The Banda Sea
The Banda Islands are the original ‘Spice Islands’ and were the epicentre of the spice race throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. This was home to what was then the only known source of nutmeg in the world and their exact location a closely guarded secret. Many battles were fought over control of the islands.
Dominated by the imposing 600 metre volcano, Gunung Api, the Banda Islands host many treasures, historical, cultural and natural and this intriguing destination also features an incredibly rich marine environment. Infrequently visited due to both their physical location and the open sea surrounding them, these islands and their adjacent dive sites offer the opportunity to interact with the more wild side of the Indonesian archipelago.
These days Banda town has a peaceful and sleepy village feel, with just a couple of hotels and a limited number of homestays hosting the handful of tourists that make it out to the region.
Cruising in the Banda Sea is somewhat curtailed by the steep underwater topography of the Banda archipelago, with one main anchorage area that vessels usually return to after day long explorations to the neighbouring islands. Standing off is a certainty in some areas.
Ambon is the embarkation port and has a large international runway which can comfortably handle most private aircraft. The city is quite basic however, but multiple daily domestic connections to Bali and Jakarta mean that logistics are relatively smooth in the area.
History and Culture
Visitors can enjoy land expeditions throughout the nine small islands in the archipelago, but the main focus is usually on the island of Banda Neira with its remaining heritage sites from periods of Dutch, Belgian and English colonisation. Fort Belgica is situated on the hill ominously overlooking the town, and the original cannons still reside in the turrets as if protecting the island against invaders. Other places of interest include a Dutch Palace, an artefact filled museum and the last remaining nutmeg plantations on Lonthor Island.
As well as hosting a remarkable variety of cultural and historical sites, one of the most inviting features of the region, without doubt, is the excitement and enthusiasm with which adventurous visitors are welcomed by the local communities, showing their genuine warmth and affection.
The pristine reefs that surround the shorelines of these fabled Spice Islands are home to some of the world’s most beautiful underwater scenery. The region is famous for the crystal clear water on almost every dive, coral encrusted walls, slopes and swim-throughs. Photographers and snorkelers can visit the fastest documented growing field of hard corals in the world, covering the 1988 lava flow from Banda’s volcano, Gunung Api.
Migrating whales and pods of dolphins are frequently seen here too and the fertile volcanic mineral enriched waters seem to have offered the inhabitants a growth hormone. Over-sized specimens of many different species inhabit the pinnacles, slopes and lush walls of the area, forming a thriving marine paradise. For the more adventurous diver the season for schooling hammerhead sharks is a must.
“If you were to think about a great host and then apply that to a country, then you have this team. Responsive, attentive, alert, knowledgeable, hands on and all with clear steps and nothing hidden. Truly an effortless experience and exactly what will make any trip planned work seamlessly.”
Natalie Thompson, Chief Stewardess, MY La Familia