Southern Maluku – The forgotten islands

Far from the much sought-after and fought-over islands further north, the widely scattered, mostly small and relatively infertile islands of southern Maluku have long managed to escape unwelcome attention of the outside world. No spices were grown here, so the only trade was limited to marine products, bird of paradise skins, and sometimes slaves. Even most of this trade was limited to the Aru, and to lesser extent the Kei Islands, with those further west, from Tanimbar towards Timor, better known for savage, hostile natives who were best left alone. Unsurprisingly, when the Dutch finally took control, missionaries showed the most interest in them, making this the most Christian part of Maluku. Sadly, missionary attention also extended to the fine art of woodcarving that the isolated southwestern islands have developed, and as it was deemed to form part of idol-worshipping, most of the splendid masterpieces were destroyed, the rest shipped out to overseas museums. Ikat weaving and goldsmithing fared a bit better, though have by now been largely replaced by products bought from the outside. Even today, this remains one of the least developed, poorest, least accessible and least visited regions in all Indonesia.

The most accessible Kei Islands are attracting a tiny though increasing trickle of visitors with their splendid white sand beaches, some of the best in the World, but very few people make it beyond those. A few dedicated naturalists, perhaps inspired by delighted accounts of Alfred Wallace, make it to the Arus, while anthropologists and art enthusiasts, hopeful of salvaging whatever is left of the local cultures and craft traditions, sometimes visit the Tanimbars and the Southwest. Don’t underestimate the time and effort it takes to tour most of this part of Maluku – shipping links are poor, facilities non-existant. If all that sounds appealing, good luck, otherwise you can still enjoy the beaches on Kei Kecil with relative ease as an add-on to a trip around Central Maluku.

[credit and thanks for the info:]