The Banda Islands

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Since the first century AD, the Banda islands have been the sole producers of the fragrant nutmeg and mace for which Chinese, Indian, and Arab ships traveled across the seas. These precious spices could be sold at enormous profit in foreign markets.

The people of Banda thrived on their natural resources, but in later years suffered at the hands of Dutch colonizers who wanted to dominate the world’s spice trade.
Despite such a big reputation, the fabled Banda islands are only a tiny cluster of islands, composed of three large islands and seven smaller ones. The islands are perched on the rim of Indonesia's deepest underwater gorge, the Banda Sea, where waters can reach depths of over 6,500 meters.

Two of the biggest islands, Banda Besar and Naira, are covered with nutmeg trees. The third island, Gunung Api or ‘peak of fire’, is an active volcano that emerges from the deep in a perfect cone, and is entirely rugged and highly volcanic. In the waters surrounding these islands you’ll find some of the world’s most spectacular marine gardens, with bright corals and colorful fish, bustling through the crystal-clear waters, making it suitable for diving, snorkeling or even simply sightseeing.

Lying about 132 kilometers southeast of Ambon, the islands are a remote and exquisitely beautiful part of Indonesia. With multi-colored reefs, warm seas and exotic marine life, the Banda’s are a haven for divers who come from around the world to explore some of the most remote and unspoiled dive sites in the world.

Today, Banda attracts divers, sailors and cruise ships from around the world by its sheer natural beauty, both above as below the sea, which can only be matched by Raja Ampat, Papua; another location for ultimate underwater adventures.

The Banda Islands are one of the Indonesia’s most popular destinations for divers. Both experts and beginner divers will enjoy themselves here, as the diving spots vary from the shallow lagoon between Bandaneira and Gunung Api, to the vertical walls of Hatta Island. Wherever you go here, you’ll discover stunning tropical scenery, a remarkable history, friendly locals, and some of the globe's most pristine, biologically diverse coral reefs.

Scuba diving is still relatively new here, but pioneering divers didn't have to work hard to find a thrill. The undersea world around Ambon and the nearby island of Saparua have top-rate dive sites. As you explore beneath the surface you’ll see everything from sharks, enormous turtles, schools of Napoleon Wrasse, giant groupers, dogtooth tuna, mobula rays, redtooth triggerfish, various species of whales, spinner dolphins, and huge lobsters - neighbors to generous schools of reef fish and endemic Ambon scorpionfish.

Come to Banda islands and visit the best kept secret in Eastern Indonesia. While flights here are not frequent, it’s worth the wait. For this ideal tropical paradise won’t remain deserted for long.



To Eat, To Buy, To Stay, To Do

Staying on a live aboard boat is an ideal way to explore the Banda’s. Live aboard cruises last from 7 to 14 days. A live aboard is worth the time and money, especially if you are keen to explore as many dive sites as you can. Check with your travel agent for the best package.

There are not too many hotels around the Banda Islands. The biggest hotels are located right at the lip of white sandy beach. One of the most prominent Chiefs of Banda, Mr. Des Alwi also plans to build one exclusive hotel, with limited number of rooms. Mostly travelers choose to stay in small hotels or guesthouses, as they offer reasonable prices and acceptable service, suggesting a good reason to stay longer.

Hotel Maulana of Bandaneira is the most luxurious hotel in the Bandas. Lady Diana, Mick Jagger, and Jacques Cousteau have all stayed in this 40-room hotel. This impressive luxury hotel facing Gunung Api actually belongs to the King of Banda, Des Alwi. With en-suite bathroom, the rooms are facing pearl factory that belongs to the same owner. Please call +62 910 210 22 or +62 911 210 24.Mutiara Guesthouse has spacious air-conditioned rooms with a courtyard where you can daydream. Prices are from between IDR 70,000 to IDR 125,000 (the rate may change without notice). There is internet available in the lobby, although the speed can be very slow. The owner speaks fluent English, German, and Dutch. Please call Abba on +62 813 303 43377Vita Guesthouse is another place recommended for travelers who enjoy detailed information on their destinations. Alan, the manager of the guesthouse, is very resourceful and able to explain details in English. This guesthouse has a private jetty facing Gunung Api, where you can rent a boat and snorkeling gear. The room rates are very competitive. Please call the staff at mobile phone: +62 819 450 90110.

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•    Diving is possible all year round, but during the monsoon season (July – September) you may be restricted in your choice of dive sites.
•    Further information is available at the official website for Maluku (the Moluccas) regional government  - and the phone number is +62 911 352 180 or +62 911341 611
•    Tourist Information Office
Jl. Raya Pattimura 1, Ambon
Phone +62 911 52471 or +62 911 97126
•    There are no ATMs around Banda Islands including in Bandaneira so be prepared with cash prior to visiting the islands. It is highly advised to keep your money in a safe place, especially in and around harbor.
•    Telecommunications are limited to Indonesian telecommunication providers Telkomsel and XL. You can top up credit in Bandaneira.
•    Beginner divers are recommended to pay strict attention to their safety since the current can be strong in several spots.  
•    Diving is usually comfortable, with good visibility (15-30 meters) and calm waters, however some dive sites are only suitable for experienced divers so check with your dive master.
•    Depths of the diving spots range from 5 meters to over 40 meters, with temperatures from 26 to 29 degree Celcius.
•    Try to hire diving and snorkeling equipment from larger firms as these tend to be more reliable, but remember the responsibility of checking the equipment is ultimately yours.
•    Bring a bathing suit and extra clothing.

Getting There and Around

Get Around

In Bandaneira, most people get around on foot as most tourist essentials are in the town and within walking distance. Alternatively, ojek and becak are available for a longer daytrip.

To get from one island to another you will need to hire a boat. The price may vary depending on the distance but normally ranges from IDR 120,000 to IDR 500,000.

Get There

The easiest way to reach the Banda’s is to first go to Ambon. Ambon is the capital city of Ambon island, located 132 km north of the Bandas. To get to Ambon you can fly either directly from Denpasar-Bali, or transit in Ujung Pandang. Garuda Indonesia flies from Jakarta (CGK) transiting in Hasanuddin-Makassar airport, or Denpasar- Bali (DPS) transiting in Ujung Pandang (UPG) to Ambon’s Pattimura Airport (AMQ). Other flights are from Langur-Central Maluku (LUV), Juanda-Surabaya (SUB), and Jeffman-Sorong, Papua (SOQ).

Lion Air, Batavia Air, and Mandala Airlines serve Ambon-Jakarta, with transit in Makassar or Surabaya.

From Ambon, you can get to the Banda Islands either by a chartered small plane or using Merpati Airlines flying to Bandaneira. There is no round-trip flight available. The returning flight must be reserved in Bandaneira. The flight operates once a week or every two weeks. This limited accessibility means that one you do get there, you won’t see many other tourists around. Hence, it is an ideal hideaway.
Alternatively, you can cross the Banda Sea by ferry. Pelni provides a twice weekly ferry by KM Ciremai liner from Ambon to Bandaneira. Make sure you double check the schedule for and unforeseen changes.