Banda Islands

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

View of a small village on Run Island

Cities

Other destinations

Understand

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 colonized 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 were really off the beaten track, but transport offers (from Ambon) are increasing and making it easier to access these islands. It is important to remember that flight or boat cancellations are very frequent, and therefore you should only go to Banda Islands while having plenty of time (i.e. not having a visa expiring soon, or booked flights). Transport offers and schedules are highly subject to changes, so check schedule when arriving in Ambon.

By plane

Aviastar operates two flights a week from Ambon, on Wednesday and Saturday early morning (Feb 2016). As flights are subsidised, this is the least expensive option (Rp 360000, Feb 2016). The very small airplane returns to Ambon on the same day. Flights often get cancelled due to bad weather and engine problems. Tickets can be bought at Ambon Airport. You normally can book the return ticket only at Banda Neira (thought some guesthouses in Ambon may have contacts in Banda Neira and may book it for you).

In addition, since there are regular airlines (Wings and Garuda) flying between Kei islands and Ambon, going to/from Ambon through Kei Island can also be an option, if everything else is canceled.

By boat

A recently started fast boat (6 hours) goes from Ambon (Tulehu Harbour) to Banda Neira twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday. The boat returns the next day from Banda to Ambon and costs Rp 410,000 as of Feb 2016. Note that the fast boat can be cancelled if the weather is bad!

An alternative is the rather more regular but still unpredictable twice-monthly Pelni ferry (KM Ciremai) to Bandaneira, which usually leaves Ambon on Saturday afternoon (7 hrs). Every other week a 150-passenger boat (KM Gravilla) leaves for Banda (Rp 155,000, around 15hrs). Check at the small harbour in 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 quicker 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 (Rp 30.000, Feb 2016), the latter usually leaving during morning hours. Public boats to Pulau Hatta are less frequent (3 or 4 times a week). All boats can be cancelled depending on weather. 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.

See

Benteng Belgica

Do

If you're staying in Pulau Ai or Hatta, you can go snorkelling straight out of your room.

Buy

There is now an ATM in the Banda Neira, but it only accepts MasterCard, not Visa card ! The local BRI branch will not change any money. You might be able to change US dollars to Rp at some guesthouses and shops, at an unfavorable rate. Therefore, come prepared and bring sufficient cash from Ambon or Tual.

Eat

Banda Volcano (Gunung Api Banda), Bandanaira Island

Drink

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).

Sleep

In Banda Neira :

There are several other small homestays on the island (though english speaking will probably be unlikely).

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 very frequent reports of pickpocketing at the ferry terminal or in the Pelni ferry (especially during boarding and disembarkation) . 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, for example to Pulau Ai, might be hazardous during rough seas.

All islands are relatively isolated, and you can not find even simple medications on Pulau Ai or Hatta. Dengue fever is common there.

Connect

Guesthouses have good free Wifi. Mobile phone reception, including data (at least with Telkomsel) is good on Banda Neira. 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 only available at the jetty. Data will not work on Pulau Ai (at least with Telkomsel, Feb 2016)

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.