Maluku Travel Information - Banda Islands

The Bandas: Beautiful Nutmeg Islands

Isolated from the rest of Central Maluku, the dozen little volcanic islands that make up the Banda archipelago are the most wanted tourist destination in the whole of Maluku. Fortunately, most wanted doesn't equal most visited in this case, as these pretty little islets remain somewhat time-consuming to reach which keeps the crowds away.

History alone could be a major attraction here. While the islands of North Maluku made their empires trading their cloves, Banda used to be the World's only source of good quality nutmeg. No sultanates and empires were made of it here though, trade was in the hands of a number of local "orang kaya", and the spices were traded for such basic necessities of life as foodstuff from the neighbouring islands and clothing from further west. Until the Europeans arrived, that is. When the Dutch took control of the Bandas, they were so ruthless about getting the whole business to themselves that they simply massacred the entire native population, with the few survivors fleeing to the Kei Islands where their descendants live today. So keen were the Dutch to control all of Banda, that in what seems to be a truly unbelievable act today, they traded away the island of Manhattan (yes, THAT Manhattan!) to the British in exchange for the last remaining island yet to come under their rule: Run. Once the locals were out of their way, the islands were repopulated with slaves from Sulawesi and Java, whose descendants live here today, and the local Dutch competed with each other in building more and more impressive residences to themselves. Banda's once unique nutmeg has long lost its high value, and today the islands have become a quiet backwater. While this may not make the locals happy, it also means that they have been spared from the evils of modern development, and colonial architecture, largely gone from bustling Ternate and Ambon, remains impressively well-preserved here.

Colonial architecture and all the scenic beauty - Banda even has its own active volcano - could well be enough to draw the tourists here, but to top all that, the surrounding seas harbour some of the richest marine life in all Indonesia. Coral reefs here are largely undamaged by dynamite-fishing, lots of large pelagic fish swim by, and visibility can reach 30-40 metres. Snorkellers can see more here than divers elsewhere! Add to this the fact that budget accommodation in Banda, often in old, stylish colonial homes, is some of the cheapest and yet best in Maluku, and you will quickly see the appeal of these islands.

For more information, select individual islands from the menu bar!

Getting There

By air

Since early 2013, flights to Bandaneira have once again been run by Merpati, not NBA. In theory they run twice a week - Mondays and Saturdays as of latest, but check locally. Cancellations are a definite possibility, especially when the weather is bad, so don't plan tight schedules around these flights!

Note that if their schedules suit you, Pelni ships still remain a more reliable (and scenic) way of reaching the Bandas.

By sea

As of early 2013, 2 Pelni ships are scheduled to stop at Bandaneira. The more reliable Tidar leaves Ambon every 2 weeks or so, usually returning ca 5 days later. So if depending on this ship, you stay either 4 days in the Bandas before returning to Ambon, or 2 weeks before continuing to the Keis. The less reliable and rather filthier Kelimutu  runs this route only once every 4 weeks. These routes may change any time - check the latest  on www.pelni.co.id/

There are also very occasional cargo boats from Seram, with no predictable schedules.