re feeling brave, or perhaps start out with the less stinky and scary rambutans.
Ouw Village pottery- Here they make pottery for local use and export.
There are a few other spots offering a bit of history, but if the water is calling your name, snorkeling and diving here are some of the best in the area.
Diving around these islands has been discovered by ocean-loving savvy individuals already, so if you’re down to get down under, dive shops are readily available for you to discover the incredible marine life that live here. Palau Molana is said to have the best diving and Laino Beach is the place for beach bumming!
Read this if you’re going to Sulawesi!
Papeda or Sagu is a traditional food in the Maluku region. This staple food is made from sago flour. The locals scrape out the inner parts of the sago tree to obtain this pulp. The product hardens, and I was told it lasts a long time, so it was apparently given to soldiers to eat. They add it to a broth to make it gooey (otherwise, it’s like a rock). The glue-like texture is a turnoff for me, but I would still encourage you to try it, though. Always try the local specialty!
Baby Drivers and Prop Planes
So how can one visit Ambon and Saparua?
Getting to Ambon is easy, just catch a flight to the airport. You can find flights from Sulawesi and Jakarta.
If you’re like me, you’ll hate the ride over because it’s likely you’ll be on a prop plane, which scared the hell of out me. Luckily it was a smooth ride, but if you know me, you know I hate flying!
Getting to Saparua? That’s a different story, let me first tell you how I arrived there. Three locals and their rickety speedboat picked me up as well as a few other friends on the trip with me. I hopped on reluctantly as these boats are a bit notorious for being less than safe. I figured it would be fine if the minister of tourism is hopping on with us, right? After riding for a few minutes, some repairs on one of the engines was needed and the captains seven-year-old son hopped in the driver seat.
Yep, repairs on an engine while at high speeds and a kid only a few years out of the womb and barely able to see out the window was driving me to Saparua island… On a speed boat. Ek! I lived, though, so that’s good…
>>>>PS – You would have seen this story as it was happening if you were my friend on Snapchat! Are we friends yet so you can catch my next random adventure? – WitWiNina
Your way? Maybe you’ll get the seven-year-old captain? Who knows. But there are boats available in the morning and early afternoons from Ambon to Saparua. They leave from Tulehu on the east of Ambon.
Should you need a tour guide and more information about the area, Haical Ab from iLMi is simply the sweetest and kindest man you will meet. He is very knowledgeable and provides excellent tours around the main islands.
Where to Stay
The Natsepa on Ambon was the resort I was lucky enough to stay at. This is not on your backpacker or even flashpacker budget, however if you’re looking for a treat, this is the spot to do it! It was incredibly beautiful and the amenities and rooms were perfect. It’s possibly the nicest place I’ve stayed to date! Which is honestly not saying much since you can regularly find me at the $10 a night guesthouse down the road, but still!
Need more of a virtual visit? Check this video out…
There’s way more to the Maluku islands other than a visit to Ambon and Saparua, and I fully intend on returning to this area of Indonesia!
If you’re also headed to Sulawesi, check out these positively phenomenal places to go.
[box]Transportation Tip for Indonesia:
While you can simply book at the pier, bus or train station, you may want to book ahead for certain legs of your journey to guarantee that you get a seat on the day you need to travel. 12go.asia is the best way to do this. Book your next trip ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about.
What do you think? Would you love to visit Ambon and Saparua?
Have you visited before? What did you think of it?
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!