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Banda Islands

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Banda Islands

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The Banda Islands (Kepulauan Banda) are an archipelago in South Maluku (Moluccas), Indonesia.


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Once known as the Spice Islands, an epithet also applies to the entire Maluku area, the Bandas were famous as a source of spices, especially nutmeg. First colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch soon wrested control of the islands and fought the Spice Wars with the British. In the Treaty of Breda in 1667, the British agreed to withdraw and gave up Pulau Run to the Dutch, partly in exchange for one small island on the other side of the world: New Amsterdam, now better known as Manhattan.


Get in

The Bandas are really off the beaten track. Currently there are no regular scheduled flights to Banda, so the islands are only accessible by boat, with Pelni's Tidar and Kelimutu liners calling at the Bandaneira port. Both seem to complete their routes in more or less biweekly cycle and both stop at Banda twice (once heading from Ambon to the south Molucas and one comming back from the south Molucas to Ambon), so an average of 4 arrivals per month can be expected. The Pelni schedules are usually not available far ahead in time so no much planning in advance is possible, but one can be almost sure to get another ship in two weeks. In all cases it's highly recommended to check the Pelni website for up-to-date information on ships and routes as this seems to change. Bear in mind that delays and pickpocketing are quite a common thing in a Pelni journey.

A couple of Perintis ships (which are rather cargo ships lacking passenger comodities but seem to take passengers anyway) are also calling at Banda, their schedules most probably have to be checked in place once at Bandaneira or Ambon.

Get Around

Getting around on Bandaneira is either by foot, ojek or becak. The furthermost village in the north is a 45 minute walk. However most places of interest to tourists (airport, harbour, market, colonial houses, Pelni office) are within walking distance or located in the town of Bandaneira.

Access to other islands is provided by boat. Regular connections go to Pulau Banda Besar and Pulau Ai, the latter usually leaving during morning hours. Other islands can be reached for day-trips by chartered boats (Pulau Hatta Rp 500,000/day; Pulau Pisang + Batu Kapal Rp 350,000/day; Half-Day tour to the Lava Stream north of Gunung Api Rp 120,000). For mountain hikes up to Gunung Api local fishermen are more than happy to carry you across for Rp 10,000 each way.


  • Benteng Belgica. Old fort ruin that can be visited (Rp 20,000).


  • Scuba diving. Very healthy corals, abundant marine life of all sizes and non-crowded dive sites due to the fact that there is only one dive centre in the islands, make diving here a very unique experience.
    • Bluemotion, [1]. The only dive operator in the Banda Islands (as of May 2013).
  • Snorkelling. Day-trips can be arranged through guest houses or locals owning boats. Great drop-offs include Pulau Hatta, Pulau Pisang, Batu Kapal, Pulau Ai and the northern shore of Pulau Gunung Api just off the cold lava stream. Make sure that your boat captain knows the sites and make arrangements for lunch as there are no warungs on most islands!
  • Climb Gunung Api. Climbing the highest peak of the Bandas (667m above sea level) offers great views and some vulcanic insight. The trail starts at the few houses on the eastern shore and although it is unmarked almost impossible to miss. Bring plenty of water (minimum 3l per person!) as the trail is continously ascending for around 2 hours. Good shoes are advisable as the path is stony and slippery. No guide necessary but not a bad idea if you intend to climb without anyone else. The current fare for boat transport from Bandaneira to Gunung Api is Rp 10,000 per way and boat.
  • Island Walk. Stroll around the island to explore smaller villages in the north and the runway of the airport.


  • Barracuda and other fish. Ikan Bakar (grilled fish) is served in guesthouses and rumah makan (restaurants). However you might need to inform the guesthouse if you intend to eat there. Most rumah makan do not store fish as freezers are uncommon and fresh fish can be bought every morning. Therefore you might need to order fish one day in advance or join the chef to the market and buy the fish yourself.
  • Nutmeg Jam. Available in guesthouses and small stores in Bandaneira.
  • Buah Pala. The fruit of the nutmeg tree can be found as a dried sweet snack along the main street in Bandaneira.
  • Harbor market. Upon the arrival of the Pelni ships, the harbor area comes to life with dozens of street stalls selling fresh grilled fish and vegetable dishes. Try spicy tuna on a stick with sambal.


There are no bars or restaurants serving alcoholic drinks in Bandaneira. However some guesthouses have chilled beer (Rp 30,000 per big bottle Bintang) and fresh juices (Rp 15,000).


  • Mawar Guesthouse, +62 091021083/+6285343060496 email [email protected]. This guesthouse is located at the Governor Van Banda Pleace. The jetty is a wonderful hangout place and Saiful, the manager of this homestay, provides lots of useful information about the Bandas and activities in English language. Snorkelling gear rental and boat charter easily available from the private jetty. The dinner (Rp 50,000 per person) is very tasty. Room rates are incl. breakfast: Fan Room Double Rp 80,000.
  • Mutiara Guesthouse, +62 813 30343377. Mutiara Guesthouse has nicely furnished and clean rooms. It has spacy common rooms and a lovely courtyard. The owner Abba speaks fluent English and some German/Dutch. There is a highly recommendable dinner buffet for Rp. 80,000 per person. Room rates are incl. breakfast: AC Room Double Rp 125,000; Fan Room Double Rp 90,000; Fan Room Single Rp 70,000.
  • Vita Guesthouse, +62 819 45090110. This guesthouse is located at the waterside facing Gunung Api. The jetty is a wonderful hangout place and Alan, the manager of this homestay, provides lots of useful information about the Bandas and activities in English language. Snorkeling gear rental and boat charter easily available from the private jetty. The dinner (Rp 50,000 per person) is very tasty. Room rates are incl. breakfast: Fan Room Double Rp 80,000; AC Room Double Rp 100,000.

Stay safe

Bandaneira is generally a safe place for tourists and there are no annoyances like in other Indonesian cities. Traffic is very little and calm.

Warning: There have been frequent reports of pickpocketing at the ferry terminal. The jostle upon arrival of the big Pelni boat is an ideal place to remove the wallet out of your pocket or to cut your money belt. It is advised to pay high attention and store your valuables safely!

Keep in mind that Indonesian ferries have generally low safety standards. In particular overloaded small boats e.g. to Pulau Ai might be hazardous during rough sea.

Other Information

There is one ATM machine on the Banda Islands for mastercards (2013)! The local BRI branch will not change any money. You might be able changing US$ to Rp at some guesthouses at an unfavorable rate of around Rp 8,000 for US$ 1. Therefore, come prepared and bring sufficient cash from Ambon or Tual.

For the time being there are only two mobile phone operators on the Banda Islands: Telkomsel and XL. SIM cards and top-up for the two providers can be bought in Bandaneira. Reception on Pulau Ai is limited to XL and is only available at the jetty.

Internet is provided by local operators. Guesthouses and shops sell credits for this local wlan.

Get out

the prices are not correct as of dec 2011

-Mutiara buffet is 80.000 -Delfika guesthouses are missing

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