A visit to Jailolo, March 28-31, 2013


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July 11th 2013
Published: July 11th 2013
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I didn't even dream or hope to visit this place in my lifetime. It was never in my wish list. First of all, I had no idea where it was and second, I'd rather visit other interesting places in Indonesia first such as Wakatobi or Toraja. Unfortunately, I had a soft spot for traveling, so when my friend Ella asked me to join her with a group of photographers to Ternate, I could not resist. Little that I knew it was a hassle to go there. Ternate is part of North Maluku province. It was the center of the powerful former Sultan Ternate (to this date, the current Sultan still resides in Ternate and has his palace there). Ternate is known as the Spice Island for centuries which was the sole reason that brought the Portuguese to this island hundred years ago. It is the source of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

From Singapore, I had to fly to Jakarta, then took a midnight flight to Ternate via Makassar (I'd regretted taking this route as I'd rather go to Ternate via Manado from Singapore). I had prepared my trip well and even brought a few swim suits hoping that I'd have time to enjoy the seaside in between sessions.

Anyhow, when we arrived at Sultan Babullah Airport at Ternate, I could not help admiring its beauty. The airport was literally surrounded by the ocean and a mountain covered with blue sky!. We were then greeted by Fokus Maut's leader, Asep, who took us to a local restaurant for our breakfast. The food here is quiet similar to that of Manado; there are a lot of cakalang or tuna fish, spicy sauce and yellow rice, which I am fond of.

After our tasty breakfast, we were taken to Laguna, the first spot for our photography session. I forgot to mention that majority of the participants were professional photographers by my standard. Only a few of us were newbies. From Laguna, we could have an eagle eye view of Ternate which was stunning. Then we were spot on - when we were asked to take our CPL (which stands for Circular Polarizer Filer), we asked 'what was CPL'? I had a feeling our guru, Om Yadi Yasin was about to cry when he heard that question. Our skill was so basic that Om Yadi Yasin found it perhaps too hopeless (yea, a few of us never took a photography class before buying our full frame cameras) and decided to give us a basic lesson in the evening.

From this location, we were taken to Fitu beach, a fisherman village. Bear in mind that this photography tour was supposed to be a landscaper group, but I ended up taking photos of the local fishermen and children. Our morning session ended after lunch and we checked in at the best available hotel in town, Amara Bella Hotel, strategically located at the hill at the heart of the city.

After a few hours of resting, we had to get ready again for our sunset session and left the hotel around 4 pm to go to Kalamata Port before heading towards Kastela Beach. Similarly, when our guru asked to take our Neutral Density Filter (NDF), we gave him a blank look (he must have thought we're wasting his time). Thankfully, our guru was kind hearted and lent us his filter so that we could have a try of taking a long exposure photograph (I could not thank him enough for sharing his knowledge on this as well as doing the right composition).

By the end of the day, we all were so tired that we decided to skip the photography lesson and went to bed early as we had to wake up early in the morning the next day.

Our second day started early at 4:30 am as we're supposed to take the sunrise photographs. Yawning and dragging our feet, I and my room mate Ella managed to get ourselves out of the room and headed towards Bula Beach (hey, I didn't regret the early morning wake up as the photos turned excellent - as least by my standard!). Again, we were being lent a filter and were determined to get them as soon as we're back. It was a must for landscaper photographer to own a CPL and NDF (we got the message). From Bula beach, we headed towards Batu Angus or Burnt Stones which has a great view of Gamalama Volcano.

We returned to the hotel and had to get ready to go to the Pier, near Sultan Ternate Mosque, for our ultimate destination: Jailolo. Jailolo is the Western part of Halmahera Island, reachable by speedboat from Ternate (it's about one and half an hour ride). It is also well known for its underwater beauty; unfortunately, this was not a diving trip for me.

On our way, we stopped by at this tiny, idilic coral island called Fastofiri. This was the most embarrassing part of the trip as it didn't occur to me that I'd have experienced something that was so horrible in my life. Upon landed at this tiny beautiful island, everyone was frantically trying to get out and had a good shot of the island (it reminds me of Maldives - white coral sand, blue sky and turquoise water). It was a perfect day till something happened to me. I was one of the first people who got out of the boat and were busy taking photos. Perhaps, I was too busy taking photos that I didn't realise that I sat on something awful. Only after I stood and moved back to the boat that I realised the smells seemed to follow me wherever I went (thankfully, the rest of the folks had left the boat and went deeper to the island). Unfortunately, in this part of the country, the locals do not understand hygiene well. I am embarrassed to say that there were human excrements everywhere and regret that the local government didn't give sufficient education about hygiene. i had to literally threw my pants away (thankfully, I had my luggage with me in the boat and was able to get a change quickly).

Upon arrival at Jailolo, we headed towards a small restaurant near our hotel, the Hoek, and had our delicious lunch there. The hotel was so basic that it had two wooden single bed, a cupboard and drawer without running heated water and were given a few hours of rest before getting ready for our next session. At around 4 pm, we visited Kamalama port before heading towards a fisherman village for sunset photographs. When our guru asked the questions again if we were to bring our Neutral Density Filter with us, we gave him a blank look (we had a series of filters but we had no idea what types of filters they were!). I bet by now, our guru felt so sad for us - he probably wanted to cry at our ignorance. Thanks to our guru, he lent us his filter that we at least have one or two good shot that we could be proud of (by our standard).

We had dinner at the same restaurant and were fortunate to be in Ternate during Durian seasons that we had Durian almost every night after dinner (thanks to the courtesy of Mas Imam, Mas Anto and Mas Bambang and Mas Rizal). Anyhow, the dinner was as delicious as the lunch. By evening, we were so tired that we went to bed right away (you will be surprised to know how quiet this little town is).

The next day, we had to wake up at 4:30 am to catch the sunrise at Kastela Beach and managed to take a few great shots (by my standard again) and headed towards Batu Angus or Burned Stones to get a good glimpse of Mount Gamalama. There went my wishful thinking of laying by the beach as we hardly had any time to do anything in between, not to mention that Ternate was scotching hot, burning at 35c! After lunch, we had to leave for Disa beach and walked in the sun for about 1 km to reach out spot (and climbed some rocks as well). Our efforts were soon rewarded by the sight of local kids rowing towards us in a wooden canoe. It was Sunday and it was their day off. Their favourite pastime was to jump from a rock to the sea and we managed to get a few good shots of them.

The next day, we also started our day early at 5 am and headed towards Jailolo port and continued our trial and error shots with the filter and long exposure. By the time we came back to the hotel, our guru were informed that his father was critically ill, so he had to return to Ternate right away to catch a flight to Jakarta the next day. Sadly, we had to go for our afternoon sunset session without our guru.

The morning before we left for Ternate, we had another photo session and when we're about to leave, Rizal shouted 'ROL, ROL!' - Ella and I stared at each other having no idea what it meant but we followed the rest of the group's steps anyway, taking a photo of a boat under the ray. Later on, we found out ROL stood for Ray of Light!.

Anyhow, we had a great time and great shots during the trip. We learned a lot also from our guru and Asep of Fokus Maut who was patient enough to give guidance to my friend Ella and I. We got to know a lot of great photographers, had excellent food and most importantly, had wonderful memories. If you ask me, whether you should visit this place or not, my answer is simple. If you are neither a scuba diver nor photographer, don't bother!

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