The fabled Spice Islands lie in the modern-day province of Maluku in eastern Indonesia. The Banda Islands are 200 km from the nearest port town of Ambon, and are made up of 9 islands - Run and Ai to the west, Manukang to the northwest, Pisang to the east, Hatta and Sekaru to the southeast, Banda Besar to the south, and the main central island of Banda Neira and its close neighbour, the volcano island of Gunung Api - together with 2 rock islets - Batu Kapal to the east-northeast and Keraka at the Banda Neira strait entrance.
The Banda Sea is the deepest of the numerous seas that make up the beautiful Indonesian archipelago. Typically, with depths over 4,500m, and the deepest point being over 7,300m, it is a very large body of water stretching for over 1,000 km East to West, and 500 km North to South. The Banda Sea is located North of Flores and South of Seram. While there are island chains on the edges of the Banda Sea, it retains a very “oceanic” feel to it with vast stretches of deep blue water. Within the mid-section of the Banda Sea there are very few mostly tiny islets sticking out of the water from the vast depths, with the next outcrop many miles away.
Our cruises will take you to those remote places: spots that rise from the abyss to the surface, and therefore provide a haven for marine life to concentrate around. The topography of the sites is a divers dream: to one side slopes or walls covered in a myriad of hard and soft corals, huge barrel sponges and other benthic life forms surrounded by clouds of reef fish - to the other side the deep blue of the Banda Sea – a depth from which spectacular pelagic sea creatures are likely to rise from below.
One of the main objectives of this voyage are encounters with those big fish: schools of tunas and jacks, barracudas, Spanish mackerels, but also different shark species – grey reef, silky, silvertip, thresher, and the occasional tiger shark has been spotted by our guests on the dive sites of this itinerary. But the real stars of the show are the hammerhead sharks – on quite a few different locations off the atolls and islands we have found preferred places for schooling hammerheads. Most of the dives are dedicated to the search for pelagics. This makes this trip unique for this part of the world – there is still plenty of macro fauna to be found on most dives (it is still Indonesia, after all), but this is not an itinerary specifically for macro photographers – apart from the notable exception of the mating mandarin fish in Banda Neira and the critters found in Ambon Bay. Talking of unique: how about the day spent diving around Manuk, a volcano that breaches the surface and whose slopes serve as habitat for sea snakes in large numbers… Another highlight of this ocean going trip is the visit of the Banda Archipelago - the original Spice Islands! A truly magical, goose bump inducing place, as deeply steeped into living history as it gets; we spend three days both visiting the old town with its forts, museums and historic buildings, as well as exploring its rich reefs and enjoying the spectacular exotic topside scenery in between dives. All in all, this trip can be the trip of a lifetime, with a chance for unforgettable encounters and moments both above and below the waves of the Banda Sea - a stunning place with a certain "off the beaten track" appeal…
The Intensity of marine life in this Bay is unrivalled; with a combination of nutrients pushed into this large bay with lots of small coves where critters can benefit from the passing currents but are still protected by sheltered waters. A unique combination creates conditions that nourish an incredible eco system that makes this bay one of the richest and interesting places to dive. Ambon Bay is also famous for weird species like the Psychedelic Frogfish, right here at a dive site named the twilight zone, where many different kinds of moray eel, sea moth, ribbon eel, stonefish take habitat too. The Ambon shipwreck, a Dutch cargo vessel that sunk during 1950s, is also a very photogenic site and teeming with life.
A secret place in the middle of the Banda Sea, reached by live-aboard only, makes this another unspoilt reef where not many divers witness the true nature of Pulau Suanggi and Pulau Ai. This area acts like an oasis for pelagics that cruise by these pristine hard coral reefs full of fish, which they all call home. Napoleon wrasse, green & hawksbill turtle, tuna, rainbow runner, huge schools of barracuda mixing with schools of bannerfish, redtooth triggers and fusiliers that sometimes-just cloud the whole reef.
The Banda area offers a good variety of dive sites, from volcanic rock at Pohon Miring to the black sand in Banda’s harbour, muck diving with flying gurnards spreading their electric blue wings, nervously moving sea moth, nudibranchs and the mandarin fish, which are seen in many places around the harbor of Banda Neira.
Enjoy the view of Gunung Api, a 650 metre high active volcano, from the top of Fort Belgica, built by the Dutch in 1611 and located in the historical town of Banda Neira. Clove, Nutmeg, Marc and cinnamon are still the main spices that are grown here. During the cruise you will walk you through the magical smell of the spices that once ruled the world.
Nov–Mar Spectacular diving; the best time to visit (the Banda Islands are rough in January).
Apr–May & Sep–Oct Shoulder seasons; a good time for the Banda and Kei Islands.
Jun–Aug Monsoons hit Ambon and nearby islands, but northern Maluku is normally dry.