You probably have heard little of Banda Neira. It is a small island very far from Bali with its comfortable hotels; it takes time and effort to get there and it is so worth the patience and struggle.
Out there in the middle of the vast blue ocean far from any other island float the Spice Islands, made famous by the humble nutmeg. Four hundred years ago everybody’s eyes were focused on these hidden, mystical far away Spice Islands that produced the fabled nutmeg. This flavor enhancer, that is used today in many different industries like cooking, cosmetics, medicine, perfume and more used to be priced higher than gold.
People in Europe were absolutely crazy to get their hands on it to improve the shelf life of some food-stuff and increase the enjoyment of dishes. This fascination and need also caused enormous tragedies for the locals who had no idea to what extent the colonialists would go to claim nutmeg exclusively for themselves.
Today we can visit the ruins of not less than 5 fortifications on Banda Island alone. The Dutch vehemently protected their colony and their fortune. As well as on the other Spice Islands to the north, Halmahera, and Ternate where clove originated, the colonialists did not want any part of these trees except the dried spice to be exported. That way, nobody could cultivate these crops in other parts of Indonesia or the world to compete with the Vereenigde Ostindische Compagnie (VOC, Dutch East India Company). Eventually, these spices were ‘stolen’ and cultivated in, for example, Madagascar and other places. And of course the price collapsed and finally, the islands that created these wondrous seasonings were forgotten, scratched from history.
Today these fabulous islands are on the come back because of their beautiful and plentiful marine life. The coral reefs around the islands are abundant and healthy supporting a huge variety of fish and other creatures. Snorkeling will allow you to observe this striking aquarium from the top and spot a huge number of fish, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, and others. Divers will be able to drop down further for bigger fish, maybe stingrays, bigger sharks, even Hammer Heads.
And after or between that you go on a cultural tour; here is more on the bloody history, the nutmeg. Here is my recommendation for accommodation. You need to know how to get to these far away islands, with a stop in Ambon and the hotel we stayed at.
The Phinisi is a traditional two-masted sailing ship that used to transport cargo between the many islands. Today some of them have been transformed into cruise ships or newly built with passenger comfort in mind. We visited one while it was in Benoa Port in Bali.
While in Banda Neira the beautiful Silolona was anchored in the bay. The American Ambassador had chartered it to sail from Ambon to Banda to participate in the celebration 350-year‘ Treaty of Breda’, the exchange of the islands of Manhattan for Rhun.
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