Standing on a cliff edge you face a natural canvas of a beautiful landscape. The right side of the spread is dominated by a towering canyon, covered by lush forest. Underneath are curvy bays with a thin line of white sand, over-shadowed by palm trees, tropical bushes and mangroves. Some tiny huts floats on the turquoise water. On the left side is a magnificent deep blue sea – unmoved and quiet. At the horizon the sea and the sky are only separated by randoms dark lines of mini islands. You are starring at the view of your final destination – Ora Beach and surrounding sea. All the tiredness from a long journey slowly disappeared. But are you there yet? NO. You will get your price after the final task, which is driving down the hill through a pot-holed or even cracked road to reach a fisherman village where one of the men will transport you on his boat to get to the beach. Does it even worth to visit? Absolutely!
Ora Beach? Never heard!
Ora Beach is located at the north part of Seram Island. Seram is one of the islands in the Maluku Province of Indonesia. The Maluku Islands, also known as the Moluccas or Moluccan Islands, consist of a group of roughly 1,000 islands. These are the famous ‘ SPICE ISLANDS’ which attract Indian, Chinese, Arab and European traders in search of nutmeg, mace, cloves and several other valuable spices, which eventually led to the 350-years of Dutch colonialism in the country. Apart of its history for being the spice islands, Maluku is also well known for its scattered idyllic islands with interesting cultures, pristine reefs, empty stretches of powdery white sand, colonial 16th-century fort walls, and perfectly formed volcanoes.
Why go there?
The Indonesia archipelago has approximately 18,307 islands. So many Islands but yet, only two – Bali and Lombok, which are well known among overseas tourists. But the beauty of Indonesia is beyond these two islands. There are many other beautiful and untouched corners to be discovered. Some are relatively easy to reach but unfortunately many require extra effort. As an Indonesian myself, I find it is not easy to get to those places. After all Indonesia is the 15th largest country in the world by size. Travelling within the archipelago can cost extra time, money, energy, as well as patience. So I can imagine foreign tourists would think twice to take this kind of journey, except the ones who seek a real adventure. However, I have proven myself, travelling off the beaten track in Indonesia is very rewarding. Although it is not a comfortable journey (unless your pocket is as thick as Gwyneth Paltrow’s) but not impossible. I often told myself, to get something precious you have to work harder.
Does it worth?
Ora beach is not a stop-over spot. It is the type of place which needs to be discovered, the final destination which can only be reached by a travel combination of sky, land, and water. Getting to Ora beach is like going through a series of quiz to test the level of your adventurous spirit. Here we talk about time and distance. In a glance this is what we went through to get to Ora beach from our home in Jakarta:
- 3.5 hours non-stop flight from Jakarta to Ambon city in Ambon island.
- 1.5 hours taxi drive from airport to the east coast, checked in a hotel for overnight stay.
- 15 minutes drive to the harbour in the next morning to board speedboat.
- 2.5 hours speedboat ride to Seram island (Ora beach is on Seram island).
- 3.5 hours drive from harbour to Sawai village at the north coast (through tropical jungle and pot-holed roads).
- 10 minutes motorboat ride from the village to Ora beach.
The total length of the journey excludes the waiting time and overnight stay was around 11.5 hours! Add it to your international flight if you come from overseas. 11.5 hours of rough journey to get to one destination sounds like a hell of journey. Does it worth the effort? The answers is…
Powdery white sand beach
Chrystal clear turquoise-blue water
If the crystal clear water with turquoise-blue shade pleases your eyes, if your feet are never surrounded by abundance of colourful fishes in shallow water, if strolling empty white sand beach is only in your dream, then I would say YES. If your expectation is a comfortable journey where your destination is just a couple hours after flight arrival, a welcoming greeting in the hotel lobby by pretty ladies with cold towel and fruit juice, spending your free time in a nearby SPA, or perhaps lounge music while sipping delicious cocktail, than I would say NO.
As for us, we’re glad we did it. It is a life experience for my children, even myself. The one week stay in an eco resort without TV and Wi-fi, only ‘E’ cellular coverage, and electricity which was barely enough to brown a slice of toast was a totally mental detox. Everyday was just white sand beach, turquoise-blue water, corals, books, and family bonding.
How to get there?
Step 1 – Getting to Ambon city:
The airport in Ambon
Ambon city is located in Ambon Island. At the moment there are only two big cities in Indonesia – Jakarta and Surabaya, which has direct flights to Ambon city. From Jakarta there are morning, afternoon and midnight flight. From Surabaya there are only morning flights. There are also some indirect flights from other cities. You can check the schedules at Traveloka. After your flight arrival you need to drive to Tulehu harbour at the East coast to board a speedboat, unless you decide to take one night transit in Ambon city. Either way, you still need to get on the speedboat which transfers you to the neighbour island – Seram, because Ora beach is located on Seram island. So it is wise to choose the right flight schedule to adjust with speedboat schedule.
The speedboat operates twice daily at 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM, except on Sunday only once at 10:00. Most travellers from Jakarta do not want to waste time (or money) for one night transit. They choose the midnight flight by Batik Air. The arrival time in Ambon city will be 6:00 AM (there is +2 hours time difference between Jakarta and Ambon). This way travellers can drive stright to the harbour after arrival at the airport and still have time for breakfast and catching the first speedboat.
Step 2 – Getting to harbour:
Whether you decide to stay overnight or go stright to the harbour you’re going to need a transportation. What is called ‘Taxi’ at the airport is basically private rental cars. So don’t bother to look for vehicles with taxi sign. As soon as you go out the airport people will approach you to offer transportation. Don’t forget to negotiate. As rule of thumb, price from airport to Tulehu harbour is Rp. 150,000 (USD 15), from airport to one of the hotels in Ambon city is Rp. 200,000 (USD 20). If you stay overnight in Ambon city you can arrange your car to go to harbour with the receptionist. Depend on the hotel, but evarage hotels won’t put a surcharge on the original price. So either you arrange by yourself or via reception the price is usually the same, Rp. 150,000 (USD 15).
The other option is to book an ‘All Inclusive’ package from ORA BEACH RESORT. They offer a fix price which includes transportation from Ambon airport until Sawai village, VIP speedboat ticket, motorboat from Sawai village to Ora beach, rooms at Ora Beach Resort, all meals during the stay, and tours. The resort is located directly at Ora beach and apparently the best one in the area. This option is practical and efficient but of course, more expensive compared to the cost of own arrangement. We took this option because it was high season at the resort. The resort only sold ‘All Inclusive’ service. However, as we arrived in Ambon city on Saturday late afternoon, we decided to stay overnight in Natsepa village, which is only 15 minutes drive to the harbour. We had to organize taxi to Natsepa by ourselves because it was outside the package price. The next morning the car from the resort picked up us at the hotel and dropped us at the harbour. So we kind of wasted Rp. 150,000 for 15 minutes drive :(.
The Natsepa Resort in Natsepa village
Step 3 – Getting to Seram island:
The speedboat ride takes around 2.5 – 3 hours. Ticket can be bought directly at the harbour (or organized by Ora Beach Resort if you stay there). There are two different tickets: Economy and VIP seats. Economy seat without AC is Rp. 120,000 (USD 12). VIP seat is Rp. 250,000 (USD 25). There is not much entertainment during the speedboat ride, although if you spend sometimes on the deck the view of the little islands is quite beautiful. But it was very windy. Having some snacks, drink, books, and tablets is really great idea. If you take midnight flight from Jakarta most probably you will use your time to catch some sleep. The seats are quite hard, though. My husband ended up with sore shoulder from wrong position.
The interior of the VIP room
Step 4 – Getting to Sawai village:
Arrive at the Amahai harbour in Seram island you will need a car to transport you to Sawai village. You will be approached by some drivers as soon as you left the harbour. You either get a car from them or by prior arrangement with a local rental car company, eg. Masohi Taxi at +62(0)81344892244 or (0)82238491314). The price form the harbour to Sawai village is usuall around Rp. 650,000 – 800,000. If you get All Inclusive price from Ora Beach Resort the driver will be there ready to pick you up.
Amahai harbour seen from a hill
The whole trip from Amahai to Sawai village will take around 3.5 – 4 hours via Masohi town. The first hour you will see resident houses, shops, market and banks. If you need cash you should take it while you are still in Masohi town. At Ora beach area there will be no ATM and everything should be paid by cash. You can ask the driver to stop for lunch at the local restaurant. Food are usually Indonesian dishes. Before proceed to Sawai village you might need to stop at the mini market to grab some snacks and beverage for the trip as well as for snacking at the resort. There are little snacks available to buy at the resort, plus you will drive through Manusela National Park which has nothing but nature.
The drive through the National Park is quite enjoyable. For the first couple hours the road quality is generally good, passing some slopes and hills. In some sections the road is very narrow that opposite vehicle should wait or vice verca. But getting closer to Sawai village the road is quite bad. But don’t worry the drivers are so used to it and they are usually very good. Some simple houses which look more like sheds can be seen but somehow all looked empty. Around 20 minutes before reaching Sawai village there is a lookout. Make sure you tell the driver to stop for some pictures. From the lookout you will see the Ora beach from top, make you feel like you stand on a cliff. The view is breathtaking!
Manusela National Park
20 minutes before reaching Sawai village the road quality got worse.
Step 5 – Getting to Ora Beach:
If you take first speedboat you will arrive in Sawai village around 16:30 PM. The village is tiny. Some old people sat on the terrace and smoke. Some women carrying bucket qeued for clean water. Kids are either playing or fishing at the jetty. Attached to the jetty are some fisherman motor boat. If you arranged you motorboat with the resort a boat and the fisherman will be ready to help you to load your luggage into his boat. If not you can start negotiating with them. The boat ride from the village to Ora beach will take arround 10 minutes and will cost Rp. 20,000 (USD 1.5).
During the boat ride you probably just stare at the horizon in silence. There is absolutely no other sound other than the boat engine which roars, cut through the calm blue water, causing a tremendous sound of splashing water. In the west the sky is orange. The reflection illuminated on the water, giving a shimmery gradation from yellow and blue. And your destination is slowly emerging. Tiny little huts floats on the turquois water with a background of a magnificant green canyon.
Sawai fisherman village
Boat ride to Ora beach
Ora Beach Resort
What to do there:
There are not much you can do there except water activities. Not sure with other resorts, but Ora Beach Resort offers tour packages which mostly involve snorkelling. Snorkelling gears can be rented at the location with prior arrangement. If you book a tour with them they will ask you wheather you need snorkelling gears (at additional charge). However, from our experience their snorkelling gears are not the best quality (the rubbery ones). And in high seasons there is a chance they run out your size. For children I suggest you to bring own gears (they have limited snorkles and fins). What can you do while you are there?
Snorkelling around ‘Seven Island’
Boat tour around Ora beach
Enjoy the beautiful resort with books
What to bring:
1). Snorkle gears (optional)
2). First aids – the nearest clinic from the village is about 3.5 hours drive. Make sure you have what you need for minor injury.
3). Lots of sun cream – Sun is everywhere, but there is no shop, mini market or pharmacy in the village.
4). Sun hat – There is no souvenirs shop or similar. If you forgot your hat you probably end up with putting a towel on your head.
4). Beverage cans (if must) – No alcohol supply in the resort, nor in the village. You can buy it in one of the shops in Masohi, the last town before you drive to Sawai village.
5). Travel towels – your holiday will be packed with snorkelling trips and islands hopping. Small pocket towel is very useful.
6). Underwater camera or waterproof handphone cover – Maluku is famous for its underwater life. Make sure you document it.
7). Books – The beauty and the tranquility of this place will cast spell on you. There is nothing more peaceful than reading book while listening to the sound of the waves.
Did I convince you?