On a map of Indonesia they are as small as a fly-shit and hardly anyone in Europe knows their name: The Banda Islands in eastern Indonesia have almost been forgotten.
The Banda Islands: An eventful Past
The Banda Islands todayEven today visitors feel like discoverers when they arrive by ferry or dive ship in the natural harbor of Banda.
On Banda Neira, the main island, time seems to have come to a standstill. In front of the colonial Hotel Maulana and on the battlements of the Dutch fort Belgica old cannons rustle and in the nutmeg plantations one can watch how Banda's famous fruit is harvested.
The tourists are coming back
After the civil war between 1999 and 2002, peace has returned to the Moluccas and the Banda Islands. Tourists are also returning in growing numbers and with them the tourist infrastructure comes to life again. Even some dive centers have opened their doors again in the diving season, which lies on the Banda Islands between August and May.
Also accommodations can now be found in sufficient numbers. When I visited the Banda Islands the last time in 2010 aboard the Amira there was only the time-honored but run-down Maulana Hotel, where celebrities like Mick Jagger, Jacques Cousteau and Lady Di have stayed in the past. The late boss of the hotel, Des Alwi, was something like the secret king of the Banda Islands during his lifetime. It is also thanks to him that the corals were placed under protection on the Bandas and that dynamite fishing was consistently combated.
In my Banda Sea video from 2011 I tried to capture some highlights from the Banda Islands.
Video: Banda Sea Adventure
Diving on BandaThere are several dive centers on Banda. I can recommend Bluemotion Banda. It is located in a quiet part of Bandaneira just off Banda's famous Mandarin fish dive site and has a great view of Banda's volcano, Gunung Api.
While diving you can stay in the diving center at Baba Lagoon, a simple hotel with sparsely furnished rooms. I can recommend the deluxe rooms with large verandas and a fantastic view. In addition, there are other accommodations in the town where you can stay.
Gallery: Baba Lagoon
The Banda Islands: Information for Divers
IIn Banda 300 species of hard coral and 500 species of fish have been counted. The visibility (no guarantee!) can reach fabulous 50 m especially in March / April. Here you have the chance to find everything a diver's heart desires: intact and species-rich coral reefs, steep walls and huge sponge formations (barrel sponges). During the trips to the other islands you will regularly encounter large schools of dolphins and pilot whales. In the possibly cleanest port of Indonesia you can go on Critter search and watch the rare mandarin fish at dusk.
With a little luck especially in October / November also encounters with Hammerheads are possible especially in front of the islands Ai and Hatta. In the months of January, June and July you should rather not travel to the Banda Islands. Then the weather can be bad and high waves make it impossible to come to the dive sites