For Nelly & Armen

April 2012.

Volcanoes, fortresses, gardens, and spices

Dear Nelly and Armen,

The Banda Islands are a group of ten small volcanic islands in the Banda Sea about 2,000km east of Java, and are part of the Indonesian province of Maluku. Until the mid 19th Century the Banda Islands were the world’s only source of the spices nutmeg and mace and, because of this, were hugely valuable to colonialists including the Portuguese, Dutch and British who have all left their mark here. This complicated, sometimes troubling, and undeniably rich meeting of cultures makes for an adventure like no other. The islands are also superb destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Day 1: Arrival in Banda

Today, you will arrive to Ambon and board Tiger Blue setting sail for Banda, looking out for dolphins and whales. In the evening, you will arrive at your accommodation and relax until nightfall. Your guide for your stay here, Mark, will meet you in the evening and give you a brief overview of the Island’s history and offerings.

Day 2: Nautical explorations

Wake with Gunung Api in view. Then, spend the day in Pulau Run for great views, wall dives and snorkeling. You will also have the opportunity to go ashore to Nailaka, the minute spit of land defended fiercely by the English against the Dutch. It was here in 1667 that the island of Run was exchanged by the British for the Dutch island of Manhattan. Mark will be sure to explain any historical details of interest to you.

Day 3: Markets and colonial history

Locals come to visit Tiger Blue on kora kora boats—if you like, challenge the crew to a race into Banda Niera harbor. From here, explore on land and tour the island of Banda visiting Fort Belgica, the historic church, and the Governorʼs House. Savor the wonderful colonial architecture, and then take trishaws to Fort Nassau. There, you will visit the local market where you can buy freshly dried Banda nutmegs, real cinnamon, handmade nutmeg plucking baskets, and local delicacies made from the spices grown on the island.

In the evening, board Tiger Blue and take the short sail to ‘Catseye’ beach on Banda Besar.

Day 4: Watersports

Begin your day with an early morning sail to Pulau Hatta. There, with assistance from Mark, who, in addition to his knowledge of the area holds a scuba certification, you will snorkel, dive, fish, water ski, wakeboard or kayak. When you’ve had your fill of these activities, set sail for Hatta Island, where you can have a pleasant walk before sunset drinks.

Day 5: Volcanoes and nutmeg

Today, you will hike up the volcano for a fabulous view of the whole of the Banda Islands. You may see deer on the volcano slopes. One volcano, Gunung Api, is active and you will see sulphur clouds escaping from vents in the crust. In the afternoon, you will descend from these mesmerizing heights and visit “Spongiby” nutmeg plantation, where you will learn about nutmeg-growing techniques and history from the local farmers.

Day 6: Underwater

Today you will get to further hone your diving and snorkeling technique. You will get an underwater view of the the lava flows under Gunung Api as you swim in this area, and will also get an impeccable view of coral and smaller fish species.

Day 7: Bird Island

Today you will head to Bird Island, a dramatic rocky outcrop that is home to thousands of Frigate birds. You can explore the Island with guidance and botanical insight from Mark, or, if you haven’t had enough yet, you can choose to snorkel here, too. There is great snorkeling to be found on the reef, and divers commonly find Hammerhead sharks in impressive numbers.

Nelly and Armen, it has been a pleasure planning this itinerary for you. If you are in need of assistance from me in the future, please do not hesitate to reach out.