The Maluku Islands and the Maluku Archipelago – a natural wonder of Indonesia

The Moluccas Islands

The Moluccas Islands are a group of islands in the eastern part of the Malay Archipelago, between the islands of Sulawesi and New Guinea. The name “Moluccan Islands” (derived from the Arabic word maluku meaning “land of kings”) originally referred to a chain of five small islets – Ternate, Tidore, Moti, Mare and Makian – that stretches very close to the west coast of the largest island of the archipelago, Halmaher.

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General Information

The Moluccan Islands are known as “spice islands,” here they grow naturally (on small volcanic islands). In the past, the islands were the main suppliers of this commodity to the world market.

Plantations of sago and coconut palm, clove tree, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper.

The area is 83.7 thousand km², population about 2.1 million people.

It stretches from north to south and south-east for 1300 km.

The largest islands are Halmahera, Seram, and Buru.

Administratively, the island group is divided into the provinces of Maluku and Maluku Utara.

The most important islands of the first province, located in the south, are Ambon, Seram, Buru, as well as the archipelagos of Banda, Kay, Aru and Tanimbar.

The northern islands include Halmahera, the Moluccas (Ternate, Tidore, etc.), and the Sula Islands.

The main town and port is Ambon (Ambon Island).

Nature

The islands are mountainous (up to 3019 m high – Binaya on Seram Island), located in a seismic zone, earthquakes are frequent. Numerous volcanoes (including about 10 active).

Climate is equatorial, in the south, subequatorial; air temperature varies near the coast from 25 to 27 °С.

Rainfall in the lower parts of slopes is from 800 to 2000 mm a year, higher – up to 4000 mm and more.

Over 80% of the territory of the Moluccas Islands is covered by equatorial forests of palms, ficuses, dipterocarp, bamboos; above 1200 m, deciduous and coniferous species (Casuarina, Dammara pine, etc.) prevail, as well as cajeput groves (Myrtle family), which give valuable essential oil.

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In the lowlands there are frequent thickets of shrubs, tree ferns and alang-alang grass.

The archipelago fauna is characterized by combination of East-Asian and Australian species: climbing marsupials (couscous), bats, cassowaries, cockatoos (white and pink cockatoos are found practically on all big islands, the black one on Aru Islands), birds of paradise (pennant bird of paradise and others), crocodiles, boas, tree frogs.

Plantations of sago and coconut palm, clove tree, nutmeg, pepper (spices).

Population

The population is racially and culturally diverse, consisting of the Malay-speaking population and the Alfur people. Significant groups close to the Melanesians (Austronesian languages) and Papuans (Halmaherans and others), speaking distinctive New Guinean languages.

Some Austronesian languages of the Moluccas are considered transitional from the western (Indonesian) group of languages to the oceanic (Polynesian and Melanesian) group of languages.

Seram, Buru, and the Ambon Islands are also home to natives of Sulawesi and Java.

The main town and port is Ambon (Ambon Island).

A high percentage of Christians (about 40%) make up the population of the islands. The largest and most developed people of the region – the Ambonians. Some Ambonians also live in western New Guinea, Java, and the Netherlands.

In 1950 the Christian part of the population (as well as part of the Muslim elite of the region, associated as the Christian with the spice trade) proclaimed an independent republic of Maluku Selatan in the southern Moluccan Islands. However, the attempted secession was forcibly repressed by the Indonesian army.

The idea of Moluccan independence is still alive among part of the region’s population (the Moluccan Independence Front – FKM), which contributed to the continuing tense relations between Christians and Muslims. The crisis turned into a violent confrontation in 1998 (1998-2004) on Ambon Island, when 80,000 people of Sulawesi origin fled the region and about 500,000 people were forced to change their place of residence. This was prompted by a trivial argument between a bus driver and a passenger.

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The situation worsened when militants of the Islamist organization Laskar Jihad arrived from other parts of Indonesia to “protect Muslims” in the Moluccas Islands and continued religious pogroms with renewed vigor.

According to some experts, it was the most violent civil war in the world in decades: the number of victims per capita here exceeded that of Bosnia.

Many small islands have completely changed their confessional composition, and the provincial capital, Ambon, was divided into two parts (Muslim and Christian).

Attractions

The landscape of the Moluccas Islands is exceptionally beautiful.

Tranquil shallow straits with coral shoals, picturesque bays, mountain slopes covered with evergreen forests.

The rich history of the archipelago is also reflected in the appearance of many islands.

For centuries, these pieces of land have been the most valuable properties in all of Indonesia, as they have a natural monopoly on the cultivation of cloves and nutmeg.

The town of Ternate, which has the same name as the island, grew up around a fortified trading post that was built by the Dutch in the early 17th century. On a hill overlooking the town stands the sultan’s palace of Kedaton, which now houses a museum.

Soassio, the main town of Tidore, resembles a Mediterranean fishing village. The whitewashed houses with Iberian pointed roofs that climb the hillside behind the port are a legacy from Spanish times.

The Banda Islands, the famous “nutmeg islands,” breathe history.

Their main town, Banda Neira, is situated on a mountain slope descending into the sea, separated from the neighboring island only by a narrow strait.

An old Dutch Protestant church and two military fortifications, Fort Belgica and Fort Nassau, can be seen in the center of the town.

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The land of islands

Land of a Thousand Islands

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. On its territory there are 17508 islands, of which more than 6000 are uninhabited. It also includes New Guinea and Borneo, the second and third largest island in the world. Indonesia boasts the fourth largest population in the world, with about 240 million people. More than half of them, about 160 million, live on one island, Java, the most populous island in the world.

It is estimated that this country is home to more than 300 ethnic groups that use 742 languages and dialects. As a consequence, the motto of the Indonesian emblem is “unity in diversity. Because Indonesia is located in the so-called “circle of fire,” an area where two tectonic plates meet, the region is extremely active with volcanoes. There are at least 150 of them.

Volcanoes of Indonesia

Indonesia – points of interest

Indonesia has many “largest” varieties of plants and animal species, among which particularly noteworthy are the largest flower in the world, or Rafflesia in Sumatra or the largest varan in the world, with which other “dragons” from Komodo count, the largest crocodile living in Papua, and the largest python species can be found in Borneo. Nutmeg – once the most expensive spice in the world – was originally grown in only one place in the world – the Indonesian islands of Banda.

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Indonesia has a peak called Punchak Jaya, also known as the Carstens Pyramid, which is the lowest peak on earth, among the seven highest peaks on all continents. It is also worth mentioning that in the Indonesian part of New Guinea is the world’s largest gold mine, which belongs to the American corporation Freeport. The deposits are under Mount Grossberg, which hides in the inaccessible Papuan jungle. It is assumed that today there are still isolated tribal groups that have not yet made contact with the outside world.

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The peak of Punchak Jaya in Indonesia.

Indonesia – a world of harmony, elements and magic

What may help one better understand the Indonesian people is the information that there is a strong belief in magic throughout this country, even in major cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan. Sudden illnesses are almost always interpreted as the influence of someone’s charm or evil eye, and throughout Indonesia one can find many shamans, healers, and people who practice magic.

Another interesting fact is that in December 1973, a Japanese soldier was found hiding in the jungle on one of the Moluccas Islands who did not know that the war had ended 28 years earlier – Indonesians believe this is directly related to magic.

Lembata Island is home to a small group of people who live off traditional whale hunting, using small darts and small wooden boats. To this day, many daredevils die during such a hunt.

Lembata Island. Whale hunting.

And Sumba also holds a horse fighting tournament once a year in which participants fight on wooden spears. The fight continues until one of the players falls to the ground. The blood spilled during the tournament is supposed to be a sacrifice to the ghosts to secure the islanders’ favor.

Sumba equestrian tournament

There are tribes in Borneo in which only women have the right to ritual tattoos. The pain of getting a tattoo with a sharpened bamboo is a test to be able to endure the pain of childbirth.

Therefore, Indonesia is always an unforgettable vacation and fantastically interesting people.

Indonesia can be proud of its smiling and positive people. Indonesians are very fascinated by white-skinned people and react especially positively to small children, especially if they have blond hair, it is clear that such children steal their hearts.

Beautiful beaches and a paradise for divers

Often tourists, looking at photos, are disappointed that the beautiful natural places are not at all what the travel agencies promise. But Indonesia is completely different. It is much more beautiful and picturesque than in the pictures. The beaches are clean, sandy and breathtaking. It is worth visiting the area near Kangu Beach in Lombok, where the clean pale sand fades into the blue water and there is a lot of greenery – all this is a true paradise on earth.

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Spring and summer are the perfect time to enjoy the sandy beaches and unspoiled nature in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

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