Seemingly insignificant islands in the middle of nowhere in the Banda Sea, in fact the Banda Islands are steeped in history and blessed with some of the finest scuba diving in the country. Central to the spice trade of old, and former home to exiled freedom fighters, the islands are now enjoying a growing reputation for what goes on below the water's surface.
If big pelagics are your thing then an Indonesian dive vacation here could be for you, but from a wider perspective the real beauty of diving in the Banda Islands is the immense variety and volumes of both large and small fish species.
The islands are remote in the wide open Banda Sea, and the sparse human population has meant less fishing pressures, and a vibrant, natural and healthy reef system. This has resulted in incredible numbers of fish, huge seafans and sponges, and some monumental hard coral reefs.
Everyone likes different things, and while a whale shark might be heaven to you, your buddy could be more keen on spotting pygmy seahorses. However, the beauty of Banda is that there is such a wide range of creatures that most scuba divers will be delighted with their underwater encounters. Even the most world-weary diver will be in raptures at the sheer density of marine life.
Creatures worthy of special mention that characterise diving in the Banda Sea are the numerous dogtooth tuna and mobula rays. At many sites you will see enormous schools of fusiliers and thousands of redtooth tirggerfish. At the other end of the size scale, there are a prolific number of mandarinfish and the native Ambon scorpionfish. Banda liveaboards also often report sightings of spinner dolphins, orcas, and various whale species, including melonhead, blue, pilot, and humpback whales. It is a certainty that you will see plenty of big stuff as well as plenty of colourful reef life.
Conditions are usually comfortable, with mild currents, good visibility and calm waters, but some of the dive sites are subject to stronger currents that make them suitable for experienced divers only.
Topside, these Banda Islands boast climbable volcanic mountains which are covered in lush green vegetation. For a taste of historic atmosphere going ashore in Banda Neira is a must for its remnants from the old spice trade of colonial times.
At Karang Hatta you'll be mesmerised by flashing, yellow clouds of never-ending schools of fusiliers; and watch out for eagle rays, barracuda, tuna and scalloped hammerheads. Check out the sponges, so huge you won't believe your eyes, and enjoy the vast variety of life including turtles, mobula rays, trevally and more in this rich and diverse dive spot.
Batu Kapal is unique in the area with its series of pinnacles. It features towering barrel sponges and awe-inspiringly huge gorgonian fans, as well as colourful fields of tunicates and soft corals. Add to this the big pelagics, potato cod, barracuda and grey reef sharks near the pinnacles' bases and the myriad little reef dwellers in the shallows, and you begin to see why this site is among the favourites of those lucky enough to be diving the Banda Sea.
Dive The World Indonesia's Recommendations: Karang Hatta, Batu Kapal and Pulau Ai.
More detailed information available on the dive sites of the Banda region (on our www.dive-the-world.com website).
If you need accommodation in Indonesia then hotelscombined.com, our affiliated hotel reservation specialists with the 'Lowest Price Guarantee', has a wide range of hotel options:
The months of March and April, and mid/late-September to early/mid-December are the best times for diving in the Banda Sea, based upon surface conditions. Any trips arranged outside of these times would be reliant upon the weather and should be avoided.
The Banda islands are normally accessed via Ambon. Ambon and Banda are included in liveaboard safaris which may use ports such as Kalabahi in Alor, Sorong in Raja Ampat or Saumlaki in Maluku.
Great for: Large animals, small animals, visibility, underwater photography, wall dives, reef life and health, and advanced divers
Not so great for: Diving for beginners
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 15 - 30m
Currents: Gentle, but can be strong
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience Level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~25 (plus ~30 more in the greater Lucipara and Ambon/Seram/Nusa Laut region)
Distance: ~200 km east southeast of Ambon (14 hours), 1,650 km east northeast of Bali (83 hours), 320 south west of West Papua (16 hours)
Access: Indonesian liveaboards
Recommended length of stay: 7 - 14 days
Other sites that can be visited as part of a Banda Sea liveaboard cruise: