- Elevation: 3,030 m (9,941 ft)
- Prominence: 3,030 m
- Ribu category: Sangat Tinggi
- Province: Maluku (Moluccas)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Binaia
This increasingly-popular Ribu is the highest peak on the island of Seram and the large range is part of the Manusela National Park.
There is a northern and a southern route, and the southern route is becoming the more popular of the two because the trailhead is a little higher up and a return journey can be done in 5 days and 4 nights which is arguably a little shorter than the route from the north. This trend seems set to continue in 2019, as there is an ongoing disagreement in the northern villages between villagers and local police and National Park staff. This is due to villagers on the northern route being arrested for illegal bird hunting and it means that at the time of writing (October 2019), hikers cannot use the northern route.
Whichever route you use, this is a serious undertaking and heavy rains are common all year round. It is also customary to have a traditional good luck ceremony in the village prior to starting the trek.
The Southern Route:
The route from the south starts at Piliana (approx 430 metres above sea level) and hikers usually spend a night in Piliana village and have a good luck ceremony either the evening before or at breakfast.
Hike Day One: The trail leads through plantations and across several rivers before reaching Pos 1 Yamitala (524m) after around 2-3 hours. Pos 1 is a pleasant spot just beyond a waterfall and has a hut for shelter. It is then a further 3-4 hours, initially with some ups and downs, to Pos 2 Aimoto (1,160m). There are three huts and a water source.
Hike Day Two: The trail continues to Pos 3 Highcamp (1,920m, 4-5 hours). From Pos 3 onwards, water is collected in plastic sheets in the ground as there are no more streams and the terrain begins to increase in difficulty. Pos 4 Isiali (2,150m) is next after 2-3 hours and there are two huts for shelter.
Hike Day Three: Puncak Bintang (2,640m) is next before the trail descends to Pos 5 Nasapeha Camp (2,580m) which is about 3-4 hours from Isiali but has no shelters at present (2019). After further ups and downs, Pos 6 Waifuku (2,970m) is reached. This is a unique landscape of palms or ferns and rock features and is just a short distance below the peak that most hikers intend to reach with the Binaiya summit signs and excellent views in clear weather. There is a pond nearby which can be used as a water source (best boiled first, used with iodine tablets, or mixed with ginger as the locals suggest). If the weather is good before dark then this is the time to take photos from the summit above, otherwise wait until the follow morning at first light.
Hike Day Four: If the weather is clear, the fourth day of hiking should start with sunrise at the top of Puncak Waifuku, which is the peak with all the Binaiya signs on and is the primary target of almost all hikers who come here. GPS readings here vary from 2,997m to 3,020m. It is a wonderful viewpoint, but those who are adamant about reaching the true summit of the Binaiya range and the true highest point of Seram island will see a peak of a very similar height (estimated 20-30m higher than Puncak Waifuku / Binaiya signs peak) nearly 2 kilometres to the north-west.
This true summit is called Gunung or Puncak Siale. Even though Binaiya is one of the ‘Seven Summits of Indonesia’, the true summit peak is usually off-limits to hikers due to National Park conservation regulations. Therefore, very very few of those who claim to have climbed to the top of Binaiya have actually been to the highest peak.
It sounds as if it it takes around 3 hours (each way) from the second-highest peak with all the summit signs and apparently has challenging terrain. Anyone thinking of attempting it is advised to schedule a second night camping at Pos 6 and therefore need a total of 6 hiking days instead of 5. It is hoped that the National Park regulation will be changed soon to encourage responsible access to this mysterious true peak.
At the moment, some sites suggest that the true Siale peak is 3,035m and the normal sign peak known simply as Binaiya or Puncak Waifuku is 3,027m, although based on GPS and SRTM we thing it is likely that Siale is between 3,027m and 3,035m and Binaiya signs peak is between 2,997m and 3,020m.
Assuming you are not spending the best part of a day trying to bag the true peak, this will typically be the first day of two descent days. You can either descend only as far as Pos 4 Isiali and have a few hours of rest time and then proper sleep in a shelter before a 12 hour trek on the final day, or else try to reach Pos 3 Highcamp, hope it doesn’t rain, and have a slightly less extreme final day!
Hike Day Five: Arrive back in Piliana from wherever you started, possibly in the dark, and definitely after several river crossings!
The Northern Route:
Should the situation improve along the northern route, it is as follows: Huahulu Halte (140m) – Huahulu Village (126m) – 3 hours to Roho Village (82m) – 7 hours to Kanikeh (595m) via Wasamata River (375m) – 6 hours to Waihuhu (1,298m) via Wayamsela River (812m) – then on up to meet the southern trail at Waifuku and Biniaya summit ridge.
Bagging information by Mathis Joffrain, edited by Dan Quinn (October 2019)
Trip Report by Mathis Joffrain (August 2019)
Day 1 (Ambon – Piliana)
We started the day by taking a speedboat from Tulehu port in Ambonaround 9h-9h30. As soon as we settled down inside, we were swamped by local merchants selling all kinds of food like pisang goreng, tahu goreng, pop mie… Also not forgetting a sinetron showing on the TV to entertain the passengers throughout the ride. Definitely not part of the adventure yet, but it is definitely Indonesia. The sea was calm at the beginning but became quite wavy for the last 30 minutes and we were just glad to finally reach Amahai Port in Masohi, Seram island slightly after 11h.
We headed directly to Taman Nasional Manusela office, which is 15 minutes drive away from the port, to arrange for the trekking permits (simaksi). Note that the price for foreigners is 30x more than that for local trekker (Rp 150,000 vs Rp 5,000 per day per trekker). It definitely took a toll on our wallet, especially when it is going to be a 7-day trek since the plan is to traverse South to North route and summiting the rarely visited true peak (Puncak Siale). Additionally, we also had to furnish Surat Kesehatan from the Apotek that confirmed that we are in good shape for the trek.
To our dismay, we learnt that we would not be able to descend via the North route due to the conflict between the officials (Police and National Park) and local villagers in Desa Kanikeh and Desa Roho. Apparently, some folks were imprisoned due to illegal bird hunting, resulting in the unhappiness of the villagers towards the officials. This was bad news to us as descending via North Route is said to be much nicer than going back from South. On the hindside, we were really impressed by the Indo government’s devotion to protect the endangered forest birds.
Anyway, after vain discussions with the National park officials to eventually agree to adhere the instructions to not descend via the North route and making an impressive number of photocopies (8 exactly), we left for Desa Piliana around 17h. We reached the Desa at 20h (since we had to hand over the photocopies of the permits to various police offices along the way), which is at an altitude of 430m. The last 30 minutes ride towards the village had to be done with a 4×4 as it is steep and rocky. Note that the road along the sea offers an enjoyable introduction to the charming island of Seram. We stay overnight at the house of the village chief (Bapak Raja).
Day 2 (Piliana – Pos 1 Yamitala – Pos 2 Aimoto)
We woke up at 8h with a heavy rain outside (our constant companion during the trek). After a pleasant breakfast and a blessing ceremony by Bapak Adat (perhaps not to eat the sirih if you don’t like the taste), we embarked at 10h. Shortly after, we found ourselves in the midst of plantations, with some up and downs and river crossings, not forgetting the muddy tracks throughout. We arrived at Pos 1 (Sungai Yamitala, Elevation=500m) at 12h30. There was a nice little waterfall just before Pos 1 where we enjoyed bath and free back massage. The hut at Pos 1 has gorgeous environment with many birds, butterflies, exotic plants and bats. It was difficult to leave such a pleasant place hence we only started our journey again at 14h30. The first 1.5 hours was a hassle with difficult terrains of upslope and downslope, but the amazing surrounding forests is a respite, especially near the rock formations. We arrived at Pos 2 at 17h45, elevation of 1,200m, whereby we can find three huts and small stream running downwards nearby. Even though the rain did not stop for even a minute during the day and the coming night, the temperature was very pleasant (not too cold) and the huts allowed us to stay dry.
Day 3 (Pos 2 Aimoto – Pos 3 Highcamp – Pos 4 Isiali)
We left Pos 2 at 10am, and arrived at Pos 3 at 14h30. The progression was slow due the continuous rain, and the muddy condition of the trail, while not being too difficult. We could only start again at 16h as we waited for water to fill up the kubangan for our usage for the following days (no streams nearby hence the water is collected in a kubangan). From this point onwards, the trail turns to ridges crossings and increases in difficulty. We reached Pos 4 Isiali at 18h15, and were pleasantly surprised to find a quite comfortable campsite with two huts, and water recuperation systems (the kubangan) right in the middle of the forest. The elevation here is 2,140m and temperature was still nice.
Day 4 (Pos 4 Isiali – Pos 5 Nasapeha – Pos 6 Waifuku)
For the first time in 48h, the rain calmed down. We took time to enjoy the nature, observe birds and explore the forest near the camp. At around 10h, we started the day with climbing up steep slopes, and down a little bit, and after some ridges above tropical forest, we arrived at the so-called Puncak Bintang at 2,640m, then descending to Nasapeha to have lunch around 13h30. Rain started to pour again and we had to gobble our lunch since there was no efficient shelter at this place. Soon enough, we found ourselves packing our bags and continued on with going through the multiple upward and downward slopes, before we finally reached Pos 6 Waifuku at an altitude of 2,970m.
It was really not a walk in the park because the path from Pos 1 to Pos 6 is not a straightforward uphill. Instead, we had to go through multiple upward and downward slopes, often times slippery with loose rocks by the ridges at higher elevation. Hence we were very glad to finally reach Waifuku campsite after all the hard work. Despite the rain and fog, the place is stunning with nicely strange palms and black rocks. I had never seen this kind of landscape before. Being so near to the Waifuku summit (which is only 10 minutes above us), this place is conveniently protected from wind. It feels a bit unreal as contrary to other volcanoes summits where the place is narrow, it gives here an impression of great space to be explored. Another good point is that the water from the nearby water body / pond is potable. But we are still advised to mix it with ginger though.
Day 5 (Pos 6 Waifuku – Puncak Waifuku – Puncak Siale – Pos 6 Waifuku)
Today, we saw sun for the first time while waking up and took some time to enjoy its presence and to dry our clothes (we were perpetually in wet clothes and ponchos for the whole trek, and only changed to dry clothes to sleep). We went to Puncak Waifuku at 10h20. I dedicated the summit to REASK’s people with whom I spent memorable days in Sydney. These guys are now at the top, in a non figurative way. The altitude is 3,020 m, and the views are just stunning. We then continued the trail to the other peak called Puncak Siale. I am still stunned by the beautiful landscapes and plants, as well as the mushy trees as we went down the forest. We saw some deers and beautiful birds along the way. With the rain coming back, we started ascending and continued on a succession of rock ridges going upwards. The wind and rain got stronger as we progressed on the rock ridges. At this point, we went beyond safe conditions but we pushed on and finally summited Siale at 13h13 with an altitude indication of 3,030m. It is very possible that we were at the real top of Moluccas and we were certainly higher than Binaiya summit. It is a very beautiful summit with a prairie just next to it that makes the whole atmosphere very serene. However, the weather was not on our side (i.e. heavy rain and strong wind) that we had to turn back quickly due to fatigue and cold. I can illustrate that fact with a French quote from the tallest member of our team. « Si on ne descend pas tout de suite, vous pourrez toujours revenir me voir tous les ans à la Toussaint ». So we did go down thereafter to Waifuku campsite to spend the night. The journey back is also not an easy one as we had to repeat the going upslope and downslope terrain in the rain.
Day 6 (Pos 6 Waifuku – Pos 4 Isiali)
The plan for the day is to descend to Pos 4 isiali before heading back to Piliana the following day. We chose Pos 4 because Pos 3 Highcamp is too humid for camping and it would be too long a walk to go directly to Pos 2 Aimoto). As the journey would not take that long, we spent some more time exploring the summit region which leave me an unforgettable sensation. When we finally descended at reach Nasapeha at 12h, we did not manage to rest for long due to the limited shelter and heavy rain. As such, we pushed on and reached Pos 4 Isiali at 14h30.Weather was still bad and tiredness started to show in the team. However, the comfortable camp and the short day means we had time to rest and store energy for the longest coming day.
Day 7 (Pos 4 Isiali – Basecamp Piliana)
This would be the longest day of our trek and we started walking at 7h45. The breakfast of spaghetti bolognaise and coco crunch was a clear signal by our guide that indeed it would be a very long journey back. We reached Puncak Manukupa (between Pos 4 and Pos 3) at 11h. Seeing our fatigue, our porters entertained us by teaching us how to capture big pythons. Essentially, the most critical phase consists of putting the head of the beast inside a bag.
We reached Pos 2 at 13h30, and Pos 1 at 17h. We had probably underestimated this part. Though the dusk had started to set, we continued to push on to reach Piliana. Finally, we arrived at Bapak Raja’s house around 20h and finished the trek in the dark with multiple crossing of rivers with headlamps. Many weeks after this trip, we all still miss the atmosphere of this forest.
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- Getting there: A considerable journey from Ambon. First take a speedboat from Tulehu harbour to Amahai, Masohi, Seram (90min – 2 hours). The National Park office is 15min away by road.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Binaiya information pack can be downloaded here.
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- Permits: Lots of time-consuming and quite unnecessary admin, as is still sadly usual in National Parks in Indonesia. Get a hiking permit from Manusela National Park Office in Masohi town or try to arrange in advance via email to firstname.lastname@example.org Currently (2019) Indonesians pay Rp5,000 PER DAY and non-Indonesians must pay Rp150,000 PER DAY even if they live, work and pay tax locally. This is 30 times the local rate which many may find unacceptably discriminatory. It also remains a grey area as to whether or not you can hike to the true highest peak. Photo fee of Rp250,000 per group. Indonesian health certificates also required for each member of the group.
- Water sources: Available from streams on the lower slopes and holes in the ground near most of the camp spots higher up. Ask your guides for the latest on best sources of drinking water near camps and be sure to take iodine tablets or similar.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):