Situated between the Pacific Ocean, Celebes Sea and Halmahera Sea, Morotai is the northernmost island of the Moluccas. It played a key role during WWII as the Alllied Commander, General McArthur, chose it as his base for the Pacific campaign. A statue commemorates MacArthur today on Zumzum Island, the place near the capital of the island where the general spent his free time. The story of the Japanese soldier Teruo Nakamura is also closely linked to Morotai’s WWII past. Nakamura hid in the jungle on the island until he was finally discovered in the early 1970s and had to be convinced that the war had ended 30 years before.
The real charm of the island, however, is its unspoiled nature. Much of Morotai’s 1800 km² area is covered in dense jungle with a network of rivers cutting through the interior of the island. There are numerous empty white sand beaches and idyllic islands waiting to be visited. In addition to the interesting opportunities for underwater activities, the high waves in parts of the island are inviting for surfers. Targeted as one of the ’10 New Bali’ by the Indonesian government, Morotai is currently enjoying a lot of attention, including developments in infrastructure to improve access to touristattractions, particularly in the south of the island.
In addition to unspoiled nature and picture-postcard scenery, Morotai offers island life at its most authentic. In encounters with visitors, the people display a mixture of shyness and curiousity.
Although Morotai, situated at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, has a small airport, the starting point for discovering the island is usually the modest harbour of the capital.
Unlike its neighbouring islands, there are no volcanoes on Morotai. The island beaches are therefore a pristine white … and lonely.
A private collection of WWII relics and a museum bear witness to Morotai’s key role in World War II. On Zumzum Island, a statue of General McArthur commemorates those turbulent times.
From Morotai the battle to annex West Papua to Indonesia was fought. It is also the island in which a Japanese soldier, still ready to fight, held out in the jungle for 30 years after the end of the WWII. And it is the island of the North Moluccas that has been declared by the Indonesian government to be targeted as one of the ‘10 New Bali’.
Life on Morotai takes a leisurely pace. If there is nothing else to do, news is exchanged while enjoying a chew on some betel nut.