Saparua is one of the Lease Islands and is a popular getaway from nearby Ambon. Political unrest caused a dramatic drop in tourism in all of the Maluku islands, but before that, visitors found their way to Saparua pleasant beaches, coral reefs and historic Dutch fort all the time. Today, this island -the largest of the Lease Islands- is restoring its former tourist facilities and is being rediscovered as a fun destination in this part of Indonesia.
This is a mostly Christian islands with some 17 villages and about 32.000 inhabitants, making it the most populous of the Lease Islands. The most notable towns include Haria and Saparua city.
The typical way in is (unsurprisingly) by boat. Starting in the early morning, several speed boats normally leave from Tulehu on the east side of the Leihitu pensinsula of Ambon. They usually arrive at the village of Haria on Saparua. Around noon there's a daily connection by wooden boat, stopping in Haria as well. This is also your only rather secure option when getting out, but to go back you'll need to catch the wooden boat as early as 6.30am in Haria. Note that there are no guarantees for speed boat connections and you may have to wait for a while or pay up and charter one, if you're in a hurry.
From Tulehu, a slow car-passenger ferry heads to the port close to Kulur, which is in the north-west of Saparua and mostly useful if you want to get to the beach there. The villages of Itawaka and Mahu also have irregular speedboat connections to Tulehu.
There are fairly good roads on the island, and share taxi's and motorcycle taxi's are a good way to get around.
- Fort Duurstede. This historic Dutch fort was established by the Dutch East Indies Company in 1691. In 1817 the fort was conquered by local leader Matulesia, who had all the soldiers as well as the official Dutch Resident and his family killed. The fort has been recently restored and is open to visitors. Free entrance..
- Ouw. Several of the villages are nice enough to visit, but Ouw is one of the most interesting ones. It's the best place to see pottery makers at work and it has a small, half overgrown fort of its own. Quite unlike Fort Duurstede, the fort here has not been restored at all and some locals live within its walls, but it has a nice forgotten glory vibe over it.
- Nolloth (Nolot). This village on the north-eastern corner of the island has a pretty church, dating back to colonial times. The sago-thatch roof has unfortunately been replaced by tin, but it's still a friendly and peaceful place.
There are some good beaches on Saparua. If you're up for a day of swimming and sunbathing and you don't mind going through some trouble to get there, try the sandy beaches near Kulur or Laino Beach (beyond Haria). The village of Paperu has a dive resort, but there are diving opportunities elsewhere as well.
If you have an extra day or so, head to the tiny and almost deserted island of Pulau Molana, just off the coast of Saparua. Apart from some newly established bungalows, there's almost no-one here and the island has some fabulous beaches.
Pottery is the main handicraft here, with the village of Ouw as the main centre.
- Penginapan Lease Indah, In the centre of Kota Saparua. Not located on the best beach, this place is not ideal if you want to go swimming or sunbathing, but in terms of views it's a nice location. It has different types of rooms.
Much smaller but pretty and intimate is the nearby island of Nusalaut