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Somewhere in the eastern waters of Indonesia, between the Aru and Kei Islands to the east, and Timor Island to the west, are strings of islands with light blue outlines, known as the Tanimbar Islands or the Tanimbars. These islands are composed of 65 small islands which form part of the province of Maluku (Moluccas). Some of the named ones are Fordate, Larat, Molu, Maru, Wotap, Wuliaru, Selu, Sera, Selaru, and the largest one is Yamdena.

Sailing from Darwin, Australia towards the Banda Sea with Bandaneira or Ambon as your main destination, then Saumlaki on the densely wooded Island of Yamdena, is your first stop in the Indonesian waters to process your Immigration and Customs formalities, and to refresh your stamina. Saumlaki is the largest town in the Tanimbars. The town is growing where Christian missionaries’ influences can be found everywhere.

The port of Saumlaki is on the south coast of Yamdena. The western part of the island is still swampy and less hilly compared to its east side. Layers of coastal houses look peaceful as a towering large façade of the town’s church stands among lush trees. Two thirds of Tanimbarese are Catholics and Protestants. The remainder are Moslems, Buddhists, and animism believers.

Past travelers have warned that the locals are less hospitable than those on Maluku. As a near isolated region of Maluku, the Tanimbars still push themselves to improve their limited facilities and services. The town of Saumlaki itself is built around a single main street flanked by Chinese shophouses.

Visited by the Dutch in 1629 and claimed in 1639 under the right of discovery, the Tanimbars are, nonetheless, less influenced by colonialism, except by persistent missionaries. Although the islands do not have many attractions, yet adventurers may find them historically interesting.


To Eat, To Stay, To Do

There are not many places to stay at Saumlaki, but if you must, there are no more than five of them. None of them have telephone numbers, but it is said that accommodations on Saumlaki, and in the Tanimbars in general, are the most expensive.

There is the Pantai Indah, accommodation equipped with fans, but is expensive for a non-air conditioned hotel. Penginapan Ratulel is clean and simple, but bathrooms are shared.