The Moluccas: Discover the Spice Islands

Exploring the Moluccas on a yacht charter feels like traveling back into colonial times. Given the nickname Spice Islands, due to their rich botanical treasures, the Moluccas were at the center of the global spice trade during the Age of Exploration in the 15th and 16th century. The spice trade was largely driven by nutmeg and cloves, which were originally only native to this group of islands. Since spices were once worth their weight in gold, control of the Moluccas was synonymous with extreme wealth. European powers, most notably the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and British, fought for control over these islands, leading to a tumultuous period of colonial rivalry and conquest. Today, the Moluccas offer a unique mix of colonial history, dreamy islands, buzzing ports, and abundant ocean life.

Where are the Moluccas?

The Moluccas, or the Maluku Islands, form an archipelago within the larger Indonesian archipelago, situated in Southeast Asia. This cluster of islands is located between Sulawesi and Papua in the east, and Borneo in the west. Geographically, the Moluccas are part of the larger Malay Archipelago and are renowned for their natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and historical significance.

The islands comprise the two Indonesian provinces of Maluku (Central Moluccas) and North Maluku (Maluku Utara). The central part of the Moluccas encompasses, most notably, the islands of Seram (Ceram), Buru, and Ambon, as well as the Banda Islands. The principal islands of North Maluku are Halmahera, Obi, Morotai, Bacan; significant smaller islands include Ternate and Tidore.

Explore the Moluccas on a modern-day Phinisi yacht

Yacht Charters around the Moluccas

The Moluccas, compared to Komodo National Park and Raja Ampat, are a lesser-known region for yacht charters. However, with growing popularity and people’s desire to explore unchartered waters, they represent a unique opportunity to discover Indonesia’s rich history and stunning underwater world. Navigating this area on a modern-day Phinisi takes you to a place that is packed with extraordinary land and sea highlights. From endemic bird species in Seram and world-class muck diving in Ambon to the stunning dive and snorkeling sites of the Bandas, this tropical paradise enchants travelers of all ages. Charming villages, pristine beaches and turquoise water complement cruising adventures in the Moluccas.

Time for some scuba diving during your yacht charter

Seram Island

Seram is located within the central Moluccas. It is the largest and most significant island in the Maluku province, showcasing a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and rich biodiversity. The island’s history dates back centuries, influenced by indigenous cultures, colonial powers, and global trade routes. During the pre-colonial era, Seram was part of the powerful Ternate Sultanate, which controlled much of the spice trade in the region. With the arrival of European explorers and traders in the 16th century, the island became a strategic outpost for the Dutch East India Company.

Land and Sea highlights

Today, visitors can immerse themselves in the local way of life, witness traditional ceremonies, and engage with artisans creating beautiful wood carvings, delicate textiles, and fine pottery reflective of Seram’s cultural heritage. In addition to the history and cultural heritage, Seram features stunning flora and fauna that offer great opportunities for hiking and birdwatching. On rare occasions, you can spot the famous salmon-crested cockatoo, also known as the Moluccan cockatoo from your yacht. 

The coastal areas surrounding Seram Island offer opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and underwater photography. Coral reefs teem with marine life, including colorful fish, turtles, and reef sharks. Especially Ora Beach, with its pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters, is a post-card-like spot for relaxation and water activities.

Remote and unspoiled adventures in the Moluccas


Ambon is the main island of the Maluku province and serves as its administrative and economic center. It is located between Seram Island to the west and the Banda Sea to the east, offering stunning coastal landscapes and a rich maritime environment. Once famous as the heart of the spice trade and fought over by colonial powers, Ambon is now known for a different reason – exceptional muck diving.

Ambon Bay - World-class muck diving

Diving in Ambon is mainly focused on the famous ‘muck’ sites of Ambon Bay. These sites are concentrated along the north coast and feature an incredible variety of unique critters hidden on the gentle slopes. Dive sites like Laha and Pante Parigi offer unforgettable encounters with underwater creatures and vibrant coral gardens. Hunting for the elusive psychedelic frogfish, found only in Ambon, is for sure a highlight when diving in Ambon. Underwater photographers regard the dive sites along the north coast of Ambon as the best in the world for shooting unusual species, including the Ambon Scorpionfish. However, Ambon Bay is not only a paradise for divers, snorkeling enthusiasts will be delighted exploring the colorful coral gardens while gliding through the turquoise waters.

Colonial Past

The historic harbor town is the capital of the Moluccas and serves as the major departure port for yacht charters and diving adventures around the central Moluccas, including the Banda Islands. Once a vital hub in the historic spice trade, attracting European powers, history lovers can visit Ambon’s colonial past remnants. Fort Victoria, Fort Amsterdam, and museums showcasing artifacts related to the island’s maritime heritage and multicultural history are worth visiting during your yacht charter around the central Moluccas.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands are a group of small volcanic islands located in the Banda Sea and part of the Maluku province in Indonesia. Situated in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago, these islands hold a rich history deeply intertwined with the spice trade. Today, they are renowned for their stunning natural beauty and vibrant marine ecosystems. Considered by many to be a coral wonderland, which is no surprise given they are at the heart of the coral triangle, they are home to around 397 species of coral and 683 species of fish.

Diving around the Banda Islands

The Banda Islands are a paradise for divers and snorkelers, offering some of the most diverse and vibrant marine ecosystems in the world. Dive sites such as Lava Flow and Batu Kapali showcase stunning coral gardens, slopes, an abundance of marine life and the opportunity to encounter schooling hammerhead sharks.

Lava Flow

The volcanic eruption of “Gunung Api” in 1988 caused lava to flow into the water and destroyed parts of the surrounding reef. Since then the dive site, now called Lava Flow, has become the fastest-growing reef on the planet and has sparked the curiosity of marine biologists due to the fast rate of recovery and increase of biodiversity. The dive site features some of the largest Acropora colony in Indonesia and large amounts of Cuttlefish. The slope is perfect for snorkelers and scuba divers.

Batu Kapal

Located in the Northwest of Banda Besar, this dive site is one of the most famous in the area. Underwater, a 45-meter-deep plateau heads west from the rock, and leads to two nice pinnacles, draped in orange soft coral. Divers may encounter giant groupers, barracudas and trevallys.

Fort Belgica on Banda Neira 

Yacht charters in the Northern Moluccas and Halmahera​

Cruising through the Northern Moluccas offers a voyage of discovery and adventure through some of Indonesia’s most enchanting and lesser-explored regions. The Northern Moluccas, also known as Maluku Utara, encompass a cluster of islands north of the central Moluccas. The most noteworthy are Halmahera, Obi, Morotai, Bacan and the two significant smaller islands of Ternate and Tidore. The Northern Moluccas and Halmahera are characterized by diverse landscapes ranging from volcanic mountains and dense rainforests to pristine coastlines and colorful coral reefs.


Halmahera is the largest island in the North Maluku province of Indonesia and is situated between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Known for its diverse landscapes, rich biodiversity, and cultural heritage, Halmahera is a captivating yacht charter destination for those seeking adventure and unspoiled natural beauty. Due to the forces of the Pacific Ocean and the constant flow of currents, its waters are teeming with marine life and feature an abundance of coral reefs, making it a paradise for experienced divers.

Diving around Halmahera

For divers and snorkelers, the region features all kinds of stunning underwater environments. From dizzying drop-offs and isolated pinnacles to emerald-colored atolls and rainbow-hued reefs, dive sites are super diverse and host spectacular marine life. Just a few kilometers off the west coast of Halmahera, the two islands of Ternate and Tiodore provide excellent diving opportunities.

Bacan Island is another great spot for scuba diving and underwater explorations. The island is located in the south of Halmahera and is known for its vibrant coral gardens and variety of fish species. The reefs are home to angelfish, butterflyfish, and lionfish, as well as larger species like barracudas and tuna.

Surfing in Halmahera and Morotai

Besides unspoiled and uncrowded dive sites, the region offers great surfing. One of the biggest draws for surfers in Halmahera is the relative lack of crowds compared to more popular surfing destinations. This means that surfers can enjoy long rides and unspoiled waves. Furthermore, Halmahera offers a variety of surf breaks suitable for different skill levels. From mellow beach breaks ideal for beginners to challenging reef breaks for experienced surfers.

Morotai, located north of Halmahera, is known for its dreamy beaches and excellent surf breaks. Dodola Island, part of the Morotai group, offers waves suitable for both beginners and intermediate surfers.

Halmahera and the Moluccas are perfect for surf charters

Explore the Spice Islands on a private yacht

Diving into the history of the region and exploring the variety of land and sea highlights of the Moluccas is a mesmerizing holiday experience for all ages. However, for such a trip you will need a sense of adventure and diving experience. Embark on this beautiful journey and discover the treasures of Indonesia!

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