The Banda Islands are one of Indonesias top destinations for divers.
Both experts and beginners will enjoy themselves here, as the diving
ranges from the shallow lagoon between Banda Neira and Gunung Api to the
vertical walls of Hatta Island, the most easterly in the group. The
Bandas offer stunning tropical scenery, a remarkable history, friendly
villages, and some of the globe’s most pristine, biologically diverse
coral reefs. Scuba is new here, but the pioneering divers didn’t have to
work hard for their thrills. The undersea world around Ambon and the
nearby island of Saparua have top-rate dive sites. Highlights among reef
walls here are the presence of large marine life - sharks, enormous
turtles, schools of Napoleon Wrasse, giant groupers, tuna, rays, and
huge lobsters - neighbors to generous schools of reef fish.
Banda Islands, about 132 kilometers southeast of Ambon, consists of
three larger islands and seven smaller ones, perched on the rim of
Indonesia’s deepest sea, the Banda Sea. Near the island Manuk, the water
reaches a depth of more than 6,500 meters. Of the three biggest islands
Banda, Banda-Neira and Gunung Api, the first two are covered with
nutmeg trees and other vegetation. The third however, is entirely bare
and highly volcanic. The seas around Banda are the site of the famous
Maluku sea gardens with their bright corals and colorful fish darting
through the crystal- clear waters and makes it suited to dive, snorkel
or even just sightseeing.
The Banda Islands Dive Sites Sonegat:
The nearest site for a decent dive is just five minutes by boat from
the hotels. It is in the sonegat-sea arm- between Banda Neira and Gunung
Api, just offshore from a little seaside house owned by Des Alwi, the
Bandas most famous son. The drop off here is steep and the wall extends
down 25 meters to a grey, sandy bottom. There were few fish around, but a
good sized dogtooth tuna cruised by and some beautiful blue girdled and
Keraka Island: Pulau Keraka or Crab Island is
just a few minutes further out, and protects the north entrance of the
Neira ” Gunung Api sea passage. A nice sandy stretch on the north coast
is perfect for picnic. At the south shore, there are some 18 meters down
a mini-wall covered with hundreds of large blue-and-yellow tunicates.
To the east shore, you may see at 10 meters a good assortment of reef
fish and a school of half meter long barracudas.
and Batu Kapal: Sjahrir Island or formerly known as Pisang Island
(Banana Island) and Batu Kapal (Boat Stone) are just 20 minutes by boat
from the hotels on Banda Neira. These two sites combine well for a
morning dive, a picnic on the beach, and an afternoon dive.
Api: In May 1988, the explosion from this mountain has killed of most
of the off-shore coral formations around Gunung Api, but amazingly
spared many sponges. Some corals are beginning to to grow back, but by
and large the seascape remains bleak. There are no walls off Gunung Api.
The bottom slopes gradually to 30-35 meters.
Lontar Island: The
outer edge of Lontar Island, which represents part of the rim of a
sunken caldera, offers several good dive sites.
Batu Belanda: On
this site, you will find many barrel and tube sponges and small caves
and cracks. The fish were varied and plentiful: a school of snappers,
large emperor and blue-girdled angelfish, wrasses, a large pinnate
bat-fish and numerous bannerfish
Ai Island: Together with Hatta Island, this island offers Bandas best
diving. Both the north coast and the south “west of Ai are ringed with
flawless coral walls, which are rugged and full of caves, the kind of
habitat that harbors fish.
Hatta Island: Hatta Island is about
25 km by sea from Banda Neira. Skaru atoll, a barely submerged reef a
few hundred meters off the southern point of Hatta. On a coral outcrop,
watch the passing parade of Unicornfish, Fusiliersm Jack Fish and
Rainbow Runners, often seen Whitetip Sharks (almost 2 meters) and
Dogtoothed Tuna, Napolean Wrasse, and Hawksbill Turtles.
There First you need to get to Ambon. You can fly
either direct from Denpasar, Bali or transit in Ujung Pandang.
Ambon, you can get to Banda Islands by a small plane or using Merpati
Airlines. Or you can schedule to arrive in Ambon in time for the ferry
(which is available once every two weeks).
To Do Non
divers need not worry about boredom. Beside snorkeling in the lagoon
right off Banda Neira, you can try the tennis courts or the short
pleasure trips around Banda Neira.
For those who bring children,
they can swim in calm waters or watch the fish and turtles in two
enclosures in the lagoon. There are a few sharks in an enclosed area.,
so they won’t bother your swimming. Don’t worry, the guys in charge have
Many days can be spent around these lush islands.
Spices are still grown here and the local people still make traditional
food and snacks using these once very rare and sought after spices.
can also take short walks to see the forts left behind by the Dutch,
visits plantations of nutmeg. The trek up Gunung Api will surely leave a
lasting impression with amazing panoramic views if the islands
surrounding Banda Neira.
To Stay There
are plenty of small, very inexpensive places to stay around Bandas that
you can choose to stay with varied price and facilities.
Eat There are only a few small restaurants serving a
variety of Indonesian foods.
To Buy Try
to buy some local souvenirs here or traditional foods and snacks. Hint:
if you can’t recognize what it is, chances are, they’re traditional.
* Diving is possible all year round, but the monsoon may restrict your
choice of dive sites from July to September * Diving is usually
comfortable, with good visibility and calm waters, but some of the dive
sites are subject to conditions that make them suitable for experienced
divers only * Don’t forget to equip yourself with diving
equipments, surf board and snorkel * Try to hire equipment from
larger firms as these tend to be more reliable, but remember the
responsibility of checking the equipment is ultimately yours *
Bring a bathing suit and extra clothings