The Banda Islands and South Maluku
The Banda Islands are a small cluster of about ten islands in the Banda Sea, about 2,000km east of Java at the tail end of the Indonesian archipelago. So remote only the most intrepid of travellers will be brave enough to travel this far to revel in the rich colonial architecture of Banda, gasp at the perfectly conical Mount Api, and cruise around countless volcanic islands shrouded in tropical rainforest.
This region of Indonesia is the stuff of legend and features in many traditional and modern books, stories, and songs. There are as many enchantments below the water as there are above and vast shelves of coral plummet into the deep blue ocean providing one of the most biodiverse seascapes in the world. Snorkelling or scuba diving is an absolute must!
Spicey Colonial History
Formerly famous for their production of nutmeg, cloves, and mace, this cluster of islands was a sought-after jewel in the European colonial crown of the 16th century. However, when the island’s monopoly on this commodity ended in the 18th century, the region faded into gentle obscurity.
In the 21st century, these islands burst with opportunities for adventure, and this sparsely populated location has turquoise oceans thronging with marine life, deserted beaches, friendly locals, and the charming remnants of architecture from a bygone age.
The central islands form a picture-perfect crescent around the volcano, Gunung Api, and were at the heart of the Dutch and British interests. These consist of Pulau Neira and Pulau Banda Besar or the great nutmeg island.
Today explore the island of Banda Besar with its impressive array of colonial architecture and rich historical background. Visit Fort Belgica, the historic church, and the Governors House. After this, take trishaws to Fort Nassau and the local market where you can buy freshly dried Banda nutmegs, real cinnamon, handmade nutmeg, plucking baskets, and local delicacies made from the spices grown on the island.
Gunung Api, Above and Below the Waves
You can have a leisurely breakfast on the deck of the Orient Pearl before hiking up Gunung Api for an amazing panoramic view of the whole of the Banda Islands. This active volcano is 666m high and puffs sulphur clouds from vents in the crust. Keep your eyes peeled as you climb the lush jungle slopes; you might see a deer or a monkey. Exploring the lava flows under Gunung Api reveals an incredible underwater landscape covered with hard coral that has overgrown the lava from the volcano’s last eruption. This site causes marine biologists great excitement as the coral has regrown incredibly fast on top of the lava after the volcanos previous eruption. Both divers and snorkelers reap the rewards of this location.
Scuba Diving in the Banda Islands
Throughout the Banda, region, find crystal clear waters and an incomparable diversity of marine life with healthy untouched coral gardens embroidered by towering gorgonian fans, huge barrel sponges, and over 300 species of hard and soft coral, as well as some of the most coveted muck diving in Indonesia. Pursue plentiful, pygmy seahorses, leaf scorpionfish, hairy squat lobsters, whip coral shrimps, and ghost pipefish.
Moreover, this region claims to be the home of the largest Napoleon wrasse population in Indonesia, plus it offers up an abundance of other big favorites like hammerheads, rays, and turtles. Additionally, with visibility of up to 50 meters and moderate currents, most sites are suitable for the inexperienced divers as well.