In the Dutch era, the Moluccas were known as the Spice Islands and were the only place on earth where nutmeg, mace, cloves and several other valuable spices were grown.
The over 632 islands Maluku are sprawled across a vast expanse of ocean, sitting astride one of the world’s most volatile volcanic belts. Maluku is blessed with incredible sea gardens, idyllic, tropical beaches and rugged, forest-coated volcanic mountains.
These are the famous ‘ spice islands’ which drew Indian, Chinese, Arab and eventually European traders in search of cloves and nutmeg. In 1511, the Portuguese built their first fort in the area on the island of Ternate, and cornered the clove trade. The Dutch, who arrived in 1599, mounted the first serious threat to Pourtuguese control of Maluku’s treasures. Armed conflicts broke out, taking a heavy toll from the island populations as well as the rival European powers. When the Dutch finally emerged as victors they enforced their trade monopoly with an iron fist. Whole villages were razed to the ground and thousands of islanders died, especially on the island of Banda.
The British briefly occupied Maluku during the Napoleonic Wars, but Dutch rule was restored in 1814 and it wasn’t until 1863 that the compulsory cultivation of spices was abolished in the province. Now fish and other sea products are Maluku’s major sources of revenue, but nickel, oil, manganese and various kinds of timber also contribute to the province’s wealth.
The main gateway into Maluku is through the provincial capital Ambon, which is served by regular flights to most parts of the archipelago. Air and sea tranportation connect the islands with 79 seaports and 25 airports. Roads on many of the islands provide acces to the more remote places of interest.
There are daily flights to Ambon and also Ternate from Jakarta.
Due to long-running communal violence, Maluku remains largely off limits for travelers. However since the riots of 1999 -2004, peace has generally returned and the people are getting on with their lives. However there were some minor bomb attacks in Ambon in March and April 2007.