Islands of adventure
Indonesia is home to some of the most intrepid travel destinations on the planet. Among them are the Spice Islands, also known as the Moluccas or Maluku islands, an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands set on a vast canvas of ocean that today, as in centuries past, is best explored by boat. The roots of Indonesia?s spice trade trace back to ancient times, when shipping routes between Africa and Indonesia were first initiated (the first people to settle in the Spice Islands are in fact related to the people of Madagascar), and it continued with the Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch trade routes in the 16th Century. Today, these islands are still the world?s top producers of nutmeg, mace, cloves and pepper.
Adventurous travellers come to the region to stay in remote villages and hike in the shadows of perfectly conical volcanoes. For divers, the fish and coral below the water?s surface are just as intoxicating as the scent of nutmeg growing topside.
A live-aboard scuba diving boat such as the Damai Dua (pictured) is an ideal way to explore the islands? highlights. Here, darkness falls on the peak of Tidore, one of the many volcanic islands that stretches south from Ternate, another visually dramatic cone-shaped island. For thousands of years, Tidore and Ternate were the world?s only producers of cloves, which originate in this region. Today, cloves are grown in other countries including Madagascar and Brazil, as well as on the Comoros islands.
Spice as life
Ambon was once a world centre of clove production, and the spice is still grown here today, along with healthy crops of nutmeg and cocoa. In one of Ambon?s many small villages, locals gather outside a home with a recently harvested crop of nutmeg piled into plastic bags. Small-scale farmers sell their crops to village collectors, who amass it with larger volumes of the crop to then sell to exporters.
The Spice Islands are a popular destination for scuba divers who travel the region for the chance to explore spectacular reefs against a backdrop of volcanic islands. Here, a woman snorkels over a reef in the shadow of a volcanic outcropping near Bacan Island. Large schools of barracuda, as well as the occasional whale shark, can often be seen swarming nearby on the southeast corner of the island.