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 snorkeling.

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.

Map Banda Islands

Banda Islands (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 depth.

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.

Let's 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 angle lens!

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 highlights.



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