Snorkeling the Banda Islands!

Snorkeling the remote and historic Spice Island

The Spice Islands, Banda, Ambon, and Seram, are islands we visit on our Coral Triangle Adventures snorkeling toursThe Bandas are a tiny cluster of ten volcanic islands located about 150 km south of the island of Seram 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, global trade, and even land deals that affected the colonies of the U.S. 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 and ends in Ambon. Along the way we will spend our days snorkeling on many of the spectacular reefs that can be found in the Banda Islands and around Ambon including sites such as Hatta, Pulau Koon, and Lava Flow. We will also have a chance to see, in our opinion, some of the largest mandarinfish in the world! We may 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.

ITINERARY

Map of the cruising route for the snorkeling tour to the Banda Islands, coral triangle adventures

The snorkeling tour begins and ends in Jakarta, Indonesia. One round-trip internal flight from Jakarta to Ambon. From Ambon, we will cruise south towards the Banda Islands and after spending five days there, we will head north towards Pulau Koon and Seram. 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 / Bandara International
Meals provided: D
Meet in Jakarta, Indonesia at our group resort, the Bandara International for the expedition orientation and welcome dinner. Overnight Bandara International

Day 2: Ambon / MV Pindito
Meals provided: B,L,D
We have a morning flight to Ambon and upon our arrival will transfer directly to the M/V Pindito, our home for the next 12 days. After lunch, we cruise towards the remote and historic Banda Islands. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 3 – 8: 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

Day 9 – 12: Pulau Koon / Seram / Ambon
Meals provided: B,L,D
Pulau Koon is part of a small chain of islands that lay just off the south eastern tip of Seram. The draw is the chance to snorkel on a seaward reef that has schools of barracuda, jacks, snapper, and just about every tropical fish you can imagine! As we make our way back to Ambon, we will visit several reefs along the southern coast of Seram and have the chance to snorkel some of the reefs that fringe from the historic island of Ambon. 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 13: Ambon / Jakarta / Bandara
Meals provided: B,L,D
Disembark in Ambon and transfer to the airport for our flight back to Jakarta. Farewell dinner at the Bandara International. Overnight Bandara International

Day 14: International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B

Departures

Oct 25 – Nov 07, 2021←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: M/V Pindito
Guides: Lee Goldman, Ethan Daniels
Length: 14 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$7600 USD per person, double occupancy
$10,000 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
April 31, 2021: $3500 USD / $4500 single
July 1, 2021: $3600 USD / $5000 single

Tour cost includes:
-Accommodations on day 1 through day 14
-All meals on days 2 through 13 (dinner on day 1 – breakfast on day 14)
-All internal transfers including international arrival and departure transfers
-Non-alcoholic beverages
-All snorkeling and park fees
-All gratuities

Tour cost does not include:
-Round-trip international airfare (Please contact us with recommendations for routes or referrals to any of the several travel agents we currently work with)
-Additional hotel accommodations and meals as a result of travel outside of the program dates
-Visa requirements including payments
-Alcoholic beverages
-International departure taxes
-Extra / overweight baggage fees
-Trip insurance (recommended; (we recommend Travel GuardWorld Nomads, or Travel Insure)
DAN insurance (required unless personal insurance program has worldwide emergency evacuation services)
-Additional accommodations while on tour in the event of flight schedule changes or events of force majeure
-Any required COVID-19 tests
-Any required quarantine or flight changes due to a positive COVID-19 result

Cancellation policy:
91 – 150 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
90 days or less prior to departure: 100% of tour cost

Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information


Accommodations

MV Pindito a vessel chartered by Coral Triangle AdventuresThe M/V Pindito is a traditional Indonesian, wooden motor sailing vessel, (referred to as a Pinisi), that measures 124 feet long and has a beam of 29 feet. She was built in 1992 by Edi Frommenwiler and completely refitted in 2006 with a new camera room, sun deck, and upgrades to the cabins and salon. She has eight cabins (two designed for twin share accommodations), each with their own shower, sink, toilet, and individually controlled air conditions. All cabins have continuous power (220 volts). Meals are prepared by expert chefs and are a fusion of western, asian, and Indonesian dishes. A large flatscreen TV and a complete library of marine life books, music CD’s and DvD’s round out the list of amenities on board. The boat is equipped with three active (and one standby) zodiac tenders, each with their own ladder for easy entry back into the boat. As a bonus, Balinese-style or aroma-therapy massage services are available throughout the trip. For more information about the M/V Pindito click here.


 

Bandara International Hotel is the only 5-star hotel located close to the Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. The hotel offers 208 spacious rooms and suites with a tropical resort ambiance. For the dining experience, the hotel has two restaurants offering some of the finest Indonesian and International cuisine, one lounge for drinks and casual dining, and a pool bar. The hotel also has ten function rooms to host meeting events. For wellness activities, Club Bandara includes a newly equipped gym, sauna, steam, hot and cold Jacuzzi, four swimming pools include private ladies pool and jogging track, and Spa Bandara offers 5-star massage and relaxation services.

Located only 3 km and from Soekarno Hatta International Airport, the hotel provides 24-hours complimentary airport shuttle service at 30-minute intervals. The Bandara International Hotel is within 15 minutes of the Soewarna Business Park and Golf and the nearest shopping center.


Departures

Oct 25 – Nov 07, 2021 ←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: M/V Pindito
Guides: Lee Goldman, Ethan Daniels
Length: 14 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$7600 USD per person, double occupancy
$10,000 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
April 31, 2021: $3500 USD / $4500 single
July 1, 2021: $3600 USD / $5000 single

Tour cost includes:
-Accommodations on day 1 through day 14
-All meals on days 2 through 13 (dinner on day 1 – breakfast on day 14)
-All internal transfers including international arrival and departure transfers
-Non-alcoholic beverages
-All snorkeling and park fees
-All gratuities

Tour cost does not include:
-Round-trip international airfare (Please contact us with recommendations for routes or referrals to any of the several travel agents we currently work with)
-Additional hotel accommodations and meals as a result of travel outside of the program dates
-Visa requirements including payments
-Alcoholic beverages
-International departure taxes
-Extra / overweight baggage fees
-Trip insurance (recommended; (we recommend Travel GuardWorld Nomads, or Travel Insure)
DAN insurance (required unless personal insurance program has worldwide emergency evacuation services)
-Additional accommodations while on tour in the event of flight schedule changes or events of force majeure
-Any required COVID-19 tests
-Any required quarantine or flight changes due to a positive COVID-19 result

Cancellation policy:
91 – 150 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
90 days or less prior to departure: 100% of tour cost

Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information


What to Expect and Bring

WHAT TO EXPECT

Daily temperatures will generally be in the lower to mid 80’s F (26-28º C) with a mix of sun and clouds and the occasional afternoon shower. Water temperatures average around 82º F (28º C), though cooler temperatures may be experienced. Some of the snorkel sites in the Bandas 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 three dinghies will be there to assist anyone for any reason at any time.

Our visit to Fort Beligica and the nearby museum 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 read more about our daily schedule here.

WHAT TO BRING

The following list is a suggestion of things to bring and applies to almost all of our trips (specific items on a particular departure will be noted on the departure information).

-A good fitting mask, snorkel, and set of fins. If your equipment is brand new, please try it out in the pool. Determining the fit and function of your equipment in the pool includes doing several laps with all of your equipment on. Doing several snorkel dives is also very beneficial. It is also important to clean your new equipment, especially your mask. Cleaning procedures for your mask include light scrubbing with toothpaste or dishwasher soap to remove the light layer of silicon that is used to preserve the mask during shipping and storage. All areas of the mask, both inside and out, need to be addressed. Doing this greatly reduces the chances of having your mask fog. Not doing this, even when using mask de-fogger, usually results in a fogged mask.

-A wetsuit, rash guard, diveskin, or any type of clothing that can be used for thermal and/or protection form the sun. We suggest bringing a full 3mm wetsuit and some type of core insulation like a vest or shirt made of 1 – 2 mm neoprene (e.g., Lavacore or Sharkskin shirts or vests). These items will not only provide thermal protection but protection from the sun as well. For those who feel that a 3mm suit may be too warm, please consider a full body skin or rash guard to ensure protection from the strong sun. With regards to thermal protection, remember the saying: it is better to have and not need, than to need and not have. One that note…

-Head protection in the form of a wetsuit hood, a cap, or even a bandana. Anything that can keep the sun off of your head is extremely important. It is the most exposed part of our bodies when we are floating on the surface.

-Underwater Flashlight for our planned night snorkel. The Banda Islands have excellent opportunities for night snorkeling and we will take full advantage.

-Biodegradable sunscreen lotion. Okay, this is a tricky suggestion. Even many biodegradable sunscreen lotions have been shown to harm and even kill tiny larvae (baby marine life ranging from fish to all types of invertebrates especially coral). It is fine to wear on land, but we highly discourage the use of sunscreen lotions in the water. Having a full wetsuit or skin will do the job of protection from the sun much better than lotions and the suits also help with thermal protection. It is truly a win-win for everyone and the marine environment.

-Casual, lightweight, tropical clothing
-Sunglasses (and a spare in case you lose your main pair)
-Comfortable footwear such as active sandals (Teva, Keen, Merrell, etc.)
-Hats. We cannot stress the importance of a hat in the tropics!
-All of our boats provide items like shampoo, soap, towels, etc. We bring this up because these items represent added weight and if they leak, less-than-fun times during the unpacking stage of the trip.

Other items that may be considered:
-Lightweight rainwear to protect from the occasional afternoon shower

Departures

Oct 25 – Nov 07, 2021 ←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: M/V Pindito
Guides: Lee Goldman, Ethan Daniels
Length: 14 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$7600 USD per person, double occupancy
$10,000 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
April 31, 2021: $3500 USD / $4500 single
July 1, 2021: $3600 USD / $5000 single

Tour cost includes:
-Accommodations on day 1 through day 14
-All meals on days 2 through 13 (dinner on day 1 – breakfast on day 14)
-All internal transfers including international arrival and departure transfers
-Non-alcoholic beverages
-All snorkeling and park fees
-All gratuities

Tour cost does not include:
-Round-trip international airfare (Please contact us with recommendations for routes or referrals to any of the several travel agents we currently work with)
-Additional hotel accommodations and meals as a result of travel outside of the program dates
-Visa requirements including payments
-Alcoholic beverages
-International departure taxes
-Extra / overweight baggage fees
-Trip insurance (recommended; (we recommend Travel GuardWorld Nomads, or Travel Insure)
DAN insurance (required unless personal insurance program has worldwide emergency evacuation services)
-Additional accommodations while on tour in the event of flight schedule changes or events of force majeure
-Any required COVID-19 tests
-Any required quarantine or flight changes due to a positive COVID-19 result

Cancellation policy:
91 – 150 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
90 days or less prior to departure: 100% of tour cost

Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information


Departures

MV Pindito a vessel chartered by Coral Triangle AdventuresOct 25 – Nov 07, 2021←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: M/V Pindito
Guides: Lee Goldman, Ethan Daniels
Length: 14 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$7600 USD per person, double occupancy
$10,000 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
April 31, 2021: $3500 USD / $4500 single
July 1, 2021: $3600 USD / $5000 single

Tour cost includes:
-Accommodations on day 1 through day 13
-All meals on days 2 through 11 (dinner on day 1 – breakfast on day 13)
-All internal transfers including international arrival and departure transfers
-Non-alcoholic beverages
-All snorkeling and park fees
-All gratuities

Tour cost does not include:
-Round-trip international airfare (Please contact us with recommendations for routes or referrals to any of the several travel agents we currently work with)
-Additional hotel accommodations and meals as a result of travel outside of the program dates
-Visa requirements including payments
-Alcoholic beverages
-International departure taxes
-Extra / overweight baggage fees
-Trip insurance (recommended; (we recommend Travel GuardWorld Nomads, or Travel Insure)
DAN insurance (required unless personal insurance program has worldwide emergency evacuation services)
-Additional accommodations while on tour in the event of flight schedule changes or events of force majeure
-Any required COVID-19 tests
-Any required quarantine or flight changes due to a positive COVID-19 result

Cancellation policy:
91 – 150 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost; 90 days or less prior to departure: 100% of tour cost. In any event of cancellation we will endeavor to find a replacements. In the case we find replacement guests we may be able to offer a partial refund or may transfer some or all payments to another departure.

Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information

Trip Reports


Coral whip goby photographed by coral triangle adventures while snorkeling in Indonesia
  I really enjoy the challenge of trying to take photos of colorful tropical fishes while snorkeling and free-diving. It
  Trip Report: Snorkeling the Heart of the Coral Triangle, Sept. 23-Oct. 11, 2019 What an epic journey we just
aerial view of Wayil - coral triangle adventures
  Where once we were confined to climbing Indonesia’s rugged hills and volcanoes in order to get an aerial-like view
blue ring octopus photographed in the Banda Islands
  Admittedly, I am always excited to visit the Banda Islands for the historical content, but almost within the first
Mastigias jelly reflection photographed in Raja Ampat
  Standing on Bandaneira it was hard to imagine the impact that these islands made on the world during the
Triggerfish, Hatta Island, Bandas, Indonesia, Ethan Daniels
  Drifting above the edge of a vertical drop off I watched thousands upon thousands of red-tooth triggerfish flapping their