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.
Diving is the main attraction here. Surrounded by crystal clears waters filled with exotic marine life, the Banda Islands are the ideal place to dive underneath the surface and explore the underwater world. Hordes of colorful fish and other sea critters that even the most experienced diver may never have seen live in these waters. With more than 25 dive sites, you will not get bored. Some of the most popular spots are Pulau Ai (beware during rough sea), Batu Kapal, Hatta Reef (Karang Hatta), Pulau Keraka, and Nusa Laut.
Sailing is an activity for those who see the seas as a frontier to conquer. Sail Banda is one of the most prominent events that brings hundreds to the waters amidst the lush volcanic islands. For sailors, Sail Banda 2010 [sailbanda.com] is an event you won’t want to miss. This event attracts the bravest sailors from around the world who will come to Banda to conquer the challenging conditions and windy surroundings.
Bandaneira is a charming sleepy town with tree-line streets. Take a stroll around and see the crumbling remnants of the town’s colonial past. The renovated fort, Belgica Fort, is a 17th century fortification, where for a small entrance fee you can go inside and visit this relic from a period when the spice trade dominated the island. If you are patient and wait for the best lighting, you will be able to capture some stunning photography.
Get some awe inspiring sunrise views and on Pulau Gunung with a climb to the summit of Gunung Api. Scaling this active volcano is a challenging 90 minute hike and guides are available.
Cool off with a relaxing swim at the beaches on the south coast of Banda Besar or on the tiny Pulau Nailaka.
Other hiking trips can be booked at the Maulana Hotel to explore other attractions like traditional villages, and four-century old nutmeg groves. There is plenty to see and feel as you walk through the pages of history here.
Taken from Indonesia.travel