The Maluku Islands are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands.
The Kai Islands (also Kei Islands) of Indonesia are in the south-eastern part of the Maluku Islands, in Maluku Province. 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.
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.
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 Keiese Language. Dutch catholic missionaries write the language using a variety of the Roman alphabet.
Location map of The Kai Islands
Last revised on May 20, 2011
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