Visiting Banda would not be complete if we do not enjoy the stunning underwater scenery offered around the islands. The beauty of the underwater garden around the archipelago, located 213km to the southeast of Ambon, is already well known to the entire world, attracting tourists to enjoy the beauty and diversity of more than 300 types of hard coral in Banda underwater. And that is precisely what we are doing. We have come all the way from Jakarta and Timika, surely we would not want to miss the opportunity to dive into the crystal clear waters of Banda.
Due to the archipelago’s remoteness from other densely populated islands and also because it is surrounded by the deep sea, the waters are very clear in the Banda Islands. Visibility of 30 meters or more is a common thing in these waters. Healthy coral, which also means the numbers of reef fish in the area, is also an added value. All of those, we would prove them ourselves right in the first day we arrived in Banda Neira. We did not wait for long. After checking in to the hotel Maulana, where we stayed during the trip, we were immediately met with Tuta & Micha from Dive Bluemotion to conduct the briefing for the first day dives. Just after 10 am, we were already on the boat, taking us to the first dive spot today, Soekarno Wall.
The first dive. I was unlucky. The valve of BC (bouyancy control) vest that I was wearing broke and I did not realize it until I was about to back-roll from the boat. Perhaps it was because my gear bag was banged around when the porter unloaded it from the ship earlier the morning when we arrived. Luckily, Micha was always prepared with spare BC vest and it also fit my size. My first day dive was saved.. 🙂
Banda was soon to prove itself. Soekarno Wall was spectacular. The water is really clear, visibility was 30 meters, maybe more, although the weather on the surface of the water was not so good. Healthy soft coral. Giant sea fans along the wall. Pulau Pisang where we dived into after a rest and lunch break on the beach at Pulau Hatta also offered similar beautiful scenery with soft and hard corals, as well as a wide range of reef fish. We also met with a small group of Bumpheads. Quite fun, because we rarely met with large fish in this two first dives. The dives of the first day was quite tiring, one of the reasons was perhaps due to the overnight sea trip from Ambon where we barely had enough sleep. But the beauty of both dive spots paid off all of the fatigues.
The second day. The first dive in the morning started at Batu Kapal, then Hatta Island on the second dive. The visibility was even better than the day before, because it was a sunny day and the weather was very clear. With the visibility of around 40 meters, we were really spoiled with the underwater scenes at both dive spots. Nia, Erika & Koh Aliong were busy with their cameras. The underwater models team – Reza, Madon, Hadi, Victor, and myself of course – were always ready when the photographers needed to take a diver’s image at the background of the scenery they were portraiting.
However, for me, the highlight of the second day’s diving is definitely our third dive spot of the day: Lava. Located on the north side of pulau Gunung Api, just below the area where the lava flows met the water when the volcano erupted in the late 1980s, this dive spot is full of heealthy hard corals. A very extensive & beautiful coral gardens, hard corals were everywhere as far as the eye could see. The visibility? Excellent. I got myself a new toy: a GoPro camera with UW housing, set to video mode. Made me busy dive around and through the corals, taking videos. Koh Aliong also lent his camera, encouraged me to try to take pictures underwater. Truly an exciting new experience.
I did not join the group on the third and fourth day of diving, opted for going trekking in pulau Banda Besar and climbed Gunung Api. But the other fellow divers – Nia, Erika, Madon and Koh Aliong – keep spending the day diving to the spots on Pulau Hatta, Pulau Rhun, and Pulau Ai. But at the end of the fourth day, I spared my time for one more dive, this time because the purpose of the dive was to photograph one of the iconic creatures in Banda: Mandarin Fish. And the location of the dive this time was also very unique: Banda Neira Pier. Right in front of the Maulana Hotel where we were staying. It was not more than 6 meters depth when we dived right after sunset, a time in which the Mandarin fish usually reveal themselves in between the rocks. Every diver with camera was accompanied and assisted by another diver who directed a flashlight toward the rocks to help the camera focusing. Another new and unique experience for me.
The waters of Banda is truly a diving paradise with its underwater diversity. And the water clarity is spoiling us. In this trip, I only had few days and it forced me to split time between diving and exploring through the islands. I promise myself to come back again someday, with a decent & longer time of course, to further explore the underwater world in this archipelago that I have not had enough time to fully enjoy in this trip. I shall come back..
- Photos from Banda trip are stored at http://www.ismawanismail.com/gallery/index.php?/category/banda
- To reach Banda, the easiest way is through Ambon. There are several airlines serve the Ambon route, we used Garuda Indonesia. Check the details at http://www.garuda-indonesia.com
- From Ambon, we can reach Banda through air or sea transport. Air transport (chartered flight) will really depend on the weather & the flight could be cancelled due to bad weather. Sea transport is more reliable, check the details at http://www.pelni.co.id
- For diving & accommodation at Banda, the best way is to contact the dive operator that served us during our trip, Dive Bluemotion. Check the details at http://www.dive-bluemotion.com