Grab a motorbike and spend half a day spinning anticlockwise around the rim of a circular volcanic island, Ternate Island makes an extraordinary day out.
From Bastiong town head east and disorientate yourself while crossing through the islands ‘capital’ Kota Ternate. Take a few moments to ogle at the bold and beautiful ‘Great Mosque’ sitting on reclaimed land at the waterfront. Hope back on the bike and continue along ‘Jalan Revolusi’ or revolution road with the ocean almost lapping at your heels. Pass the hustling and bustling fish and vegetable markets in a blur of colour.
Benteng Kalamata sits a few kilometres north from town, just after the road forks away from the waters’ edge. Ternate Island is full of friendly locals so feel free to ask them for directions. Eventually you’ll find yourself in a village whose houses, walls and fences are bright green. It is in stark contrast that the slate-grey stones of this 17th century fort overlook over this village however, in accordance with its surroundings it is incredibly pleasant. The gardens to this small Portuguese picturesque castle are manicured to perfection by a dedicated caretaker (who gratefully accepts donations). Increasing its charm are views over the royal blue ocean and of the immense peak of Gunung Api Gamalama on Ternate Island itself.
Another 7kms north of here and you begin to notice huge spiny rocks littering the kerbs instead of the usual drying cloves. This is the remainder of a lava flow in 18th century that killed everything in its path. It is possible to get right into the heart of this location, known as Batu Angus, and drive through the peaks and troughs that had strived to reach the ocean.
Sulamadaha is Ternate Island’s most northern spot and the locals’ favourite joint for eating, snorkelling and taking boat trips. Upon arrival the litter strewn black sand beach is underwhelming. Stick to the strip of undulating coastal walkway to reach a quaint beach cove and sheltered swimming areas. Marvel at the crystal clear waters backed by the luscious green volcano of Pulau Hiri.
Shortly after leaving the beach you will find a cluster of small entrepreneurs. Complete with plastic dining furniture this is a great place to relax in the refreshing afternoon breeze. Drink from a young coconut and munch upon a spicy barbecue corn while watching the ocean throw itself at the black sand beach and the clouds skim over Hiri Island.
A stone’s throw from here is Danau Tolire besar, a crater lake formed by an earthquake, take the next left and pay the small entrance fee. The thick lush jungle makes an abrupt end and plummets into a very wide very deep pit. The water is green and is supposed to… screw that… DOES have crocodiles, we saw one. Just as local lad Denis is explaining to us about the local ‘crocodile man’ who can speak to the prehistoric residences one pops to the surface “we are so lucky!” he cries. If inclined you can reach the waters’ edge but after watching this giant gracefully cross the lakes to wallow in the shadows we did not possess any desire.
Tearing past colour co-ordinated villages and winding around the goats that clamber across the road and will eventually bring you back to the southern edge of Ternate. From now on you can gaze upon Ternate’s historical foe Pulau Tidore, pull over and make your way to a skimpy black sand beach. Enjoy iconic views of Tidore’s peak backing upon smaller Maitara Island, the perfect replica of the harmonic scene depicted by Indonesia’s’ 1,000 Rupiah note.
Danau Laguna is my final recommendation, mainly due to the peaceful owners of the farms which skirt the waters’ edge. Fishing, feeding scraps to their pigs or softly caressing the feathers of their pet eagles these locals will sell you a drink and offer you their balcony. Feel free to take a kayak to the centre but prepare to get neck ache from arching it up to see the tip of the tall volcano above you.
The last place to visit would usually be the famous and luscious looking Floridas restaurant which sports a great view overlooking the water. But I warn you, the food is expensive (ours was also cold) and you have just seen the most iconic and picturesque sights of Ternate. Instead grab some snacks from the local carts selling fried tempe, tofu and sweet potato and let the sounds of a local mosque waft eerily in the breeze as a sunset gathers in the sky.
Bukit Pelangi Hotel perches upon the slopes of Pulau Tidore on Jl. Jati Selatan338 in Bastiong. Bastiong is the main port of arrival for ASDP ferries from Bitung and speed boats connecting Ternate and Tidore. Rooms are spotless and each has A/C and a large bathroom with tepid water. Shared balconies boast awesome views of Pulau Tidore and the port. Price: From 300,000 Rupiah per room including breakfast (Breakfast standard changes dramatically depending on which staff member was on duty).
Motorbike rental: 100,000 Rupiah per day. The island an be circumnavigated in an hour if no stops are made.