Pink anemonefish perched on its host, a magnificent anemone

About the Banda Islands

Snorkeling the remote and historic Spice Islands

The Spice Islands, Banda, Ambon, and Seram, are islands we visit on our Coral Triangle Adventures snorkeling tours

The Bandas are a tiny cluster of ten volcanic islands located about 150 km south of the island of Ceram in the Banda Sea. The Banda Islands are part of a larger group of islands called the Maluku Islands (Moluccas), but perhaps a more familiar name for them would be the Spice Islands.

The romantic era of sailing to explore the world, often referred to as the ‘Age of Exploration’ (16th – 19th centuries), a time when the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch ruled the seas, was, in no small part, promoted by Europe’s desire for a spice that could only be found on select islands in central Indonesia. Nutmeg and mace grew exclusively in the Maluku Islands, collectively known as the Spice Islands. For several centuries some of these tiny islands; particularly the Banda Islands, were the focus of wars, trans-oceanic races, and global trade in a quest to monopolize the highly valued spice. As soon as nutmeg was successfully grown on islands closer to Europe and the tastes of modern civilization changed, the ‘Spice Islands’, once the center of maritime activity, soon became all but forgotten. Today, the islands remain largely left alone and are far from the beaten path for travelers. Though once prized for their nutmeg, they are now prized for their pristine coral reefs and amazing diversity as they reside in the geographic epicenter of the Coral Triangle. Fields of colorful corals host thousands of reef fish including many of the big predators such as large groupers, snappers, sharks, and Napoleon wrasses. Celebrated explorer and naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace wrote of the Banda Islands,

“Banda is a lovely little spot, its three islands enclosing a secure harbour from whence no outlet is visible, and with water so transparent, that living corals and even the minutest objects are plainly seen on the volcanic sand at a depth of seven or eight fathoms.”

Our 12-day cruise begins in Ambon and ends in Sorong, Raja Ampat. Along the way we will spend our days snorkeling on many of the spectacular reefs that can be found in the Banda Islands and Raja Ampat! We will also have the opportunity to visit a nutmeg plantation and some of the historical sites such as Fort Belgica, bringing us back to a time when sailing ships ruled seas in search of discovery and trade.

Click on any of the images to learn more about the Banda Islands

Gunung Api in the Banda Islands shows remnants of the path that the lava took, as a result of the 1988 eruption, as it flowed from the flanks of the mountain into the surrounding sea.

Snorkeling on a lava flow

Mandarinfish at Banda Neira are easy to spot, and tend to be quite large compared to other individuals around the Coral Triangle

Mandarifish of Banda Niera

Run was traded by the English for the Dutch-owned island of Manhattan during the spice island wars.

A good trade? I guess it depends…


Super male Napoleon wrasse in the Banda Islands

The Banda Islands are all about big fish!

Canon at Fort Belgica, Banda Niera, Banda Islands

Fort Belgica, Banda Niera

The Banda Islands offer some of the best snorkeling in the world

Healthy and diverse reefs


Click on a tour date below to read about trip details including accommodationspricing, and how you can join us!



Snorkeling, snorkelers, coral triangle, fish, raja ampat, solomon islands, komodo island, Alor, Philippines, papua new guinea, palau, bali, travel, flights, nature, adventure, tropical, tropics, ocean, marine, sun, biodiversity,

Tour begins and ends in Jakarta. Two internal flights (circular). Jakarta to Ambon; Sorong to Jakarta.

The snorkeling tour begins and ends in Jakarta, Indonesia. Internal flight from Jakarta to Ambon and return from Sorong. From Ambon, we will cruise south towards the Banda Islands and after spending several days there, will head north towards Misool and Raja Ampat. While we will absolutely snorkel on some of the magnificent reefs of Misool and Batanta, weather and desire will dictate how much time, if at all, we will spend snorkeling on reefs north of Dampier Strait. Please note that the following is a general itinerary and that weather, tides, and other unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances may affect the schedule at any time.

Day 1: Jakarta / Sheraton Bandara
Meals provided: D
Meet in Jakarta, Indonesia at our group resort, the Sheraton Bandara for the expedition orientation and welcome dinner. Overnight Sheraton Bandara

Day 2: Ambon, Maluku Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
Fly to Ambon and transfer to the Swissbel Hotel Ambon. Afternoon activities may include a city tour to various historical and cultural sites. Overnight Swissbel Hotel Ambon

Magnificent dartfish (Nemateleotris magnifica) photographed while snorkeling in the Banda Islands, Indonesia

Magnificent dartfish (Nemateleotris magnifica)

Day 3: MV Pindito / Pulau Nusalaut
Meals provided: B,L,D
In the morning we transfer to our expedition boat, the Pindito and cruise to Pulau Nusalaut. Our introduction to the Maluku Islands begins with this large island off the southern coast of Seram. The variety of corals and fishes, as well as the diversity of habitats that include exposed seaward reefs, sheltered reef flats, mangroves, and sea grass will impress even the most seasoned traveler. The reef along the marine sanctuary at Ameth contains some of the largest and most colorful table corals we have ever seen! Not to be outdone, Sponge Reef gives us the chance to get up close to large barrel sponges that have been growing from corals and among sea grass for hundreds of years. In the evening, we embark on our journey to the Banda Islands. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 4 – 9: Banda Islands / Banda Neira / Karang Hatta / Run
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our days in the Banda Islands are all about snorkeling over fantastic, pristine coral reefs in crystal clear blue water. Expect to see thousands of reef fish that make their home on the reef, as well as sharks, turtles, groupers, and schools of unicornfishes, barracudas, and snappers. We will snorkel around Pulau Run, Pulau Ai, Manuk (weather permitting), and Karang Hatta. Some of our special snorkels will take place around the volcano, Gunung Api, where the submerged lava flow from the eruption in 1985 is all but invisible under the nearly 100% coverage of coral. We will also have the chance to snorkel along the pier at Banda Neira where we can see the elusive and colorful mandarinfish, sometimes in only a couple of feet of water!  We will also have the chance to visit several villages and historical sites such as Fort Belgica on Banda Neira. Overnight MV Pindito

Coral reef Hatta Island photographed while snorkeling

Hatta Island

Day 10 – 13: Pulau Koon / Misool / Pelee / Segaf
Meals provided: B,L,D
On our way to Misool, Raja Ampat, we will stop at Pulau Koon for the chance to snorkel on a seaward reef that has schools of barracuda, jacks, snapper, and just about every tropical fish you can imagine! The rest of our days will be spent in Raja Ampat, arguably the center of the center of marine biodiversity on the planet. Our first destination is the island groups of Misool. It is not the main island of Misool that attracts us, rather the hundreds of limestone islands that lie just offshore. Each island grouping has a variety of reef habitats that include sheltered bays, shallow reef flats, and exposed seaward slopes and walls. Some of the islands and island groupings we will visit are Len Kafal/Wagmab, Segaf, and Pelee. From Misool, we will travel to the island of Batanta where amazing coral gardens, picture-perfect tiny islets, and thousands of reef fish await us. Some of the fringing reefs extend for hundreds of meters and are covered with a dazzling amount of both soft and hard corals.Along with the incredible diversity of coral and fish that can be seen in just a few meters of water, the area also boasts some of the most scenic island settings imaginable. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 14: Sorong / Jakarta / Sheraton Bandara
Meals provided: B,L,D
Disembark in Sorong and transfer to the airport for our flight back to Jakarta. Farewell dinner at the Sheraton. Overnight Sheraton Bandara

Day 15 (Nov 18): International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B

What to Expect

Water temperatures average around 28º C (82º F), though cooler temperatures may be experienced. At the minimum please bring a full lycra skin to help protect against the sun and no-see-um stingies that may be floating by. To take advantage of longer snorkel sessions or if the water is a bit cooler, please be prepared with exposure suits appropriate for cooler temperatures such as 2-3mm shorty or full wetsuits.

Some of the snorkel sites in the Bandas and Raja Ampat are subjected to strong currents. While we usually plan for slack tides, we will have some snorkel sessions where we plan to drift with the currents to be able to cover more reef as well as see fishes that are more active during times of stronger water movement. Plus, drift snorkeling is a relaxing way to see large sections of reef. Simply float on the surface and watch as reef life unfolds below. Our tours are 100% boat supported and two dinghies will be there to assist anyone for any reason at any time.

Our visit to Fort Beligica, two local museums, and the nutmeg farm on Banda Neira will require 30-60 minutes of generally easy walking on paved surfaces and well worn, even trails. Some uphill walking on paved surface is required to visit the fort. Loose-fitting, clothing and comfortable footwear is recommended.

Please click on our page About our Tours to read about what a typical day of snorkeling looks like on most of our tour programs.

Join Us!

Click on the tour date to read about trip details including accommodations, pricing, and how you can join us!

Sept 23 – Oct 11, 2019
From $8900 USD per person, double occupancy
Accommodations: MV Pindito

Please email us with any questions you may have about this trip.