Book an adventure trip, for example, dive Indonesia Banda Neira; before or after enjoying a luxury retreat in a hotel in Bali. The Nutmeg islands of the Banda Sea have plenty to offer. Besides absolutely amazing reefs and sea creatures, you can discover a bloody history visiting crumbling Dutch fords and join a thriving culture by joining in festivities with locals.
There are about 10 small volcanic islands in this tiny archipelago far away in the big blue ocean, part of the province of Maluku in Indonesia. They used to be at the center of the nutmeg and mace trade centuries ago. The price for these unique spices used to be higher than that of gold. That fantastic price has come down since nutmeg was ‘stolen’ and planted in other parts of the world. And with it, the Banda Islands have lost their appeal and are lost to history.
Until now! Now the pristine marine life far away from the busy cities is gaining recognition. And these remote islands are a favorite destination for divers and snorkelers from all over the world. Conservation of coral reefs and the support of sea creatures give these islands a comeback and a new place in off the beaten track tourism.
Diving and snorkeling are must do activities when visiting these islands. Natural coral reefs wrap themselves around the shores of these islands and snorkelers and divers have the opportunity to observe big and small creatures. Just off the islands of Ay or Hatta or Pisang we swam on top of vast reefs with an amazing variety of corals and fish. Some of us spotted big lobsters, turtles, juvenile sharks, various mollusks.
Once in a while you will come to a spot that is white, washed out or just simply dead. Locals used to fish with bombs or cyanide. Today this kind of harvesting is strictly forbidden and the locals understand the reasons and support the conservation efforts since they realize the potential income they get from tourism.
The best spot to watch the most diverse sea life is where the coral reef drops suddenly into the depth of the blue ocean. We spotted sea turtles big and small fishes, large schools of different kinds of fishes, some even reported having seen juvenile sharks under them. Serious divers will be taken to different spots where again our group reported having seen stingrays sharks and hammerheads.
While traveling to and from some snorkeling sessions, we observed a whale in the distance and between the islands flying fish like to give tourists a show. The best experience though was when we were encircled by dolphin schools that seemed to be interested in us, especially once our Banda guides started singing their traditional songs accompanied by a guitar. When I jumped into the water to observe them from inside their habitat, they moved away then came around again like playing with me. They swam under and toward me but still kept quite a distance after glancing at me. They kept in groups of four or five or a mother with her young. It was absolutely stunning.
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You will need to pass through Ambon to reach these islands, and this is the hotel we stayed at. When on Banda Neira, choose this homey estate to relax between activities. You will need to explore nutmeg, the spice; learn about the brutal history; how to get there and all the discoveries you can experience while there.
Hotels and home stays do work together with local guides and dive masters. You can rent snorkeling and diving equipment directly from them. We were taken out by traditional fishing boats to the best places either to snorkel or dive.
Some of the locals are incredible historians and can show you and explain the rise and fall of the fantastic Banda Islands throughout history. Visit the many crumbling Dutch fords and look at the still active nutmeg and kenari (local almond) groves.
Dive Indonesia Banda Neira and the whole archipelago is lost in time and the big blue ocean, exactly what you need for a relaxing, and very active holiday; it is worth the travel!
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