After ten years of conflict in Maluku, the tourism sector in Saparua, Central Maluku, Maluku, slowly evolves to something greater than before. The small island covering an area of 247 square kilometers is not only offering natural charm, but also traces of historical arrival of Europeans in the archipelago.
Saparua, which is about 50 miles from Ambon, the capital of Maluku, can be reached by speedboat for just an hour from Tulehu, a port in Central Maluku, Ambon Island.
Saparua has a population of 36,698 local inhabitant. Along with two other islands nearby Haruku and Nusa Laut, Moluccas tour had been a favorite, before the riots in 1999.
Chairman of the Maluku Travel Agents Association, Tony Tomasoa, said that before 1999, Saparua competed with Banda Saparua island - other tourist icons in the spice islands of Maluku as tourism destinations. Two of these sites have always been a reference for tourists who spend their vacation in the Moluccas.
Saparua, surrounded by the Banda Sea, offers beauty through beaches. Ranging from white sandy beaches, such as beach next to Fort Duurstede and Kulur, up to a beach full of rocks, the Tanjung Ouw.
The beautiful Tanjung Ouw even immortalized through song called "Tanjung Ouw" by the Indonesian famous singer Bob Tutupoly.
Tourists usually spend time in Tanjung Ouw to relax by enjoying the beauty of a long reef or swimming in the crystal clear sea. It feels good stretching out under a palm tree when the wind blows.
Not far from Tanjung Ouw, we can see the skill of Oya Pelupessy (72) to process the clay into sempeh or pottery. "Tourists love to see the making of sempeh. Some of them also eager to try making it them self. , "said Oya. The Guest book he has indicated the number of tourists from the Netherlands, Britain and Switzerland who visited this great Indonesian tourism destination.
Saparua is not only beautiful on its land, it’s submarine also has a dazzling charm. According to the manager of Village Lodge in Mahu Mahu, Paul Tomasoa, there are at least six points that are so popular among the tourists as diving sites. For example, Tawaka, Molana Island, and around Nusa Laut. "Coral reefs rise. In addition, various types of fish can be found there. It is not difficult to find fish that are marching in storey formation, " he said.
Saparua is also full of historical heritages. Duurstede Fort, this Dutch fort was built in 1676, is one of them. The fortress is on a hill, about 20 feet high, and is still standing strong. Kapitan Pattimura or Thomas Matulessy expelled the Dutch colonialists from the fort on dated May 16, 1817.
From the top of the fort, visitors can see almost the entire island up to the Saparua’s sea in the east of Saparua. No wonder, that the fort is "hunted" by foreign tourists.
In a house that was once occupied by Pattimura, in the land of Haria, visitors can see relics of the padrone. In the buildings that are still inhabited by Matulessy’s family, you can find framed woven pants, woven sash, and red headband, which had imposed Pattimura while struggling against the Dutch. A number of documents about the struggle Pattimura. According to the family, all of these documents were obtained from the Netherlands.
The sub district officer of Saparua, Ferry Siahaya, said, it needs about five years for Saparua to improve its tourism potential. "The average foreign tourist arrivals in Saparua is about 20 people every month. In December, the number could rise into around 50 people," he said.
Mostly they come from Netherlands, especially those that still have a kinship with the people in Saparua. "Some are coming from Britain, France, Switzerland and the United States," said Ferry.
"Tourists from Netherland usually come with their family in December. Christmas is a moment to gather with family overseas, including those in the Netherlands."
However, in December 2010 the new Itawaka Affairs held a Christmas celebration worldwide. At that time, there were 30 tourists from Netherland join the celebration.
The increasing number of tourists could be because now the access to Saparua is much more easier from Ambon Saparua. There are speed boats with a capacity of 200 passengers to encourage tourists to come to Saparua. Those ships has been operating since last year on twice a day schedule from Ambon.
In addition, there are also direct flights from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Ambon, via Jakarta, Garuda Indonesia has been making it possible since the meddle of last year.
No need to wonder if some new inns are now popping up there. Two of five inns that had ceased operations due to the riots, are now also operating again. "There will be two more lodgings in the near future," said Ferry.
Paul Tomasoa is optimistic, that Saparua tourism will recover very soon, as it was before the riots of 1999. However, he warned, the recovery of tourism itself which is now felt should be followed by improvement of human resources and additional support facilities for tourists.
"Without improvement, conducting a vigorous campaign could be a boomerang, because there are conditions in Saparua that are not the same as those which are being promoted," said Paul again.
Robbie Pickering (30), a British tourist who was traveling in Saparua, said something similar. "Places like Saparua much sought-after European tourists at this time. Because, there is winter, while in Saparua the air is hotter and you can see the sun every day. But, with the lack of facilities, tourists can find another place that has better facilities," he said. The Maluku Travel.
Picture Credit: kompas