The small island of Ambon was the centre of Dutch administration in Maluku, and today bustling Ambon city remains the capital of majority Christian southern Maluku province. It has a mixed Christian-Muslim population and suffered from horrible communal violence between 1999-2002. Now that peace has returned, its excellent transport connections and facilities once again make it the common gateway to Maluku, and its colonial forts, green hills and pleasant beaches can also make it a worthy destination in its own right.
The island is made up by two "peninsulas", which are almost separate islands, joined by a narrow isthmus. Leitimur, the smaller, more densly populated half is majority Christian, and is also where Kota Ambon, Maluku’s capital is situated. Leihitu, the larger peninsula is more sparsely populated and has a majority Muslim population. Due to its relative remoteness from Kota Ambon it recieves fewer visitors and has preserved its traditional culture better. While many visitors only ever see the city itself, they are missing the best of Pulau Ambon. Everyone should visit the beautiful rural parts of the island, and those with a few days to spare should also make an effort to visit the delightful, nearby Lease Islands: Haruku makes an interesting day-trip, Saparua is the best relaxing getaway for an overnight stay, while tiny, unspoilt Nusalaut is totally off the beaten track. With a week or so extra time, you could also consider visiting the large island of Seram.