Babar Islands

Babar Islands

The Babar Islands (literally translated from the official Indonesian term, "Pulau-pulau Babar"), are located in Maluku Province, Indonesia between latitudes 7 degrees 31 minutes South to 8 degrees 13 minutes South and from longitudes 129 degrees 30 minutes East to 130 degrees 05 minutes East. Kepulauan Babar refers to the entire archipelago.

The islands take their name from the large central island of Babar which is roughly 20 miles across and 60 miles around. Babar island has a maximum elevation of approximately 750 meters and is lightly covered with sub-tropical montaine forest.

From December to April rain is plentiful so that corn, plantains, bananas, cassava and red rice (unirrigated) grow plentifully. Sufficient potable water on Babar Island is provided by year round springs.

This situation contrasts markedly with the much smaller islands ringing Babar Island. These are low-lying, uplifted reef and limestone (with the exception of Dai Island), infertile, not heavily forested and lacking in fresh water sources. Life is more difficult on the outlying Babar islands where the indigenous inhabitants focus more of their energies on fishing and hand-crafts which are then traded for garden produce from Babar Island.

In comparison to the majority of Indonesians living nearer the political centre of the country, the indigenous Babar Islanders tend to darker epidermal pigmentation, have kinky hair and generally lack the epicanthic eyefold of East Asians.

Besides being a visible minority, most indigenous Babar Islanders are also baptised into the Protestant Church of Maluku (Gereja Protestan Maluku- GPM). Due undoubtedly to the aridity of the islands and the lack of natural resources, there has been no trans-migration from more populous Indonesian areas. There is however a mosque and a small community of Muslims living in Tepa, the main town of the Babar Islands. There is also in Tepa one Catholic church, one Seventh-day Adventist church, and one Pentecostal church, the Gereja Betany Indonesia (GBI)(Bethany Church of Indonesia). The village of Kroing on the Eastern side of Babar island also has a GBI. All the other towns have only one GPM church. While these world faiths are represented, there is much hybridization with the pre-existing animist beliefs and practices.

Islands in the Babar Islands cluster (in descending size)


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