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Tobelo is the capital of North Halmahera District, which consists of the Western half of the northern arm of Halmahera Island plus North Loloda sub-district around the Northern cape and Morotai Island up to the Northeast. It is also the second largest town in the province of the North Moluccas after the provincial capital, Ternate.

Tobelo and environs is predominantly Christian and this is expressed colourfully at Christmas with bamboo poles arching over the side of the roads hung with lights and multi-coloured flags. At Easter, local church congregations hold a competition to see who can create the best Easter garden.

North Halmahera district is sprinkled with beautiful white and black sand beaches which are accesible both by road and boat. Off the coast of North Halamahera there are also numerous small islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, with a lot of excellent snorkeling and swimming.