Asia Indonesia Photo Essays

Just Light & Water | Exploring Maluku, Indonesia

June 28, 2018

by Jack Davies

“It was the look-out who saw them first. Two crippled vessels, rotting and abandoned, lay at anchor close to the shoreline.” So begins ‘Nathaniel’s Nutmeg’, the history of the race for the spice trade in the 17th century, thus a history, too, of those tiny islands ripe with coveted nutmeg: The Banda Islands, part of the Spice Islands, or Maluku. I’d been to Indonesia years before, travelling east until I reached Lamalera of whale-hunting fame. I hadn’t seen any whales, thankfully, but I’d been keen ever since that languid, liquid adventure for more of those waters. I’d planned to visit Sulawesi, an orchid on the map, but after reading the book and its tale of Nathaniel marooned upon the island of Run my curiosity was piqued. I wanted to see what it was like today, days of deathly prospecting long gone.

I re-charted my course and ended up in the Banda islands, after a long journey aboard a great hulk of a ferry that circuits the Banda Sea. And for two months I explored that handful of islands, population 16,000 (small town spread out across the water) and other parts of Maluku. I took boats, many boats, spent time with some of those warm, fun people, laughed with them as they laughed at me trying to balance my camera and not drop it in the sea. Many times felt like I wouldn’t manage it, as the little boats swayed and sputtered, masterfully carved through the waves by captains in whom I simply needed to trust. And I did take photos, and I’ve many Moluccans with far steadier sea legs than I to thank, for the camera stayed dry and I made it from place to place without upturn or upset. Just light and water, and under the sea, some perfect snorkelling: colourful fish in and out of the corals, or further out great cruising schools of pelagics, dark blue and massive in the distant gloom.”

Jack Davies is a photographer who grew up between rural England and Oman. His first experience taking photographs was in the Muscat markets, and his passion only continued while teaching in Tasmania. He is interested in urban landscapes and abstract street photography, as well as travel work. He currently lives and captures the city of Moscow, but constantly feels the call back to the sea.  

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