I'm looking for a good solid internet resource on the Maluca islands but haven't been able to find very much.
If someone could point me in the right direction, or indeed have first hand information from travels in the area, i'd be really grateful.
#1 Sampan has been a member since 3/9/2009. Posts: 110
I don't own the LP book on Indonesia but I think their latest edition covers the Bandas quite well. It's their #1 spot in Indonesia now apparently! There should be quite a lot of detail about things to do and see and where to stay etc in there.
You don't say which part of the Mollucas you want to visit. I haven't been to north or south Muluku, only the central part (Ambon, Saparua and the Bandas)
Ambon and Saparua aren't too hard to get to but getting to the Bandas requires time and a very flexible schedule. There are flights a couple of times a week (usually) from Ambon on a very old 20 seater propeller plane but these flights often get cancelled at the last minute and the schedule changes frequently. Sometimes there's one flight a week, sometimes three and sometime none. On top of this, you can only book these flights locally... in Ambon for the outgoing flight, and on Bandaneira for the flight back. The flights are always full too, so you need to book in advance!
A more reliable but less comfortable option (unless you get a first class cabin) is to get a Pelni ferry to Bandaneira from Ambon. The Pelni website seems to have finally got its act together a bit and you can now get ferry schedules up to one month in advance... until recently you just had a 2006 schedule to go on which didn't tell you whether the ship had been taken out of service for repairs etc.
Most tourists take the Ciremai which leaves Ambon on alternate Saturdays and takes about 7-8 hours to get to Bandaneira. Getting on board a Pelni ship can be quite a challenge as there will be hundreds and hundred of shoving and pushing passengers and porters also trying to get up the gang plank(s). Beware of pickpockets in the crush of ekonomi passengers trying to get on first in order to get a place in the lower deck sleeping areas or find a good spot to camp on the floor. First class cabins are quite comfortable and clean and even have private hot water showers and a TV but they cost as much as a seat on the plane.
Here's a link to the Pelni website.
Thanks for all that info SBE,
I know to little about The Maluccas to really have an idea on where i would want to go but, the way you describe it, Ambon and Saparua sounds like it would suit me better as "not to hard to get to" :) . What I'd be looking for is some peaceful and quiet beach accommodation that would fit a backpacker budget. I'll be looking in to LP me thinks.
Whats Christmas-time like around those parts? I mean in terms of crowds and weather?
#3 Sampan has been a member since 3/9/2009. Posts: 110
Unless you're a diver I wouldn't say it's worth going half way round the world just to go to Ambon. Apparently there's some quite good diving around there but the beaches I've seen didn't wow me much. The island is pretty enough but Kota Ambon (Ambon town) doesn't have any obvious attractions... it's just somewhere you have to go to to catch the Pelni ferry or to get a flight to the Bandas.
Last February I went to Saparua for a few days on the way back from the Bandas. Port Telehu is where the ferries to Saparua leave from. You can get there on cheap public minibuses that ply the roads of Ambon. If you were going from the airport you'd probably have to change minibuses in Paso as most minibuses seem to head into town.
Very few locals on Saparua speak even a few words of English so you really need to learn some Bahasa to communicate there. In Ambon it's a bit easier but it's still handy to know a few words, especially for local transport.
Laino beach on Saparua is pretty but the rooms at the resort there are extremely basic. The food is very good though. Be sure and establish how much the room and food will cost. I went there on the recommendation of some people I met in the Bandas who'd just stayed there and wrongly assumed that the resort practiced fixed prices because my friends quoted the same price I'd seen elsewhere when researching online prior to my trip (60,000 for the room and 40,000 for 3 meals a day per person). Big mistake! When the bill arrived they'd charged 125,000 for the crappy room and 30,000 per meal. The food was probably worth the money but the room certainly wasn't! My fault for not inquiring ... long story but I got distracted and forgot to ask on arrival. The old man is the problem not his wife Mary... try and deal with her rather than him if you go there as he'll try and ask ridiculous prices for everything, including boat charters.
Although the Laino beach is nice, the snorkeling off it isn't that great, especially compared to the Bandas. There's lots of coral damage (past dynamite fishing by the looks of it) and fewer fish though you can see turtles and sharks and mantas too ....supposedly...I didn't see any mantas there though black tip sharks are easy enough to spot.
There's an island opposite Laino called Molana which has a more upmarket resort, an even nicer beach and better snorkeling, including a drop off with plenty of sharks. You can go to Molana on a not too expensive day trip from the Laino Resort if you can't afford to actually stay there.
Weather. Well LP and Lazlo who is *the* TT expert on the Indonesia and the Maluku insist that the weather patterns in central Maluku are the opposite of the rest of Indonesia. That isn't what the locals in the Bandas told me though...I've yet to meet a single one who agrees with what LP says regarding when rainy season is there. One even said he was thinking of writing to LP to put them right! Locals in the Bandas all say it rains in December like the rest of Indonesia and I must say the weather was quite iffy there last February ...quite a lot of rain and wind and a few very sunny days. It was fine all the time I was on Ambon and Saparua though. Maybe Ambon has some strange micro climate but I can't really see why central Maluku would have a totally different climate from everywhere else in Indonesia, including North and South Maluku. If you can find some weather stats online, Saparua should be pretty similar to Ambon though.
Tourists. Very few on Saparua and didn't see many in Ambon either. There were more in the Bandas than a few years ago but it still wasn't hard to find free rooms last February.
Maluku is a little bit off the beaten track, so not many tourists go there. You won't have any problems with tourist crowds. In fact, that's pretty much the case for the whole Indonesia except Bali.
Thanks a lot for the replies,
I haven't been able to get hold of LP Indonesia yet so i'm still a bit in the dark.
What would the weather normally be like around X-mas, and does it fill up with tourists around that time?
#6 Sampan has been a member since 3/9/2009. Posts: 110
What would the weather normally be like around X-mas
Good question, can't give you a definitive answer I'm afraid, but here's my take. LP says the Bandas have good weather in December (unlike most of Indonesia).
AFAIK Ambon is the nearest weather station to the Bandas and I've a hunch LP assumes the weather stats there apply to the Bandas too. Based on what I've seen I'm not sure they do.
I spent the month of September in the Bandas a few years ago and there wasn't a drop of rain the whole time I was there. Wells were running dry and the locals said they'd have to wait for the monsoon rains in December to get more water. LP insists the monsoon is in the summer months so the wells should have been full. However it did rain very heavily in Ambon one day when I was there.
In February it was often stormy with heavy rain in the Bandas but the weather was fine the whole time I was on Ambon and on Saparua.
I've only been to the Bandas twice, but from what I've seen they have the exact same weather patterns as the rest of Indonesia. However Ambon and nearby islands could well be different.
does it fill up with tourists around that time?
Probably, because the Bandas are LP's #1 spot in Indonesia and they tell people that the weather is good then too. But tourist numbers will still be relatively limited because it's so complicated and time consuming to get there and away.
BTW, most of the GHs and home stays in the Bandas are in villages, not beach hut style resorts like in Thailand. If you're looking for a classic laid back beach hut experience then you'd probably be better off looking at the less well known Thai islands....a lot less hassle to get there.
Also keep an eye on the news. Trouble flared up in Ambon on Sunday.