A short guide to Banda islands.
We really wish that everyone of you would get a taste of Banda islands. If you find the time, don’t worry about the money – you will probably spend much less than at home. So the only reason not to go is because you don’t know how to get here and there’s little information on the www? We’ll try to sum up the info we found out 🙂 Read below!
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How to get to Banda islands?
Banda islands lie between Sulawesi and Papua, in the province of Maluku with the capital Ambon. Getting to Ambon is easy as there are several flights a day to get here from various parts of Indonesia. At the moment (October 2014) the cheapest one is Lion Air, but be sure to check on nusatrip.com.
In Ambon it gets a little bit complicated, because you have to arrange everything from there (for instance, you can not book a plane to Banda in advance) but don’t worry. You’ll spend a couple of hours arranging your trip which will be so worth it 🙂 You have 4 options:
1.) Fly to Banda islands
AviaStar flies directly to Banda with its 12-seats-tiny-plane. 8 seats are reserved for tourists and 4 for locals. When we were there the flights were booked for 3 weeks in advance but some people could get a flight in couple of days. Not predictable. AviaStar has an office on the airport so just ask when you fly into Ambon.
Price: 300.000 IDR or 20 eur.
2.) Fastboat from Ambon to Banda islands (*update: september 2015)
Probably the best way to get to Banda islands, but I have no idea how booked this is. There is a new schedule from Ambon to Banda on Saturday and Tuesday, from Banda to Ambon on Sunday and Wednesday. Probably you should contact Mutiara guesthouse as their owner is very involved in the island.
Price: 510.000 IDR
3.) Sail to Banda islands with Pelni
Huge Pelni ships sail between large port towns in Indonesia and go from Ambon to Bandaneira (Banda) every 2 weeks. It takes 8 hours and the schedule is posted on the site pelni.co.id but is prone to changes. There can be a delay so check the schedule a day before you go. There are two ships: Tidar and Kelimutu.
Price for economy class is 110.000 IDR or 7 eur.
Maybe it’s worth investing in 1st class as there is an organized unit of people who rob the tourists and locals. They stole our DSLR camera in front of our nose when we had Economy class and slept on the deck (wait for the crowd to disperse when boarding on or off the ship and move your valuables like phones, wallet deep in the backpack).
4.) Fly to Kei islands and sail to Banda islands.
Bit more complicated but if there is no other option this one will do. Plus is that you’ll see beautiful powdery white beaches of Kei islands.
From Ambon you can fly to Kei islands for 1.050.000 IDR or a bit less than 70 eur. The planes have more seats so you have a better chance. From there you can buy a Pelni ticket in a city Tual in their office (9 am to 16 pm). The schedule of the ships is on the internet so be sure to check the dates. Ticket to Bandaneira in Economy class costs 155.000 IDR or 10 eur and it takes 10 hours.
These are the only options how to get to Banda as we know it. Maybe you can book a private plane but those people probably won’t read this blog 😀
Prices on Banda islands.
Banda islands consist of 5 main islands and some smaller ones. You arrive in Bandaneira (Neira island) and from there you can go to other islands.
Prices for accommodation with breakfast are 150.000 – 250.000 IDR (for two people) or 10 – 18 eur (we stayed in Delfika 1, Mutiara and Bintang Laut and all were very nice, Mutiara has the best breakfast). During the day you can eat in local warungs or restaurants for 20.000 – 60.000 IDR or 1,5 – 4 eur (we recommend a teeny tiny warung from ibu Gina, cheapest and friendliest service) or you can splurge for a buffet dinner in Mutiara where ibu Dilla makes delicious local meal with 6 dishes. Yum! Don’t forget to try the ‘es champur’ or mixed ice which is like ice cream but full of different jellies, coconut and crazy pink color. Tastes good!
Beer is 40.000 IDR (almost 3 eur), there’s not much fruit, lots of nutmeg fruit jam, and good coffee for 0,5 eur. Snack are worth a try, specially ones made with wild almonds.
For dinner cheap and tasty you can head out after dark where ladies are selling grilled tuna steaks on a stick for 10.000 IDR and cones made from sago. Such a good value!
Couple of diving schools reside here and so most of the tourists linger because of diving which is supposed to be amazing. But I tell you, snorkeling is superb.
This is an island with a volcano that erupted last in 1988 and left a black trail on one side of the island and found it’s way into the sea where the fish cooked to death as the locals say. The new coral reef started to grow with unbelievable speed and even the scientists don’t know how.
For 10.000 IDR/person a boat takes you from Bandaneira to Gunung Api and you can hike on the trail up to the top for an amazing view of the Banda island. It’s better to go very early, around 6 am and have lots of water with you. Trail is tricky and frail with all the soft rocks so bring good shoes.
Pulau Ai and Hatta
The most popular getaway of the tourists that come to Banda. It takes about an hour and a half to get to each one. There is no warungs or restaurants so the guesthouse provides everything. You can find some more expensive on Ai but majority costs you 100.000 IDR for one person and that includes three meals and coffee/tea all day. All that for 7 eur. Ridiculously cheap! We stayed in Green Peace with smiling mr. Mo 🙂
Hatta currently has only one guesthouse, Rozengain. Sofyan is a very friendly hard working fisherman and has an all board price for one person 150.000 IDR. You can also visit an atol near Hatta.
Snorkeling on both islands is amazing. Just amazing.
Boats drive to Ai every day (30.000 IDR) and Hatta 3 times a week (25.000 IDR).
We haven’t been to Run, Banda Besar and Pisang because 3 weeks is just not enough but people say the prices are similar as on Ai and Hatta.
What to do on Banda islands?
People usually come here for:
– the great snorkeling
– amazing diving
– local cuisine
– interesting history
– getting away from touristy places
All the information and directions you can get in Bandaneira, just ask the hotel owner and he will tell you what to do. Dive centers are near the Pelni port (at this moment the price of one dive is 500.000 IDR OR 35 eur and for two 900.000 IDR with the German dive centre and cheaper in the Indonesian one).
Snorkeling is free but it’s good to have your own gear so you don’t need to rent it (around 30-40.000 IDR). Don’t forget about the fins because the currents can be strong.
If you want to try the local specialties of nutmeg and wild almonds (kenari) you can ask a cook in your hotel and maybe she will let you watch her cook (Ibu Dilla from Mutiara will oublish her cookbook soon).
On all of the islands there are some remains of the bloody history like museums, forts, houses. Take a look and leave a small donation.
Malaria is supposed to be gone from these islands but there are some cases from time to time. Better to buy doxycycline on Bali where you can get it really cheap.
There are some pharmacies but we just couldn’t find any medicine for sore throat so take some extra from home.
Magic plane tickets
They say that even flights that are booked magically produce plane tickets if you offer a 100.000 IDR or so. Oh, the joys of corruption in Indonesia 🙂
Only in Bandaneira exists Banda wireless internet. You can buy vouchers in local warungs for 19.000 IDR/day and you can have wifi in most of the hotels. Some days it worked so-so and some days it didn’t work. It has a limit of 250MB.
Hope you found the information useful. If you have any questions leave a comment and we’ll be happy to help 🙂