Formerly known as ‘the Moluccas’, these petite little morsels of paradise are a dream-come-true for seekers of superb snorkelling and picture-perfect white-sand beaches. Protected from mass tourism by distance and a (now outdated) reputation for civil unrest, this is one corner of the world where dreamy desert islands remain remarkably hospitable and inexpensive. In Maluku everything still moves delightfully slowly, except perhaps the lilting sound of Poco Poco, the home-grown answer to line dancing. With rustic but acceptable facilities and not another tourist for miles, this is somewhere to wind down a few gears, to learn Bahasa Indonesia and to revel in a tropical discovery that seems almost too good to be true.
Maluku also offers a thrill for history buffs. The Moluccas were the original ‘Spice Islands’. Indian, Chinese, Arab and, later, European adventurers all came here in search of cloves and nutmeg. Until the 16th century such spices were worth their weight in gold and grew nowhere else. Thus in Maluku money literally ‘grew on trees’. Today it’s incredible to reflect that the search for this wealth began the whole process of European colonialism.
Maluku is remote and timetables aren’t always convenient. Nonetheless, with regular flights into the region, and some flexibility and planning once here, it’s possible to snorkel thebrilliant Bandas, explore the beach strewn Kei Islands, survey North Maluku’s mesmerising volcano-islands and explore ruined Dutch fortresses all within the limits of a one-month visa.