As this newsletter reaches you, we are visiting the Spice Islands aboard a 12- cabin ketch, exploring the islands that have been at the heart of the spice trade between Europe and the East since 1522.
On the tiny Indonesian island of Ternate, native home to nutmeg and cloves, the sultan gave a plot of land to the Portuguese in 1522. For the next quarter of a century, Spain and Portugal squabbled over this island and its neighbour, Tidore, with much pillage, torture and rape, before Francis Xavier (later Saint Francis Xavier) of Spain caused such havoc that it finally resulted in both the Spanish and Portuguese being forced to leave.
After a short respite from foreign interference, the tiny islands found Francis Drake on their doorsteps, with British interests keen to cultivate the friendship of the local sultan. This trading partnership thrived until the British were scuttled by their supposed allies in the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch then controlled the clove and nutmeg trade until 1810, when the governor of Isle de France (now Mauritius) smuggled clove seedlings out of the country and opened the way for other places such as Zanzibar and Mauritius to enter to spice trade. That governor’s name was Pierre Poivre … the original Peter Piper, who didn’t actually pick a peck of pickled peppers, but risked his life to steal the clove monopoly from the Dutch. It’s all worthy of a swashbuckling movie!
Indonesia is still the world’s largest producer of cloves, and the world’s biggest importer as well, as huge amounts of ground cloves go up in smoke in over 100 million kretek cigarettes a day. If you’re filled with envy that we are delighting in sea, sun and lovely unspoiled tropical islands, partaking of freshly-caught seafood, you can check out the tour on the website www.seatrekbali.com and look for the vessel Ombak Putih. Tours run at various times of the year, excluding cyclone season.
Not content with our Spice Islands adventure, we’re off again in January for our last ever Spice Discovery Tour to India. We always look forward to being back in India, and although this is the final tour that we will lead, we fully intend to continue our visits in a private capacity. If you are kicking yourself that you have missed out on coming to India with us, don’t worry, we will be happy to point you in the right direction as you plan your own visit to this amazing continent.