Hidden in the north of Seram Island in Maluku province is Ora Beach, with its sugary white sand beach and crystal-clear water surrounded by lush tropical forest.
The sight was enough to wash away exhaustion resulting from the six hours trip to the island from the capital city Ambon. The beach, largely unknown — even among the province’s residents, is also home to rich coral reefs and marine life, making it a favorite destination for ecotravelers.
Along the way to Saleman village in Seram Utara Barat district where the beach is located, tourists can be captivated by its tempting natural beauty, to the backdrop of a line of limestone hills and pristine tropical forest. Just before reaching the beach, at a distance, five bungalows appear to be floating on the sea. The bungalows belong to the Exotic Ora Beach Resort, the only resort in the area. It can only be reached by sea, with a longboat or speedboat.
Inching closer to the resort, the crystal-clear water displays its hidden treasures, with colorful fish swimming around a huge expanse of coral reef, creating a dramatic vista with the thick tropical forest and the limestone hills in the background. Several fishermen in traditional fishing boats were deep in their working routine in the Seram Sea, which holds the province’s third biggest supply of fishing resources.
The resort’s bungalows were the best place to stay the night as they allow guests to directly view the coral reef and colorful fish down below the bungalows. Apart from the five bungalows, the resort also has six rooms on land, all facing the ocean.
The resort’s owner, Anna Latuconsina, a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) from Maluku, said that she fell in love the first time she saw Ora Beach back in 1996. In that instance, she was also aware of the beach’s tourism potential, waiting to be developed.
With her husband, Ruswan Latuconsina, the couple then built the Exotic Ora Beach Resort. They were not newcomers in the business, as they also own Baguala Bay Resort in Waitatiri village in Salahutu district in Central Maluku regency.
Anna said that apart from relying on nature’s charms, the resort offers hotel-standard services and takes an ecotourism approach to its management. She said that the resort’s bungalows in Ora beach were damaged and neglected earlier when the province was hit by sectarian conflict in the period 1999 through to 2002.
But the resort was rebuilt anew in 2005 and is now busy with guests. “The place is specially designed for those, who seek tranquility while enjoying untouched natural beauty, both on land and in the sea,” Anna said. Around the resort, a visitor would be entertained with more natural attractions, from birds singing to sighting rare animals.
Just before sunset, at around 5 p.m., thousands of bats would come out of their caves located in the back of the village, creating a huge straight line formation. Residents around the village believe that the cave is sacred, naming it Lusiala — which means ancestor (Lusi) and heirs (ala) — believing the bats fly with the spirits of their ancestors.
Cave lovers could also embark on explorations among lots of caves found in the limestone hills in the back of the village. A cave expedition team from SUCC and Wessex Cave Club from England documented 30 caves in the Saleman-Sawai limestone hill in a major exploration in 1996.
Ambon’s archeological office also discovered paintings on the cave’s walls illustrating prehistoric men’s daily activities in the caves. The pictures, believed to be made with color from tree resin, show boats, fish and the sun.
“This place is good for people who search for tranquility. I never feel bored here,” said one of the resort’s visitors, Muhammad Yani. He said he could just relax and pamper himself in the resort or go snorkeling and skin diving to get closer look at the coral reef. Guest, he said, could also take boat rides along the bay or jump straight from the bungalow’s terrace to swim in the sea.
Small islands around Saleman and nearby Sawai bays are also open for visitors to explore. They include Tujuh Island and Marsegu or Bat Island, a small island 25-minutes away surrounded by mangrove forest which is home to bats and seagulls. With this picture perfect scenery, Ora Beach should no longer be a hidden paradise on earth as many of its visitors found, but should be given the recognition it deserves.
How to get there
- From Ambon, take a 25-minute drive to Hurnala port in Tulehu village in Salahutu district, Central Maluku regency.
- Continue the trip from Tulehu to Amahai on Seram Island by speedboat, which serves the route twice a day — at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., excluding Sunday. The trip will take around two hours.
- Arriving at Amahai, continue the trip to Central Maluku regency capital Masohi by car for 10 minutes. Here, visitor can have lunch and rest.
- With another two-hour drive, one will arrive in Saleman, where the trip to the Ora Beach has to be taken by sea. It takes 25 minutes to reach the beach from the village.
- Foreign tourists, who had made reservation, would usually stay the night at Baguala Bay resort, which is 30 minutes east of Ambon. They would be taken to the Ora Beach the next morning by the hotel staff.