Maluku , formerly known as the Moluccas , is not so much a province as an archipelago. It sprawls across 851,000 sq km, of which only one tenth island and consist of over 1,000 islands. Their total population is 1,9 million. The sea in this area is very deep-reaching 4,971 m in the Bacan basin , southeast of Halmahera. The highest mountain is Mt. Binaiya on Seram, at 3,000 m. The largest islandsare Seram , Halmahera and Buru , although the most important economically are Ambon, Tiny Ternate and the Bandas.
Recent economic attention has focused upon the expansion of the fishing industry , especially tuna and shellfish and on forestry. Other important crops include the sago palm coffee and coconut.
Maluku was important as a source of spices long before the first European discovered the islands. Arab, Chinese , Malay and other seafarers traded here. And indeed the first Europeans had to employ the services of local pilots in Malaka to help them find the fabled Spiceries . The name Maluku is said to derived from the words Jasiratul Jabal Maluk – meaning the Land of many Kings and the islands of Mikiku are mentioned in 7th century Tang Chinese document.
Although the islands are very much at the edge of the Indonesia World , both geographically and economically , it was the spices of Maluku which initially attached the european powers to Asia and to the east isles. They become known as the spice islands , or spiceries. It was only here that clove and nutmeg were cultivated and the early history of southeast Asia was moulded and driven by the fabulous wealth that the spice islands had to offer the adventures explorer.
Now the spice no longer generate they wealth that they once did , Maluku has been forced to find an alternative raison d’etre. Not only are the islands more than 2,000 km from Jakarta, but they are very geographically dispersed : Morotai in the North is over 1,000 km from Tanimbar in the South.