Ambon: Maluku Islands

Ambon city is also the capital of this vast archipelago province of Maluku. With its long history since the hey-day of the famed Spice Trade, it has developed itself to what it now is: a bustling hub and centre of trade, education, culture and development.

The city of Ambon was found around late 1500s and early 1600s after the Nossa Seinhora da Annunciada fort was erected by the Portuguese conquista dores. The Dutch took it over in 1602 and changed this fort to Kasteel Victoria and later rebuilt, enlarged and renamed as Kasteel Nieuw Victoria until nowadays. The people of the whole Maluku archipelago still call it Victoria.

Feeling save to live and work in and around the fort, local people began to settle near the fort and so the city began to grow until the present day Kota Ambon, known as “Ambon Manise” meaning “Beautiful Ambon” referring not only to the beauty of the city itself but also to the beauty of the Islands that represents the beauty of the whole Maluku archipelago.

The city now covers the area along the bays of the island the Ambon Bay, (Outer-and Inner Bay), and the Baguala Bay, making up a territory of about 277 sq.kms.

The nowadays population is exceeding the 282 thousand souls consisting of people and races from all over the Maluku archipelago and even from other parts of Indonesia.

The island of Ambon is located south of Ceram island in Central Maluku. It covers only 0,89% of the total archipelagic region, (the size of about 761 which makes it an extreme by dot in the world map. The island is shaped like 2 horseshoes clinging together creating 2 peninsulas only tied by a small passage at only one mile wide between the Inner and the Baguala bays. The north-Western part is called the Leihitu Peninsula is larger then the south-eastern which is the Leitimor Peninsula though much of the population is centered in the latter.

With its rugged mountains along the interior parts of the peninsulas it is a beauty by its own, where we can find a lot of tourists attractions, nature as well as cultural/historical, like beaches, sea gardens, clove and nutmeg plantations, fortresses, museum, old churches, old mosque, kind people, musical society, and many others. Around the island there are about 12 selected diving spots.

The 1990 census counted of about 374,197 people as resident on tne island of Ambon, and that included the City of Ambon. Some 91,453 thousand people live in the villages, while most are concentrated in the city.

Administration and Government

The administration and government on the island of Ambon is devided in two parts. The Leihitu Peninsula’s north-westem coast is part of the district of Central Maluku with its district-capital, Masohi on the island of Ceram, the south coast along the Bay of Ambon and the whole Leitimor Peninsula is the Municipality of the City of Ambon.

The capital of the Province of Maluku is seated also in the City of Ambon.

The city of Ambon is further subdivided into 16 urban villages and 2 villages which are spread in 3 subdistricts (kecamatan), Baguala, Sirimau and Nusaniwe.

People and Culture

The original inhabitants of the Maluku archipelago are descended from the Austropolynesian race (a mixture of Austronesians and Polynesians). Around 43,5% of the total population Christian, 55,8% Moslem, and the rest is Hindu and Buddhist.

The language used is Bahasa Indonesia, the national Indonesian language. There are more than 200 dialects used by different ethnic groups spreading over the archipelago.

The major tribes have their own traditiona1 dresses, ceremonies and activities, some of which are very exotic. The Buginese, Macasarnese, Butonese, and Javanese comprise the coastal peoples. Traditional societies developed many communal relationships including groups based on 9 villages (Patasiwa) and 5 villages (Patalima) that cooperated closely in economic and warfare activities.

The traditional dress is handwoven by means of the ‘ikat‘ technique, with delicate ornamentation. Well known textiles of this kind come from South-east Maluku. The textile pattens and ornamentation are specific for individual tribes and essential in most of their traditional ceremonies (weddings, funerals, etc).

Food, Flora & Fauna

Traditional food of Maluku is mostly prepared from sago or sago flour and fish. Tuak, Saguer or Sopi are names of a traditional drink made from the liquid obtained from sugar palm trees.

Maluku has typical flora and fauna species, exotic and unusual in nature. Besides the famous nutmeg and cloves, cultivated flora include cassava, maize, cocoa, rice, coffee, eucalyptus and several tropical fruits.

Among non-cultured plants, orchids – panther orchids, white orchids and black orchids are among the most remarkable. Marine flora and fauna are as destinctive as those on land. The Baruna fish in the Banda Sea Marine Park is an example of Maluku’s sea marvels. Other interesting sea garden inhabitants include pearl oysters, shrimps, seaweeds, and beautiful corals of all colours.

Rare decorative bird Cockatoo and Nuri- can be found in Maluku’s forests. Marsupials in Maluku are evidence of the geographical connection to the Australasian continent.


There are many unique articles made here (as souvenir) such as Temate weaving, Bacan stone jewelry; Kabilano (betelnut) boxes; Bamboo handicrafts; Artificial shields; the saloi (a kind of sieve); Plaited handicrafts and various atohes” (a kind of sieve).


Earthenware such as pots, pans, water jars, sago molds. They are all traditional home from made product.

Pearl – shell and Tortoise shell artifacts. The making of ornamental articles is based on the buyer’s taste and order.

Clove artifacts

It has been a Maluku name for centuries. The specific one is ta-kora, a traditional Maluku gondola (boat).

Runut handicraft

Runut is also name for the coconut tissue that covers the young leaves of a coconut tree. It is now used as basic material for fans, bags and wall decorations.


Traditional woodcarving products in Dutch Museum come from West Ceram. There are still some craftsmen of the Alang village doing this work of art.