Combining natural beauty, a warm local heart, and a palpable and fascinating history, this remote cluster of 10 picturesque islands isn’t just Maluku’s choice travel destination, it’s one of the best in Indonesia. Particularly impressive undersea drop-offs are vibrantly plastered with multicoloured coral gardens offering superlative snorkelling and diving. The central islands – Pulau Neira and Pulau Banda Besar (the great nutmeg island) – curl in picturesque crescents around a pocket-sized tropical Mt Fuji (Gunung Api, 656m).
Outlying Hatta, Ai and Neilaka each have undeveloped picture-postcard beaches. And Run, a gnarled limestone island sprouting with nutmeg and cloves, is one drop-dead gorgeous historical footnote. Getting to the islands takes time but with a fast-boat service from Ambon (in the dry season anyway) and talk of a new airport, Banda is becoming more accessible and seems set to see more visitors in the near future. So get here now, before everyone else does.
Magia II will be moored 20 minutes from the airport, making your transfer by car and tender an easy journey. Set sail from Ambon to Banda, looking out for whales and dolphins along the way.
Wake with volcano Gunung Api framed by the sunrise. Spend the day at Run Island and enjoy great views, snorkeling and coral wall dives. The Dutch were so keen to control the rare nutmeg plantations, they gave the British the island of Manhattan in exchange for Run Island in 1677. The day also presents an opportunity to go ashore to inspect Nailaka islet, which used to hold an English fort.
Locals come to visit Magia II in kora kora boats and challenge the crew to a race into Banda Neira harbour. From here, explore on land and tour the island of Banda and its impressive colonial architecture. Visit Fort Belgica, the historic church and the Governor’s house. Discover the Fort Nassau and the local market. Buy freshly dried Banda nutmegs, real cinnamon, handmade nutmeg plucking baskets and local delicacies made from the spices grown on the island. Back onboard, take the short sail to Catseye beach on Banda Besar.
Early morning sail to Pulua Hatta. Practice several watersports and then set sail for Hatta Island for walks and sunset drinks.
GUNUNG API VOLCANO
Hike up Gunung Api for a panoramic view of the whole of the Banda Islands, with the chance of spotting a deer en route. This active volcano is 666 m high and sulphur clouds can be seen escaping from vents in the crust. Afternoon outing to Spongiby nutmeg plantation.
DIVING / SNORKELING ON LAVA FLOWS
Dive and snorkel on the lava flows under Gunung Api, an incredible underwater landscape.
Head to Bird Island, a dramatic rocky outcrop that is home to thousands of frigate birds. An opportunity for great snorkeling on the reef and for diving in these rich waters. Hammerhead sharks are commonly seen here. Set off for the overnight return sail to Ambon.
After breakfast, pack and prepare to disembark, returning to the airport by boat and car.