Being a tropical archipelago, it’s not hard to find an island with white sandy beaches that meet with two to three shades of crystal-clear, blue water in Indonesia.
Stop thinking about Bali when you plan your next paradise getaway!
I know Bali’s great; the people, culture, food, and nightlife. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bali too, but maybe it’s time you experience something more exotic to enrich your life. I’m talking about one of the outermost islands in the north of Indonesia, the splendidly exotic Morotai.
Indeed, the name probably hasn’t rung any bells yet. I can’t blame you, even I, before going there, had never heard of the place. Believe me, once you get there you’ll understand why the Indonesian government has chosen Morotai to be one of their five super-priority destinations for the future, or it’s the new Bali, in other words.
Morotai is a relatively remote island in the province of North Maluku. The easiest way to get there is to board a flight that’ll take you to The Leo Wattimena Airport. Two of the runways were originally built by the Japanese Army back in World War II and later expanded to seven runways when the Allied Forces took over the island.
This is also what makes Morotai unique from the thousands of other islands in Indonesia. This rugged, forested island bore witness to the battle between Japan and the Allied forces during the Pacific War. When they left, they abandoned a whole bunch of historical objects, some of which can be found at the local World War II Museum. Here, you can catch a glimpse of what things were like.
You can also opt to go to an independently run museum operated by a local legend named Muchlis Eso. Muchlis is the go-to man on the island to learn more about Morotai’s history during this period. His museum is even older than the World War II Museum the government built. If you love war stories, definitely have a chat with this passionate man.
Another place you can visit is Zumzum Island, which was once an allied base. A statue of US General Douglas McArthur will greet you, with the inscription of the famous words he once uttered, “I shall return”, along with some remnants from his time there.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, you can stop by Mira Village, the oldest village in Morotai that’s estimated by historians to have existed since the 16th century. Friendly locals will welcome you. They’re more than happy to share their culture and teach you how to dance, Morotai-style.
While you’re in the village, don’t forget to try some gohu. Gohu is freshly caught and chopped tuna mixed with some seasoning and spices, then later drenched in lime juice. Even if you’re not a big fan of raw fish, I still recommend you give it a go. The citric acid from the lime juice technically cooks the tuna a little, giving it a more subtle taste. To get some gohu, simply ask around the village. I’m pretty sure someone will eventually welcome you into their house and make you some. Not kidding.
Despite being a remote island, there are plenty of places to stay in Morotai. If you’re looking for a quiet place to relax where you won’t be bothered by anyone, you can opt for The Mora Ma Doto Resort. Located in a secluded part of northern Morotai, this resort offers lush tropical forest surroundings, bungalow villas designed with inspiration from local traditional homes, and its own private, white, sandy beach that’ll make you believe you’re Tom Hanks from “The Cast Away” – but with all the necessary comforts of a leisure vacation, of course.
Talking about beaches, a trip to Morotai wouldn’t be complete without visiting Dodola Island. This island consists of two islands, Big Dodola and Small Dodola, connected by a tombolo or narrow sand bridge that emerges at low tides making it possible for everyone to walk across. The scenery is mesmerising and unforgettable. If you have a drone, you should absolutely bring it here. Your friends will be amazed at the images you share. Besides Dodola, there are around 30 other small islands surrounding Morotai that you can hop to that are waiting for you to explore.
Apart from Morotai’s wonders above ground, it’s also renowned as a diver’s dream destination with the below-ground – or should I say underwater lure. With 28 identified dive spots spread around its coast, divers visiting Morotai will experience something they undoubtedly won’t get anywhere else in Indonesia.
First stop, Wamama Village. This village is located about 15 minutes away from the main port of Daruba and was once an allied base. From here, you can easily access Lapangan Pante Dive point. The seafloor here is around 20 to 40 metres deep so you might want to wait until about noon for better visibility. Along the slope, you’ll be greeted by curious coral fishes and as you go deeper, you’ll start to see World War II military vehicles such as jeeps, trucks, and even a tank. If you dive deeper, you can spot a fighter plane and bomber. Despite being covered in coral and becoming home to fish, the condition of the wreckage remains in a rather good shape.
The next one I have to mention is Mitita Point. Beware, if you have galeophobia, or a phobia of sharks, then you might want to stay clear from here. For those of you who don’t, then get ready to be astonished by the beautiful colourful fish and coral. The aquatic life here is busier compared to the previous site. A wide variety of sea creatures like sea turtles and sharks will swim together with you. The most common type of shark found here is the blacktip reef shark. These sharks tend to stay in a small area for several years at a time. More than 12 are said to live here. They become quite accustomed to humans visiting them but remember to never underestimate a wild animal in its habitat, so try not to provoke them and remain at a safe distance.
To be honest, Morotai’s tourism industry is still in its infancy. For people like me who sometimes just want to get away from the hustle-bustle of a major city and avoid crowded popular tourist destinations to instead enjoy the raw natural beauty and genuine hospitality, Morotai just really hits the spot. As Douglas McArthur once said, “I too shall return” to this place that has engraved a special place in my heart.