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Liveaboard Diving in the Banda Islands

Set in the heart of Indonesia, these hard-to-reach islands are home to some of the healthiest underwater ecosystems you’ll ever see. Dive with dogtooth tuna and mobula rays in paradise.

Banda Islands liveaboards

In the heart of the Banda Sea, you’ll find several islands historically nicknamed the Spice Islands. Today, these are known as the Banda Islands. While you will find scuba diving resorts and operations on the major islands, you’ll only be able to dive the area’s 30 or more dive sites from a liveaboard. For this reason, liveaboards are the most popular form of travel for scuba divers in the Banda Sea. Most of the dive safaris in the area last between 7 and 10 nights. There are dozens of liveaboards sailing the Banda Sea, suitable to every budget and need. Almost all of the boats exploring this area do so on a part-time basis. For the rest of the year, they sail in Komodo or Raja Ampat, but as the popularity of the Banda Islands grow, so too will the number of boats in the region. Most of the liveaboards in the area can be divided into two categories: sailboat or steel-hulled yacht. The Arenui and the Dewi Nusantara are examples of luxurious, gaff-rigged Phinisi sailboats. These ships sail in traditional, wooden style. On the other hand, the Indo Aggressor and the MV White Manta are steel-hulled yachts. These are a wonderful choice for those that suffer seasickness and need a bit more stability. Furthermore, liveaboards in the Banda Islands can range from USD 1,500 to USD 6,000. If you’re conscious with your budget, check out the KLM Sunshine or the SMY Ondina.

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Diving in the Banda Islands

Quick facts

The Banda Islands are home to healthy coral reef ecosystems which support marine life ranging from pygmy seahorses to pilot whales. While there are plenty of pelagic species to keep big animal lovers happy, the real reason so many divers want to visit the Banda Islands are the dense schools of fish and incredible biodiversity. Lucky divers will see a large range of rare marine life species including dogtooth tuna, mobula rays, mandarinfish, Ambon scorpionfish, melonhead whales, spinner dolphins, huge schools of fusiliers and redtooth triggerfish. The islands boast a wide variety of underwater environments such as easy reef dives, historical wrecks and high-speed drifts. The real winner here, though, are the simple dives which show the astounding diversity of tropical fish. The area can easily compete with Raja Ampat in terms of biodiversity, but may win out because of the lack of tourist and fishing pressures. Above the water landscapes are volcanic with amazing coral growth spurred by recent eruptions and a limited population. Most of the diving in the Banda Islands is easy with warm water, excellent visibility and a lack of challenging currents. However, certain dive sites are known to have strong and unpredictable currents. Therefore, it’s recommended that only intermediate and advanced divers travel to these islands by liveaboard.


September to December

The best time to travel by liveaboard to the Banda Islands is from March to April and again from September to December. At this time, scuba divers will experience less rain than during the summer months. The seas are also relatively smooth, making for the most comfortable liveaboard journeys. The sea and air temperatures in the Banda Islands are relatively constant throughout the year. Sea temperatures average about 80-84°F (26-29°C). Visibility tends to improve after rainy season from August to December. At this time, you will enjoy clarity between 50 and 100 feet (15 and 30 meters). Outside of peak months, many liveaboards don’t travel to the Banda Islands, restricting scuba divers to the use of land-based operations. July and August tends to be rainy with rough seas.

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How to Get to the Banda Islands

Because the Banda Islands tend to be included on liveaboard itineraries during transitioning cruises, there is no set departure harbor. Ambon, Kalabahi in Alor, Sorong in Raja Ampat or Saumlaki in Maluku are all sometimes used for departure. If you wish to reach the Banda Islands independently, you will have to do so through Ambon. Luckily, all of these departure ports have their own domestic airports. Unfortunately, you will have to reach them using domestic airlines with connections to Denpasar in Bali, Surabaya or Jakarta. While reaching the Banda Islands may be a time consuming affair, it is worth it for an epic scuba diving holiday.

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