Several of SeaTrek’s cruises – Wallace Trails & Sails; Spice Routes/Spice Wars; Raja Ampat Adventure Cruise; Spice Traders to Bugis Shipbuilders – commence or conclude at the clove-perfumed island of Ternate.
Ternate and neighbouring Tidore are ancient Islamic sultanates. They were once the world’s only source of cloves, through which their rulers became among the wealthiest and most powerful sultans in the region. Much of their wealth, however, was wasted on fighting each other.
Ternate’s volcano, Gunung Gamalama, erupts with unsettling regularity. It dominates the entire island leaving only a narrow coastal strip and the lower slopes of the mountain for plantations. Since 1538, it has erupted 60 times, most recently in 2015.
Ternate’s Tolire Besar and Tolire Kecil (big and small) lakes lie 200 metres apart. Legend has it that a father once married his own daughter, infuriating their village and forcing their quick departure. As they left, the ground where the father and daughter walked became cracked by their fury, forming the lakes.
The “bottomless” Tolire Besar is said to be protected by hundreds of white crocodiles that only a few can see. Another bizarre local legend maintains that the rocks which you throw into the lake will never touch the surface because of a mystical exception to the law of gravity over the lake.
Maitara is a smaller island positioned between Ternate and Tidore. It is believed that if you drink coconut water here, directly from the coconut, you will soon meet your soul-mate.
The view of Tidore and Maitara from Ternate is featured on Indonesia’s Rp1000 banknote.
In Ternate you can find ‘besi putih’ crafted jewellery, known for its durability and anti-rust qualities. The metal is from the wreckage of an American plane on Morotai Island.
A local delicacy is ‘pisang lumpur’ (muddy bananas). The ‘muddy’ part is the chocolate, cheese and nuts that are poured on top of deep-fried bananas, which have been rolled in palm sugar before frying.
In 1579, Francis Drake sailed the Golden Hind into the waters of Ternate, two-thirds of the way through his circumnavigation of the world and flush with victory and booty. Lavishly entertained by the Sultan of Ternate, Drake secured a deal for six tonnes of cloves. However, when he sailed out of Ternate, the Golden Hind was so weighed down with plundered Spanish-American gold that Drake had to jettison a cannon and two tonnes of cloves to lighten the load so that the ship could clear the reef.