Saparua Island: Maluku Islands

Saparua is a small island east of Ambon. It takes two hours by ferry from Tulehu (Ambon) to Haria, the main harbour of Saparua. There are also speedboats going up and down, it takes less time but it is less comfortable.

Saparua is a coral island and has the shape of a butterfly. It is quiet and small, the main “town” Saparua is the centre of the island. Outside Saparua town is the centre of the island. Outside of Saparua are the sago palm, nutmeg and clove plantations. The harvest of the cloves is from august till January.

During the harvest the air is filled with the smell of the drying cloves. It is nice to see all the mats full of cloves laying in the gardens and on the streets. In early days there were some bloody fights because the property of some trees was disputed. Since the goverment transmigrated hundreds of families to Ceram, there is less tension.

On market days, Wednesday and Saturday, the sleepy town is full of life. It starts early in the morning and from all over the island and from the neighbour islands: Pulau Haruku and Nusa Laut, sellers and buyers come. It is also the only time that the mini-buses are going up and down to all the other villages on the island. Special is the variation in smoked fishes. Early in the afternoon the market is over and Saparua is as quiet and empty as always.

In Saparua-town is Benteng Duurstede ( an old dutch fort ). Several years ago the restoration of this fort was started. Next to the fort is a museum, which shows the history of the rebellion of Thomas Matulessy alias Pattimura. The rebellion was a reaction to the return of the Dutch. After an incident in Porto and Haria in May 1817, the population under the leadership of Pattimura stormed the fort and killed all the people there, except the 6 years old son of the Dutch resident.

The saving of this child gave Matulessy the name Pattimura which means “big of heart”. In December 1817 after the Dutch had sent a large number of soldiers from Java to break the resistance, Pattimura was executed. The saved boy named himself later “Van den Berg from Saparua”. His descendants still have the same family name.

Other places to visit on Saparua are Booi, a village in the southwest, you can only go there by foot because you to enter the village by large stairs. The village Ouw, 4 kilometers southeast of Saparua, is the centre of pottery. They don’t use a potters wheels but make everything by hand. Kulor in the northeast is close to the only spot on the island where there still is a piece of tropical forest.

Also around Saparua the coral reefs have been destroyed by fishing with explosives, but still there are some unspoiled spots to snorkel and dive. Near Kulor, Booi and the uninhabited island Molana you can enjoy undamaged coral and various species of tropical fish.