The Banda Sea
A spectacularly varied collection of islands peppering a remote sea
The Banda Sea is a largely unexplored region of Indonesia that boasts an incredible variety of dive sites and a colourful history.
At its western edge it is fringed by Flores and Komodo, home of the legendary Komodo Dragons. Along the south, an endless chain of islands offer pristine reefs washed by strong currents that bring with them both large and small marine life in incredible numbers. To the north are the teeming marine jungles of Ambon and Raja Ampat.
Finally, scattered across the otherwise barren middle of the sea are islands such as Gunung Api which have become oases of marine life...including the largest known congregations of sea snakes!
The Banda Sea is the sea of the South Moluccas in Indonesia. Technically, it is part of the Pacific Ocean, but it is separated from it by hundreds of islands and the Halmahera and Ceram Seas. Some of the bordering islands include Sulawesi to the west, Ambon, Buru, Ceram, Timor, and more.
Although the middle of the sea is vast and largely open (with a few notable exceptions), its borders are particularly hazardous to navigation -- many small rocky islands are uncharted. The Banda Sea covers nearly 500,000 km².
Diving for all Tastes
Because of its large geographical footprint, the islands of the Banda Sea offer many different underwater habitats and experiences. There is something to please every diver!
Those interested in big animals will not be disappointed. Strong ocean currents buffet some islands and consequently attract the usual suspects: mantas, mobula rays, large schools of tuna, dolphins, and several species of whales. On the other hand, the Banda Sea is just as overflowing with small creatures: prolific mandarinfish, frogfishes, seahorses, scorpionfishes, nudibranchs, and everything in between. Sometimes a quick trip from one side of an island to the other will turn a heart-pounding shark dive into a peaceful macro haven.
Diving in most regions of the Banda Sea is very 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.
Islands Steeped in History
The Banda Islands, also known as the Spice Islands, lie in the modern day province of Maluku in eastern Indonesia. The islands are 200 km from the nearest port town of Ambon, and are made up of nine islands, the central of which are Banda Neira and Gunung Api. Prior to 1500, no European had ever set foot on the Banda Islands, although Asian traders had been aware of them at least 1500 years earlier.
The most valuable commodities traded on the islands were (and still are) nutmeg and cloves, which were in such high demand at the time that the Banda Islands became the most valuable fragments of land in the world. At different times in their histories, the islands were claimed by the Portugese, the Dutch, and the English, now resting in Indonesian hands. To this day, the primary exports of the Banda Islands are spices.
When visiting the Banda Sea, be sure to explore the islands' cultural history just as much as their natural history!
Due to the sheer size of the region, the best points of access depend on the particular itinerary. However some common starting points are Maumere, Sorong, and Ambon. Our travel booking agent Reef & Rainforest can help you arrange your flight and hotel details.