Daruba, Morotai’s main town, has at least one very good restaurant: Rumah Makan Irfamas (Ikan Bakar, what else.). However, apart from eating good fish there’s not much to do in Daruba. You have to get out of town.
Muhlis Eso, the guy from Morotai’s WWII museum (it’s a small private collection, but a big museum has recently opened its doors) helped us organize a motorcycle to explore the island’s east coast and he also joined us as a guide. Though his English and our Indonesian are very limited, we got along very well. Muhlis is a great person, very considerate and helpful and he’s one of the (unfortunately) very few environmentally conscious Indonesians we’ve met.
Driving along the coast
The drive along Morotai’s winding coastal road leads through coconut palm forests and small villages and is absolutely gorgeous. It was, however, a very long way to beautiful Gorango bay (Tanjung Gorango – Cape Gorango, as it is called in Indonesian), the place we wanted to visit; the island is bigger than it seems! Along the way we visited a WWII site and some beautiful beaches. Here, the water and the beaches are cleaner than elsewhere in Indonesia; to the north and east, there are no more Indonesian islands, there’s just the Pacific ocean.
Finally at Gorango bay and very hungry, we had grilled fish (yes, again, and we’re still not bored of eating ikan bakar) we bought from some boys who just got back from fishing. The bay is stunning and it was really worth the long drive.
Morotai – Off the beaten track
Right now, visiting Morotai is still a bit like traveling back a few years (or even decades) in time. Sure, there are mobile phones (that doesn’t mean there’s reception too, though), electricity, motorcycles, and cars. But life is still much more tranquil than in other places. Many people still walk instead of driving – there’s almost no traffic outside Daruba -, women carry the fresh produce for the market in handwoven baskets, and kids play at the beach when they’re not at school. The island is only sparsely populated and there’s almost no garbage lying around, especially not at the beaches, and tourists are few and far between. Traveling here is still kind of an adventure. You feel like you can discover places no other traveler has been to before. Of course, this is just a feeling; of course there is tourism on Morotai, only not that much.
Developing tourism industry
For the time being, it’s still quite difficult to visit and explore the island, especially for foreign tourists. There’s very little accommodation and virtually no tourism infrastructure. Although the government wants to turn the island’s airport into an international airport. The idea sounds a bit crazy and reminds me of the government project (gone awry) on Dodola Island.
In January 2017, however, a new resort will open its doors: Moro Ma Doto Resort, a private project. It’ll be the first one on the east coast and one of the very few places to stay outside of Daruba. Planned are 30 one and two bedroom units, a spa, a restaurant, and a library. Everything is being built with local materials like rattan and sago. The views from the place are wonderful – we were allowed to visit the construction site to have a look – and the beach is great for surfing. Apparently, the best tides are in November and December. Hopefully, the new resort will help develop (sustainable) tourism on Morotai; the island is really worth a visit.
You can contact Muhlis by phone or email, he’s happy to help and to show you his museum. And if you’re interested in WWII history and artifacts, he’s your guy. Muhlis’ phone and email address: +62 813 40750993 / firstname.lastname@example.org