Kai Islands

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Kai Islands
Topographic map of the Kai Islands-en.svg
ID Kai islands.PNG
Location South-east Asia
Coordinates 5°45′S 132°44′E / 5.75°S 132.73°E / -5.75; 132.73
Major islands Kai Besar, Kai Kecil
Area 1,438 km2 (555 sq mi)
Province Maluku
Kai Islands in the east of Maluku Islands

The Kai Islands (also Kei Islands) of Indonesia are in the south-eastern part of the Maluku Islands, in Maluku Province.

Touristic spots[edit]

In Kei Islands you can find the most beautiful, natural, untouched beaches in the world. You can reach some beaches by car or motorcycle, for example Ohoililir beach or Pasir Panjang, also known as Ngur Bloat beach. You can reach this places by renting a car or motorcycle from the locals, or even with public transportation, which takes about 30 – 40 minutes and costs about IDR 15 000 - 30 000 per person. Also, you can reach some beautiful desert islands by boat, for example Adranan island, where you can spend the night by camping on the beach, with tents or hammocks, or Bair island, where you can jump off high cliffs into crystal clear water. Another option is Ngur tavur island, also a desert island, ideal for camping, with a long sand tail where you can watch the sun setting and rising in the Pacific ocean from the same place.


The islands comprise the Maluku Tenggara (Southeast Maluku) Regency within the Maluku Province. The Regency (which excludes the city of Tual) is sub-divided into 6 districts (kecamatan).


Inhabitants called the islands Nuhu Evav (Evav Islands) or Tanat Evav (Evav Land), but known as Kei for people from neighbourhood islands. "Kai" is actually a Dutch colonial era spelling, still persisting in books based on old resources. The islands are on the edge of the Banda Sea, south of the Bird's Head Peninsula of New Guinea, west of the Aru Islands, and northeast of the Tanimbar Islands. The small group called Tayandu Islands (also Tahayad) is just west.

The Kei islands are made up of numerous islands, including

  • Kai Besar or Nuhu Yuut or Nusteen (Great Kei)
  • Kai Kecil or Nuhu Roa or Nusyanat (Little Kei)
  • Tanimbar Kei or Tnebar Evav
  • Kei Dulah or Du
  • Dulah Laut or Du Roa
  • Kuur
  • Taam
  • Tayandu Islands (Tahayad) groups.

The Kei Islands' total land area is 1438 km² (555 sq mi).

Kei Besar is mountainous and densely forested. Kei Kecil has the biggest population, and is flat. Actually it is a lifted coral reef. The capital is the town of Tual, mostly inhabited by Muslims. Nearby Langgur is the center for Christians. Kei is famous for the beauty of its beaches, e.g. Pasir Panjang.

The Kei islands are part of Wallacea, the group of Indonesian islands that are separated by deep water from both the Asian and Australian continental shelves, and were never linked to either continent. As a result, the Kei Islands have few native mammals and are part of the Banda Sea Islands moist deciduous forests ecoregion.


The islands are in a tropical area so the weather is the same all year. Constant 30 °C (86 °F) all the time, the lowest temperature is around 18 °C (64 °F). The dry season lasts from April to September, rain is scarce during this time of the year.


Local history holds that ancestors of contemporary Kei islanders came from Bali, part of the expanding Majapahit kingdom from the western archipelago. The village of Ohoi-Ewur ( first Raja Ewab : Raja Ohoi-Ewur = Raja Tabtut) on Kei Kecil or Nuhuroa island was the first place that the Balinese royal family and the army arrived, where they stayed with the local residents. As a result, Ohoi-ewur became a seat of government, where the local law (Larvul Ngabal) – Red Blood and Balinese Spear – was developed at the initiative of the royal princess Dit Sakmas. Evidence of these ties on Kei Kecil and especially in Letvuan include an inheritance and a harbour named Bal Sorbay (Bali Surabaya) that is the place where the royals arrived. It is recognized by kai islanders that some of their ancestors also came from another places such as Sumbawa island (Sumbau), Buton (Vutun)in Sulawesi, Seram (Seran) and Gorom (Ngoran) islands in the Central Moluccas, and the Sultanates of Jailolo (Dalo) and Ternate (Ternat) as well.

The tiny island of Tanimbarkei is not part of Tanimbar, but of the Kei Islands and inhabited by fewer than 1000 very traditional people. Half of the population call themselves Hindus, but in fact are more or less practising ancestor worship.

After the 1999 clashes between the Muslim and Christian populations in Ambon, similar intercommunal clashes also swept through Kei, but quickly calmed down with fewer victims. The islands depend on 22 ratshcaap, or traditional local leaders called Rat or Raja, as kings of customary law.


The soil on Kei Kecil is poor. Slash and Burn agriculture is still common. Fishing is engaged in around Trepang. In Kei Kecil cultured pearl is harvested.

Public transport[edit]

There is two kinds of public transportation in Kei Islands. One is called angkot and the other is ojek. Angkot is a bright colored minivan, the color of the car usually indicates its route. The angkot does not have fixed halting places, it stops where the passengers want it to stop. One ride costs approximately IDR 5000 but it depends on the distance. Ojek is a type of motorcycle taxi and it is the fastest way to get from one place to another. Before riding the ojek it is almost mandatory to try to haggle with the driver as there is no fixed price for the ojek. However an approximate price for a ride in town is IDR 5000 and a ride to another village costs around IDR 10000.

Traditional food[edit]

On Kai islands you can taste a lot of delicious meals, 99% of them is fried. The main side dish is always rice (as anywhere in Indonesia you can eat nasi goreng=fried rice) and the most common meat is fish (ikan), also noodles are popular (mie). You can buy any seafood that you can think of including shark, shrimps, crab or fish of any size or colour. Since the half of the people are Muslim, pork meat is not common. You can eat chicken (friend or grilled=ayam goreng/bakar) or beef (sapi), which is prepared by a traditional way and can last for about three months and has very specific texture, almost falling apart. The fish is often fried, grilled or made as a soup/sauce with curry or kecap ([katchup], which has nothing to do with European/American tomato ketchup. Indonesian kecap is made from soy and has black colour). The special side dish from Kei is enbal or sagu (made from the tree), which is usually mixed with coconut and taste a bit like rice, but drier. Either it can be eaten plain or "toasted" to the waffle shape of a hart. As additional to the food you often get boiled cassava leaves or cassava leaves mixed with papaya flowers. Spicy sauce (sambal), is always present at any meal. It is made from tomatoes, onion, garlic, sawi leaves, chillies and lime, sometimes also with kecap. Desserts are not common, sometimees you can buy classic doughnuts or traditional Madonna cake (made from semolina, layered with different colours using food colours and cooled down to be cut and eaten). The most common fruit is banana (pisang) which is mostly eaten fried and served plain or with cheese and chocolate.


You can easily find pearls or jewelry such as rings, bracelets, necklaces… at the traditional market or at the souvenir shops. The price is from IDR 50.000 to IDR 2.000.000. Moreover, you can buy Batik – the traditional costume of Indonesians - or have the tailor make your own Batik in your size. Another choice of souvenir is the traditional silk of Kei Islands called Tenun … It will be an interesting experience if you visit the factory to see how they make it and buy at the factory, the price is at least IDR 250.000. In addition, you can collect the gorgeous shells from the beach to make souvenirs. The shells here are of varied colours and shapes.


On Kei Islands, as in whole Indonesia, people understand and speak bahasa Indonesia. However, according to traditions and history, there are also local languages, which are absolutely different from the official one.

Three Austronesian languages are spoken on the Kei Islands; Keiese is the most widely spoken, in 207 villages on Kei Kecil, Kei Besar, and surrounding islands. Kurese is spoken on Kur Island and nearby Kaimeer, where Kei is used as a lingua franca. Bandanese is spoken in the villages of Banda-Eli (Wadan El) and Banda-Elat (Wadan Elat) on the west and northeastern side of Kei Besar. Banda speakers originally came from the Banda Islands, but the language is no longer spoken there. There is no native writing system for the Keiese Language. Dutch Catholic missionaries write the language using a variation of the Roman alphabet.

  • Greetings

Hello Hai

How are you ? Fal be?/ Apa Kabar?

I am fine Saya baik

Good morning Selamat pagi

Good afternoon Selamat siang

Good evening Selamat sore

Good night Selamat malam

Goodbye Dada/ Sampai jumpa

Nice to meet you Senang berkenalan/ketemu dengan kamu

  • Introducing

My name is ... Nama saya

What is your name? Sapa nama kamu?

I am from ... Saya dari ...

I am ... years old Saya ... tahun

I work at ... Saya bekerja di ...

I study ... Saya belajar ..

  • Everyday language

Yes Iya

No Tidak

Thank you Terima Kasih

You are welcome Sama sama

Please Tolong

Good appetite Selamat makan

I am sorry Maaf

  • Shopping

How much? Berapa?

Expensive Mahal

Cheap Murah

Bergain Kasih muran

  • Food

Chicken Ayam

Beef Sapi

Fish Ikan

Banana Pisang

Rice Nasi

Fried Goreng

Grilled Bakan

(No)Spicy (Tidak)Pedas

  • Other

I (don't) understand Saya (tidak) mergenthi

I (don't) know Saya (tidak) tau

What time is it? Jam berapa?

Musical instruments[edit]

Kei musical instruments were:-

1) Savarngil (Flute): A small native flute from 10 to 20 centimetres (4 to 8 in) long, open at both ends and having six fingerholes placed along the pipe made of bamboo and are keyless.

2) Tiva (Drum):Single headed drums, consist of a calf skin membrane which is stretched over an enclosed space or over one of the ends of a hollow vessel.

3) Dada (Gong):a medium-size gong 30 to 38 centimetres (12 to 15 in) in size, with a crashing sound, have a raised boss or nipple in the centre.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]