It was in 1519 when Ferdinand Magellan set sail westward on behalf of the Spanish King to search for the place of origin of nutmeg and clove in the race for domination of the extremely profitable spice trade. Magellan didn’t survive the long voyage of discovery, but his helmsman, Juan Sebastian Elcano, who took over accomplished the near impossible mission to circumnavigate the earth. In addition to finally proving that the earth was a sphere, he reached the Spice Islands, anchoring off the island of Tidore on November 8, 1521.
Tidore shares many similarities with the island of Ternate, its immediate neighbour. Here, too, visitors can find spice plantations, old fortifications and a picturesque volcano which shapes the landscape of this rather compact 127 km² small island. The history of the two islands, the region of origin of the clove tree, is closely interwoven, although in the past they seldom shared the same ‘wavelength’. Similar to Ternate, also Tidore is a Sultanate and can be counted as one of the oldest in the world. But compared to its ‘noisy neighbour’, Tidore has retained a quiet, leisurely, some would say sleepy, ambience which gives it a special appeal.
Tidore’s most important fortifications are located within sight of each other in what was originally a strategically important location. From their walls, they each offer a wonderful view out to sea and over the island of Halmahera.
The island of Tidore has an almost perfectly round shape. However it can only be accessed via two public ports on the north and south side of the island, the choice depending on the starting point of the journey. Only the Sultan has the privilege of using a separate landing pier.
The Sultanate of Tidore, like Ternate, is one of the oldest in Indonesia. The current Sultan, Husain Syah has reigned since 2012. It is possible to visit the palace upon prior registration.
Tidore’s ‘Makam Sultan Nuku’ houses some tombs of the royal family, most notably that of Sultan Nuku (1738-1805). He is very revered on the island as in the late 18th century he was said to be responsible for freeing Tidore from the influence of the Dutch colonial power – temporarily, as it turned out.
Nestling on the slopes of Kie Matubu are some small mountain villages which, due to their altitude, offer a very pleasant climate. Some are recognised as ‘traditional’ villages reflecting, among other things, the architectural style of the houses and the special care for traditions.
Far away from the main roads, on the slopes of Mount Kie Matubu, between nutmeg and clove trees there are always wonderful vistas – by clear weather also revealing the peaks of the mountains and volcanos on the neighbouring islands.
Depending on the season and weather conditions, along the way can be found what Mother Nature currently has got to offer – Nutmegs, cloves, cocoa or the bark of the ‘Kayu Manis’ tree from which, once dried, cinnamon sticks are made. Welcome to the world of the Spice Islands!
Like so many Indonesian islands, Tidore can only be reached by boat, which surely limits the influx of visitors. It makes the islanders all the more curious once a foreigner shows his or her face in their village.
Tidore is the final resting place of the Spaniard Juan Sebastian Elcano. Originally Magellan’s navigator, he came to fame after Magellan died during the attempted circumnavigation (1519-1522). Elcano took over the first seafaring mission to successfully sail round the world. He died in 1527 on his return journey from Tidore to Spain.