Pulau Gunung Api Banda is one of ten volcanic islands in the Banda archipelago, and as you may have suspected by the name of the island, Gunung Api Banda – meaning fiery mountain – is made up entirely of a volcano. This small island chain was part of the fabled “Spice Islands” during the time of Portuguese and Dutch maritime trade, and until the mid-19th century, was the only source of nutmeg and mace in the world. The shallow waters at the foot of Gunung Api Banda are an internationally recognized dive spot. Multi-coloured corals contrast starkly with the blackened volcanic sea bed, housing a rich marine life, high in number and species diversity, despite the small total area. In 2005, the Banda islands were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Banda islands are located in the Banda Sea, approximately 130 kilometres southeast of Ambon, administratively the Banda district, Central Maluku, Maluku province.
As Gunung Api is well, a mountain, so climbing to the peak should definitely be on your list of things to do. The mountain is not too tall, yet it is a rough, but rewarding climb. The climb is a continuous, steep ascent for about 2 hours, so be sure to bring plenty of water. The trail is unmarked, but fairly difficult to miss. Roads are mainly sand or gravel and can be slippery, so good climbing shoes are advisable as well. If climbers set out with the first light of dawn, you should be back down on the shore by 11 am or 12pm.
On the trek up the mountain, you can observe the various plant life, such as the orchids and the nutmeg trees, which produce the fragrant spices men once crossed the ocean for. If you’re quiet, you may even see flocks of colourful birds perched high in the treetops or soaring in the skies above. 23 species of bird inhabit this island, many of which are endemic to Banda Region.
If you set out early enough, you should make it to the summit in time to witness the dramatic dawn over the panoramic view of the sparkling blue sea, and the surrounding rocky islets.
By the time you make it back to shore, you should be well and ready for a dip in the irresistibly cool, clear sea. Waters are fairly shallow, so whether you are a professional diver or a beginner, you can still enjoy this magical underwater paradise.
The Banda islands rest at the edge of an ocean trench, where depths reach down to 6,500 meters – the deepest in Indonesia. This greatly influences the microbiology of the Banda Sea, giving it unique marine characteristics that vary greatly from other areas in the country.
The Sonegat Sea Arm is located between Gunung Api and Banda Neira, and is the site of the lava flow where the eruption of 1988 destroyed almost all corals and marine life. The Sonegat Arm lava flow is one of the most popular dive spots in the area and one of the many “must-see” dive spots in Indonesia. After just over 20 years of rehabilitation, table corals and other hard corals have grown at an impressively rapid rate, rarely seen elsewhere in the world. Four seamounts harbour a huge amount of ocean life including yellow fin tuna, banded sea snakes, the beautiful Mandarin fish, and the rare Napoleon fish.
Ecological studies in 2001 and 2002 showed tremendous biodiversity with 310 species of reef-building coral, 871 species of fish, and high populations of grouper and shark.
How to Get There
The quickest route to the Banda Islands is through the Pattimura Airport in Ambon Island, about 36 kilometers from Ambon City. This is a domestic only airport, with flights available from Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar, Kupang, and several other smaller destinations.
The Banda Islands are also a popular destination for cruise ships, and can be accessed via various cruise companies as well. Live aboard cruises and tours are also quite popular and can be arranged at Top Indonesia Holidays.
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