Sail Maluku 2016
Banda - The Underwater Heaven
Once sought by Columbus and Marco Polo, the Banda Islands were the original Spice Islands and the most coveted destination on earth, particularly by the Dutch and Portuguese who colonized the islands and exported the indigenous nutmeg and cloves. History tells of a violent past under colonial rule. Now, the seas around these tropical paradise islands are coveted for their spectacular diving and snorkelling on some of the world's richest reefs, unspoiled corals, and large pelagic fish.
Steep drop offs, impressive hard coral and some fast currents make this area absolutely breathtaking. Schools of jacks are a familiar sight, as are large tuna, many turtles, Napoleon wrasse, groupers, rays, sharks and large lobsters. Great visibility is a blessing here, and there are also some special critter sites.
Ambon is the capital of Maluku province. Together with North Maluku province, they are better known to Europeans as The Moluccas. The islands had been of interest to spice traders from as early as the 1st century, and later became known as The Spice Islands, due to the cloves, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon which grow there. It was these East Indies that Columbus was looking for when he accidentally found America in 1492. However, Ambon is not as famous for spices as some of the other islands, such as Banda and Saparua, where more of these spices are grown.
Pulau Ambon resembles two horseshoes back to back. Ambon City lies on the south side of the beautiful Ambon bay. The airport is located in the north, across the bay, and although a ferry connects the two, it is quicker to drive the 36 km. We went through a series of small villages, and the first thing that struck me was the number of churches. They were of many different designs and some villages had up to 4 churches of different denominations. Many were still under construction. Although Indonesia has the world's largest Moslem population, Maluku is home to a large number of Christians and it was common to see a mosque and church side by side.