Monday, October 10, 2011

Beyond ‘manise’ beaches

For some, Ambon Islands may have been renowned from the name of its Ambon banana, spices commerce in the colonial history and, not to forget, the conflicts. Meanwhile, some others may know Ambon as one of the hottest spots for water leisure activities.

As the capital city of Maluku Islands province, Ambon is a mountainous, small town where white sand beaches spread out. The picturesque “Spice Island” is situated in the Ambon Bay area that my eyes are pleased with thriving mountains and crystal-clear water surrounding.

Undeniably beautiful for its scenery, calling the town “Ambon Manise”— which literally means “beautiful Ambon” – then is not overstated. For that reason, decided to arrange a trip to Ambon was just right.

Ambon beaches were my prime thing as I often heard that I might have regretted my life if I didn’t visit any of it. After sorting them out, there were three main, must-visit beach destinations to go.

Pintu Kota Beach in Airlouw village, Nusaniwe, was the first. A local Ambonese said to me that Pintu Kota was highly recommended spot for tourists.

“If one doesn’t step his feet on this beach, one does not ‘really’ visit Ambon,” said a frizzy Ambonese lady who owned a warung (small vendor) near the beach.

Pintu Kota, or “the City Door”, is a white-sand, coral beach. Pintu Kota name came from the seascape of one huge coral with a big hole at its bottom that looks like a door. This large door allows us to see the faraway Ambon and ships passing by in the Banda Sea.

Here, it’s practically impossible for people to play or even swim – sharp and slippery corals are everywhere. It takes around 20 minutes from Ambon and public transportations (angkot) are available accessing the route to the beach.

We need to step the meandering stairs down to reach Pintu Kota seashore. Walking down the stairs is probably not a big deal – but walking up leaving the beach will likely make you panting and sweaty. However, it is worthy as everything there is still novel – the stairs are an exception.

In a few minutes from Pintu Kota, meet Santai Beach – literally translated as “Relaxed Beach” – in Latulahat village, Nusaniwe. Perfect for swimming or sunbathing, Santai Beach has also been a departure point for diving and snorkeling in Banda Sea.

Passing through twisty, up and down roads will be somewhat challenging to get to Santai Beach. Since it is Ambon, bountiful banana trees along with coconut trees can be seen on the wayside to there.

The bright blue sky, sheer aquatic water and white sands apparently make it flawless to enjoy the landscape. In spite of this, don’t take the name “Santai” seriously. 

The beach, however, has corals in its shallow water area – only much smaller than Pintu Kota. Yet, there are some safe no-corals sides beneath the water.

Moreover, Santai Beach’s sea waves are rapid and it doesn’t make you really “enjoy” swimming or playing around the shoreline. An artificial concrete fort is spotted in the right side of the beach to prevent the waves smash into the seashore. There are gazebos provided for visitors to sit and enjoy at the picturesque milieu.

Move to another no-less-beautiful beach in Suli village, Salahutu sub-district: Natsepa Beach. This well-known beach is alike with aforesaid beaches – white sand lies while the clear water sparks. It is easy to reach Natsepa as angkot has route to the beach and it’s just 20-minute away from the heart of Ambon city.

The good thing in Natsepa is the water is rather calm and does not have craggy corals – as the Ambon Bay impedes waves touching the shore. So, the beach is much safer for swimming, playing ball or simply lying down.

In the afternoon, people usually rent boats to sail the coastline. The boat costs around Rp 20,000/hour and can be filled up to 15 people.

A local Ambonese man told me that Natsepa’s water might cure illnesses such as influenza, fever or skin diseases like ringworm, irritation and other skin fungus. “If you bathe for about an hour in Natsepa Beach, your illness will be carried away by waves of Natsepa.”

He even said that he was healed with the magical Natsepa Beach when he suffered from fever and bad cold some time ago. Well, you decide whether to believe it or not.

Furthermore, Natsepa is famous for its rujak (Indonesian fruit salad) with a distinctive peanut sauce. Enjoy a plate of rujak Natsepa in the roadside, outside the beach area. Do not forget to try fried snacks of sweet potato, banana and cassava, and have them with a glass of fresh iced young coconut juice.

A rujak seller said rujak Natsepa exceptional because “we use nutmeg to spice up the peanut sauce.” The Spice Islands, as Maluku is historically identified, indeed produce mainly cloves and nutmeg, and other spices like pepper, cinnamon and chili.

Then, it is time for underwater enthusiasts. Driving uphill to Liang village in Salahutu sub-district, Liang Beach is 40-kilometer away from Ambon. Green panorama is here and there all through the mountainous way getting there.

The underwater view of Liang has been admitted and even was compared to Bunaken National Marine Park in Manado, North Sulawesi. Divers are able to satisfy their hunger of Liang underwater world from 50 meters off the beach.

“Unfortunately, Liang Beach is less famous among tourists as well as Indonesian travelers,” explained a beach guard.

He added that some time ago, “there was land disputes among local society. It made investors changing their mind and then shifting investment to another scenic underwater beach. Apparently, our local people were not ready at that time.”

Nonetheless, now people are far more supportive in developing the beach for the growth of their own region.

Sadly, I must say, public facilities in the beach areas are somewhat poor. Restrooms, which considered as important for visitors to change clothes and have a shower, are neglected. Other aspects like parking area and playground are also ignored.

As a matter of fact, the condition is awful; how children can play in a ruined playground in the beach areas. Compare to the stunning beaches, facilities need to be truly taken care of so that tourists would feel pleasant to come back again and again.

The previous Sail Banda 2010 may be potential to tell the world how beautiful the Spice Island, especially Ambon, is. But in the end of the day, aside from the needs of having a trip to Ambon, these priceless and remarkable beaches are our treasures to look after for the next generation’s goodness.

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