Maluku’s eleven, tiny, isolated Banda Islands have become such a backwater in recent times that few people know of either their existence or their major historical importance. The world’s only source of nutmeg in the Middle Ages, the Banda Islands shaped the history of colonialism in the East Indies from the 16th century onwards. This was when nutmeg was more valuable than gold because it was believed to be a cure for the bubonic plague, which was devastating populations across Europe. The rich histories of these islands have made them one of our most anticipated stops in Indonesia.
Modern-day voyagers who come to Banda Neira, its main settlement, immediately see how the past forms an inescapable backdrop to the present. From a hilltop perch, the turrets of Fort Belgica cast a cautious gaze on the harbor, as fishermen unload catches of skipjack tuna and rickety boats ferry villagers to the outlying islands.The scene is anchored by the lumbering presence of Gunung Api, whose conical silhouette is visible even from Run, the most far-flung of the Bandas.
The remoteness of the islands in the wide open Banda Sea, and the low levels of human population, have meant less fishing pressures, and a vibrant, natural and healthy reef system. The results of this is that you can expect reefs bursting with life, huge seafans and sponges, some monumental hard corals, and more fish than your mask can cope with. While big fish and pelagics might be the most obvious draw card for divers at the Banda Islands, its true value is in the extraordinary variety and sheer volume of fish life, both in terms of large and small marine life.
At Banda Islands, the diving adventure is unstoppable. From the steep drop offs to the impressive hard coral all through to the fast currents, this area is absolutely breathtaking. The Banda Sea, where Spice Islands are found, is surrounded by large islands of Ambon, Buru, and Halmahera to the North, Aru, Kei towards East and Wetar, Tanimbar and Reong in the South. In these islands you will enjoy seeing a school of sea fish like large tuna, Napoleon wrasse, turtles, rays, groupers, sharks, lobsters and plenty of other seas creatures. So if you’re planning your next liveaboard vacation, this is definitely the place to be.
The amazing dive sites of the Banda Islands are best visited in March and April and during the September to December period. The weather is a little inconsistent outside of these times, so much so that many operators (even land-based) cease diving in the area as surface conditions can really kick up. The Indonesian liveaboards restrict their visits here to the calmer periods.
During these calm periods the marine life is reasonably constant with the Bandas’ schools of fish, the snakes of Gunung Api, and the critters of Ambon, all present. Visibility begins to clear up from August and then during the best months it can reach the higher end of the range (15 to 30m). Water temperatures do not vary much during the periods that liveaboards visit, namely from 26 to 29°C
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