Island hopping among the original Spice Islands is a favorite pass time for visitors. Each of these islands is special, which often makes choosing which to visit next and how long to stay difficult. Here is a short description of each island to assist in planning your sojourn. Pak Abba will be happy to assist visits to the out islands. Most islands have comfortable home stay accommodations. Cilu Bintang maintains a modern high speed boat for your convience or you may prefer a romantic local ferry.
Banda Naira the easy going capital of the Banda Islands has a strong colonial flavour. Once famous for its ‘perkenier mansions’, opulent mansions built during the golden age of Dutch ‘Nutmeg Barons’. Shorn of luxuries, many still stand. A stroll through the town turns up endless surprises, from seventeenth century cannon abandoned by the roadside to shards of ancient Chinese porcelain littering the beaches. This island is where the famous kora-kora races and Cakalele dances are held. Be sure to visit the museum and vibrant market.
Gunung Api means ‘fire mountain’, it erupted often during colonial times. It last erupted in 1988, destroying villages and creating massive lava flows. Today, the crater occasionally smokes, but is best known for the view from its peak. Take your camera and visit a cinnamon plantation on the way down. Thanks to an initiative by Cilu Bintang Estate a long lost fort called "De Pot" was recently located on Gunung Api. It is now cleared and may be visited.
Pulau Karaka or Crab Island is a small islet located at the northern entranceway between Banda Neira and Gunung Api. The southern side has a vertical wall carpeted with vibrant blue and yellow sea squirts. Deeper, yellow snapper, a resident school of barracuda, giant honeycomb, and snowflake moray are found. On the bottom are colonies of garden eel and titan triggerfish. Karaka makes an excellent night dive when eels, slipper lobster, crabs, and shrimp appear.
Rhun Island played an important role in history. In 1667 the English traded it to the Dutch for an island in North America called Manhattan, now home to New York city. Visit the Fort Swan and Fort Defence then enjoy superb snorkelling or diving from white sand beaches. Visit an old Dutch plantation called El Dorado and the interesting Iron House. Fragrant clove plantations are found on this island where the islanders paint their houses bright contrasting colours that dazzle the eye. Several good guest houses exist serving tasty traditional meals.
Ay Island is accented by bright pastel coloured houses and smiling people. There are nutmeg plantations on the island, the preserved remains of ancient Fort Revenge, and several colonial plantation mansions. The architecture is colonial with bright pastel colours. This is where Banda’s finest wild pearls are harvested, by local divers using traditional diving methods. There are comfortable accommodations and excellent meals available for visitors. At night, occasionally electricity reaches a small percentage of the population, who normally illuminate their homes with antique oil lamps.
Banda Besar is the largest Island. This long crescent shaped mountain chain is shrouded in dense tropical forest. The island is home to ancient nutmeg plantations and Fort Hollandia. Besar makes a wonderful day trip to nutmeg plantations ̶ the oldest on the islands ̶ and the fort. A picnic in the shade of 400-year-old keneri trees, with the strong perfume of spices in the air, is unforgettable. Watch for the indigenous nutmeg pidgin or hike across the island to the village of Waer, host to well preserved fort Concordia. Most communities maintain their distinctive cultural traditions, ceremonies are frequent and colourful.
Hatta Island or Rozengain is the most remote Island. Surrounded by remarkable reef gardens and marine life that provide some of the world's finest underwater panoramas. During Dutch times Hatta was famous for teakwood and red building bricks. Long white beaches, swaying palms, and superb diving make Hatta everyone's favourite. Beach front accommodations are available.
Sjahrir Island locally called Pulau Pisang - meaning ‘banana Island’. Shortly after independence the island was renamed after Sutan Sjahrir, an Indonesian Independence leader. Steep sided with a flat top, this is an island of stairs and foot paths. The climb from beach to village has eighty-seven steps laboriously carved in stone. Surviving on one nutmeg plantation, and one coconut plantation Pisang resembles a park crossed by paths through refreshing shadows. Traditional houses are built on platforms, accessed by a flight of steps. That height encourages a cool breeze. Pulau Pisang is worth a visit for its feeling of island life 100 years ago.
"In a world of mundane sameness, Banda is an exception.
Easy to fall in love with, and difficult to leave behind,
the wealth of vivid memories you bring back,
will enrich your life forever." Albert Simms, journalist