...Highlights: turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics, great macro life/ marine diversity...
...Banda Sea's dving environment: healthy reefs, drift diving, advanced divers, off the beaten track...
Set in the heart of Indonesia in splendid isolation are the Banda Islands, which have a rich and important history. Nowadays liveaboard divers are discovering the high value of the life beneath its waters' surface. They are blessed with some of the finest scuba diving in the country.
The remoteness of the islands in the wide open Banda Sea, and the low levels of human population, have meant less fishing pressures, and a vibrant, natural and healthy reef system. The results of this is that you can expect reefs bursting with life, huge seafans and sponges, some monumental hard corals, and more fish than your mask can cope with.
While big fish and pelagics might be the most obvious draw card for divers at the Banda Islands, its true value is in the extraordinary variety and sheer volume of fish life, both in terms of large and small marine life.
Two of the creatures worthy of special mention here that characterise diving in the Banda Sea are the preponderance of dogtooth tuna and mobula rays. At most sites you'll see enormous schools of fusiliers and thousands of redtooth tirggerfish. At the other end of the size scale, there are prolific mandarinfish and the native Ambon scorpionfish.
Cetaceans are frequent visitors too, and Banda liveaboards often report sightings of spinner dolphins, orcas, and various whale species, including melonhead, pilot, blue, and humpback whales. One certainty is that you will see plenty of big stuff as well as no shortage of colourful reef life. Diving is usually comfortable, with mild currents, good visibility and calm waters, but some of the sites are subject to stronger currents that make them suitable for experienced divers only.
If you have dived in the Banda Islands before then you will be planning to return already. If you have not, then now is the time to experience the splendour of the Banda Sea before the word spreads ...
This is an isolated low lying island to the west of Banda Neira. It has some small limestone cliffs on its southern coastline and some pretty beaches on its northern shores. Due to its isolation, walls and deep waters, when the current is running, Pulau Ai is one of the top dive sites in the Banda Islands for shark encounters. Hammerhead sharks are sometimes seen, and thresher and silvertip sharks are occasionally sighted too. Wahoo and giant trevally visit the island, and chevron barracuda and bluefin trevally hunt here in large schools. Always a memorable occasion for any scuba diver are the squadrons of mobula rays, sometimes flying in formation up to 25 strong.
Batu Udang, or 'Shrimp Rock' in Bahasa Indonesian, is on the south side of Pulau Ai. Your dive begins over a gentle sloping reef down to 13 metres, followed by a very steep slope anywhere down to 55 metres. Black triggerfish and redtooth triggerfish are everywhere, freely intermingling with each other.
Koon is located in the Banda Sea, 10 km east of Seram. After back-rolling in you will drop down into warm, clear and shallow waters where the reef flat rises to 5 metres below the surface and from here, begin your descent down the wall. The ever-present current will guide you gently along the reef to your right as the wall comes to a point. On the wall you can expect the larger life to include dog-toothed tuna, schooling barracuda and jacks.
In the nooks and crannies of the wall divers should look out for robust ghostpipefish quietly going about their business like a torn piece of vegetation, whose movements are seemingly at the whim of the ebb and flow of the water. Also here are the much-sought-after orangutan crab, most often at home in bubble coral. The little beast seems to have hairy orange limbs much like the great ape after which it is named.
The Banda Sea is vast, so to get the most from your visit here and sample the widest variety of diving in the region, including Ambon, we recommend you hop onto an Indonesian liveaboard.
Ambon is the port most frequently used for these trips. The macro life there is fantastic and its muck diving opportunities are an excellent complement on Banda Sea cruises. You can see many species of scorpionfish, stonefish and moray eels, as well as frogfish, seahorses, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs and rhinopias.
For more information on the safari routes and durations, and all the other travel information you might need to visit Indonesia, check out our Banda Islands liveaboard section.
The amazing dive sites of the Banda Islands are best visited in February through to April and during the September to November period. The weather is inconsistent outside of these times, so much so that many operators (even land-based) cease diving in the area as surface conditions can really kick up. June and July see the most rainfall. The Indonesian liveaboards restrict their visits here to the calmer periods.
During these calm periods the marine life is reasonably constant with the Bandas' schools of fish, the snakes of Gunung Api, and the critters of Ambon, all present. Visibility begins to clear up from August and then during the best months it can reach the higher end of the range (15 to 30m). Water temperatures do not vary much during the periods that liveaboards visit, namely from 26 to 29°C
Review our maps below of the Bandas and their host country Indonesia. Here, you will find information on how to get to Ambon, from where you will cruise to the Banda Islands.
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 15 - 30m
Currents: Gentle, but can be strong
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~25 (plus ~30 more in the greater Lucipara and Ambon/Seram/Nusa Laut region)
Distance: ~200 km east southeast of Ambon (14 hours), 320 south west of Sorong (West Papua, 16 hours)
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 2 weeks
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