HUNDREDS of scripts, thousands of sentences and millions of words have been put together to describe Banda Neira, but its splendid underwater garden will always be a magnet for everyone’s heart and eyes.
You will feel like you missed something if you go to Ambon but not to Banda Neira, a neighboring group of islands. Banda Neira is historically part of the Spice Islands of Maluku. Being part of a string of islands southeast of Ambon, it is another beautiful place, historically known as the initial spot that attracted the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and French at various times. This is proven by the logs of their voyages kept in several museums in those countries. Banda Neira is a diver’s haven. Even though it’s remote, the cost of diving in the area is a little less than the cost of similar water activities offered in Raja Ampat in Papua.
From Ambon, visitors can take a less-than-one-hour flight to Banda Neira by light plane. For those fond of sea voyages, a Pelni vessel is available for a trip of seven to eight hours. Such a trip is worthy for those who are fond of sea transportation as they can enjoy the ocean view and the sight of scattered small islands. Although diving here is all-year-round, the best time for diving in Banda Neira is around March-April or September-October, when the waves are not too high.
International divers estimate that the underwater garden in Banda Neira has some 400 flora and fauna species of wide diversity. The reef system and various decorative fish in this area make for an unbelievable dive adventure. In addition to the marine life, there is also the string of isles scattered in the southeastern part of Ambon, described as the chain of black pearls by ancient poets.
Divers can spend hours or days exploring the underwater garden. Those who like snorkeling, swimming or rowing can also enjoy the beauty of the sea from the surface. The Ambon Authority in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and the Social Services Ministry will hold the Sail Banda from July 12 to August 17 this year.
The program aims to promote the tourist industry as well as to attract potential investors in developing Maluku and the surrounding areas. Banda Neira is and will always be amazing. But be forewarned: Once you go, you’ll want to return again and again! (Lestari Nurhayati)