Who doesn’t dream of a tropical island with white sand beaches, palm trees lining the shore, and colorful fish swimming in the corals off the coast? Dream islands like that exist, yes, but unfortunately, in reality they often look a bit different. The white sand beach is strewn with garbage and it’s not uncommon to swim among floating plastic bottles or other trash. Sounds disgusting? It is. Some people just close their eyes to reality but I find that hard to do and I’m still looking for the picture perfect litter-free island paradise, hoping to find it somewhere soon. Maybe even in Indonesia.
Stop-over in Ambon
From Papua we flew to Ambon from where we planned to go to the Banda Islands. First, however, we had to extend our visa. This was quite easy; with our passports, copies of them, and a copy of our flight ticket out of Indonesia we went to Ambon’s immigration office. There, they took our pictures and fingerprints, asked us two very profound questions (why are you in Indonesia? Why do you want to stay longer?), and told us to come back Monday to collect our passports.
Ambon is an OK city – there are much worse – and the food, particularly ikan bakar, grilled fish, is great here (especially at Rumah Makan Sari Rasa in Jl. Anthony Rebok).
However, since we were, again, almost the only Bules far and wide it was a bit annoying to walk around in the city (“Hello, Mister!” is fun for the first few days but then it gets tiresome). And anyway, why spend so many days in the city when close by there are beautiful islands and beaches just waiting to be explored?
Escaping the City
So the next day we took ojeks to Tulehu port and from there a speedboat to Saparua Island. On the north shore of Saparua, there’s Putih Lessi Indah, a small hotel with seafront bungalows. Lucky us, the boat made a stop a few hundred meters from the hotel to let out people from the nearby village so we hopped out as well.
Putih Lessi Indah is a bit pricey (I prefer not to quote any prices since the prices in Indonesia change so fast) but you get a comfortable bungalow with electricity and a really cool bathroom right at the beach, three meals a day plus free coffee, tea, and water all day long. There’s no wifi and the mobile signal is weak so it’s the perfect place to relax. And relax is all you can do here actually. Read (there’s a book exchange), sleep or swing in one of the hammocks, watch the fisherman clean his catch, drink coconut water, and wait for lunch and dinner – the food is excellent!
A short walk away there’s a small cave filled with crystal clear water. Unfortunately however, there’s a lot of garbage lying around the cave. That’s also the problem at the beach: Each high tide brings in tons of garbage. The guys from the resort spend hours every day cleaning the beach. But once you leave the hotel’s premises, it becomes clear that it’s a Sisyphean task. Indonesian waters are like one big garbage dump; we’ve seen so many people who just carelessly throw away empty bottles or food containers or whatever they don’t need anymore into the water (or anyplace, for that matter). Sure, this is not the only country that has a huge garbage issue. However, it appears particularly sad and hard to understand why they do it when you consider how many people live from fishing and that seafood is a staple food in the country.
Despite the garbage problem, Saparua Island was a wonderful place to get away from loud and hectic Ambon and we enjoyed the days at the beach to the full. I’ve never known I was able to do nothing but hang around and read and relax for two whole days in a row. Another first for me on this trip!