The Banda Islands probably are one
of the few places in Indonesia where you can find the perfect
combination of excellent diving, interesting history and beautiful
nature and landscape. These ‘spice islands’ certainly are a most
suitable destination for a combination of land trips and diving or
Bandaneira seen from Gunung Api. Left
of the town is the airstrip visible.
The cone shaped volcano pointing out
of the sea is a beautiful landmark in the landscape and gives an
amazing view on the area to those who have the energy to climb to
its top. In the mornings and evenings the sea between the main
island Neira, Banda Besar and the volcano (called Gunung Api) can be
flat like a mirror giving a serene relaxing atmosphere. Neira and
Banda Besar have roads, but only a few cars. An airstrip on Neira
serves the occasional planes flying between Neira and Ambon.
The last eruption of the volcano, which has a height of 656 meter,
was in 1988. A big stream of lava entered the sea at the north and
south-western side of the mountain. It is surprising to see how this
underwater lava flow, which became basaltic boulders up to 27 meters
depth, has been covered with coral already.
(please click image for larger version)
The Banda Islands consists of eleven islands located in the Banda
Sea, about 200 km south-east of Ambon. The three main islands are
Neira, Banda Besar and Gunung Api. The administrative centre is
located at the island Neira in the little town called Bandaneira.
The largest island is Banda Besar which measures about 12 km in
length and about 3 km in width. The islands are part of the district
Maluku Tengah in the province Maluku Selatan and have a total land
area of 172 km2. Their total population is about 19,000. The Banda
Sea is Indonesia’s deepest sea, reaching at some places 6,500 m
The islands have attracted regional and international traders for
more than 3,000 years. Prior to 1500, no European had ever landed on
the shores of Maluku, but there had always been Asian traders. The
biggest and most valuable commodities were nutmeg and cloves.
The production and export of nutmeg was a VOC monopoly for almost
two hundred years. The Banda Islands was for a long time the only
place where the nutmeg was allowed to be grown.
Neira harbors historic buildings and places that have their origin
in colonial times. Two of these are Fort Belgica and Fort Nassau,
once important strongholds of the Dutch. Fort Belgica is one of the
largest remaining European Forts in Indonesia. Further there is the
old Dutch cemetery and some colonial houses. In one of these houses
Hatta (who later would become Indonesia’s first vice-president) was
living when he was kept in exile by the Dutch.
Other interesting colonial buildings are the governors’ house and
the old church.
The "MSY Seahorse" in front of Fort Belgica
On Banda Besar there is an interesting nutmeg plantation. Next to
that there are the Fort Hollandia in Lontoir and Fort Concordia in
in the village of Weyer.
The Banda island most to the west, called Run, has played an
important role in English-Dutch rivalry. Finally, under the Treaty
of Breda (1667), the British traded the small island for Manhattan,
giving the Dutch full control of the Banda archipelago.
not forget the diving. This is what the people of the “Sea Horse”
say about diving around the Banda Islands:
Both Pulau Run and Pulau Ai have pristine clear waters, lovely walls
and good fish life. You might go a bit deeper in search of more
hammerheads. Other big fish that can be seen here are napoleons,
schools of black snappers and bumpheads.
In diving there are a few really unique areas in the world and the
dive under the pier of Banda Neira is one of them... . The size of
the mandarin fish are just out of this world, you might need a wide
If you are looking for other critters, cockatoo wasp fish, flying
gurnards, frog fish, juvenile barramundis, juvenile emperor angle
fish, juvenile sweetlips... , plenty of chances!
The hard coral garden under the lava flow of Gunung Api should not
be missed. It is a miracle to dive in a garden that has grown in
such a short period of time after the eruption of 1988.
Batu Kapal, at the entrance of Banda offers some of the bigger fans
you will see and it is full of life, a real fishy dive.
A bit south is Hatta, consisting of an underwater coral garden with
a friendly school of bumpheads and some white tips among its