The Best Diving Liveaboard in Banda Sea, Indonesia – All 4 Diving Liveaboards
Diving in the Banda Sea is all about deep, endless walls topped by untouched coral gardens. Crystal clear blue water and schooling fish. Best accessed by liveaboards, book your cruise to this exciting destination now!
Banda Sea Liveaboard Diving can be experienced as an exclusive cruise in this deep and vast sea, or as part of an extended cruise that visits other great diving destinations such as Triton Bay. The Banda Sea is surrounded by hundreds of islands and is connected to the Pacific Ocean. These isolated islands make for adventurous diving on healthy and untouched reefs.
Rising out of the depths of the Banda Sea are the Banda Islands. They are a group of ten volcanic islands south of Seram island. These Spice Islands were once the only place in the world where nutmeg could be found. Rich in history and surrounded by fantastic world class dive sites, these islands are an essential part of a cruise in the Banda Sea.
Deep walls topped with beautiful and healthy coral gardens, and crystal clear water, bring divers from all over the planet to experience this exciting destination. Dive on a lava flow or enjoy the muck diving or explore a sea snake island! The extreme depths of the Banda Sea lend themselves to encounters with large pelagics and big fish. And this destination is becoming known for possible encounters with schools of hammerhead sharks.
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The Best Diving Liveaboard in Banda Sea, Indonesia – All 4 Diving Liveaboards - 48 LIVEABOARDS
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Best Places to Dive in the Banda Sea
The Banda Sea is a vast area. Here we will mostly cover the dive sites in the Banda Islands. When divers talk about the Banda Sea they mention the endless walls, the enormous barrel sponges and colours created by schooling fish and healthy corals.
The Forgotten Islands are part of some liveaboard’s Banda Sea cruises. If you would like to read more information about other diving areas in the Banda Sea, please read about the Forgotten Islands.
Right in front of a colonial-looking hotel in the main harbour of Banda Neira, is this amazing dive site. This place is probably one of the best sites in the world to see mandarin fish. The rocky harbour wall has over the years collapsed into the sea. These rocks have created a favourite spot for the colourful mandarin fish to hang out.
Liveaboards will arrange a dusk dive for a chance to see the mesmerising mating dance of the mandarin fish. Be patient and wait until it is almost dark to witness this beautiful spectacle. Around the rocks, you can also see pipefish, pretty blennies, scorpion fish and frogfish.
Batu means rock and Kapal means boat. You can decide if the small rock at the top of this dive site looks like a boat! The main rock starts at a plateaux and slopes steeply down into a sea fan covered reef. Large honeycomb moray eels are a highlight on this dive. Look for the strange looking soapfish, they are shy and it’s a challenge to catch a glimpse of them.
A second pinnacle away from the main rock is a hub of activity. Immense schools of pyramid butterflyfish, red tooth triggerfish and fusiliers make it worth hanging out here at the beginning of the dive. Turtles and large napoleon wrasses like this spot too. Massive barrel sponges and sea fans all over this dive site, are impressive in their size.
The focus of this dive site is the large opening on the top of the reef. You can enter this dive site in the shallows and drift to the swim through. Look for the schools of batfish here. Drop down into a large hole completely covered in sea fans, soft corals and whip corals.
Pygmy seahorses, fire gobies, leaf fish and nudibranch are all special critters seen here.
This large submerged reef covers a vast area. The top of the reef has large coral heads and is full of fish life. Turtles and octopus like the hard coral and rocky areas. At the side of the reef the dive site drops into steep slopes.
Where the currents are stronger, large schools of snappers, surgeonfish and jacks hang out. Look out in to the blue for hammerhead sharks, eagle rays and other large fish such as tuna.
In the 17th century, the British had built fortified trading posts on the islands of Run and Ai. As the popularity of spices rose, especially for the valuable nutmeg, the Dutch were fighting the British for the control of the Banda Islands. At this time it was the only place in the world that nutmeg was found. The tiny island of Run was exchanged for the island of Manhattan in New York!
This dive site is on the south of Run. It is a very steep slope that drops down into the depths. Gigantic gorgonian sea fans grow all along the reef. Best done as a drift dive, you need to look out into the blue for a possible sighting of hammerhead sharks.
Gunung Api means Fire Mountain. It is one of two active volcanoes in the Banda Sea. Liveaboards that are crossing the Banda Sea might stop here. The dramatic cliffs of the sides of the volcano, drop down into deep rocky dive sites.
Gunung Api is known for the sea snakes that live here in great numbers. This makes for a very unique dive experience. Hammerhead sharks, tunas, napoleon wrasse and large schools of jacks also visit this dive site.
Lucipara is made up of five tiny atolls. These atolls are the tops of huge undersea mountains rising out of the depths of the Banda Sea. The topside scenery of the atolls surrounded by uninhabited beaches is an indication of what awaits below the surface.
Stunning coral reefs dropping into steep walls are the order of the day. Be impressed with the size of the barrel sponges, present in all of the Banda Sea. Big schools of jacks, turtles and large tunas can be seen here. Schools of hammerhead sharks have been spotted here too.
Liveaboards cruises in the Banda Sea that are heading to or from Raja Ampat, might stop at Koon. This small island is completed surrounded by a reef. The beach here is absolutely beautiful but can only be reached at high tide. Liveaboards stopping here will stop here for a couple of dives before continuing their journey.
Too Many Fish
The name of the dive site says it all. A large sandy area surrounded by hard coral reef slopes is where you will see the largest schools of fish. Big groups of batfish shelter next to the shallow coral heads. Giant schools of big-eyed trevallies circle above the sand and reef. Black snappers and fusiliers are here in large numbers too.
Dolphins, eagle rays, leopard sharks, large tuna, huge groupers and guitarfish have all been seen here. For macro enthusiasts you can find pygmy seahorses, leaf fish, moray eels, gobies and blennies and pink squat lobsters in the huge barrel sponges.
Nusa Laut is a small island in the Lease group of islands, east of Ambon. The island is inhabited. The villagers at Ameth actively protect the large reef in front of their home. It is only really possible to dive this reef from a liveaboard.
Diving here is very exciting. The sloping, hard coral reef extends a long way and eventually finishes in a large sandy area. In the shallows the healthy hard corals attract a plentitude of fish. Large schools of black snappers, fusiliers, jacks are found near a very large coral head on the top of the reef. From here, the reef slopes sharply into a giant plateau that extends out into very deep water.
It is worth swimming away from the reef to look out into the deep for hammerhead sharks. Thresher sharks, eagle rays and giant schools of jacks have also been seen here. There is also a resident school of bumphead parrotfish. For the very lucky divers, you might encounter a dugong.
Banda Sea Liveaboard Diving
Liveaboards will cruise in the Banda Sea as part of an extended cruise. Other amazing destinations can be included in a cruise that visits the Banda Sea. The Forgotten Islands are in the Banda Sea. Cruises might begin in Alor and finish in Ambon. Or perhaps you will dive in the Banda Sea as part of a trip that began in Raja Ampat.
Read more here about these other great destinations.
Banda Sea Scuba Diving Highlights
- Common sightings - schooling fish, huge barrel sponges, napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, moray eels, pyramid butterflyfish, giant groupers.
- Special sightings - hammerhead sharks, soapfish, mandarin fish, turtles.
- Topography - Banda Sea dive sites are mostly deep walls with beautiful, shallow coral garden plateaus at the top.
- Visibility - the Banda Sea is renowned for its clear, blue water. Visibility is usually 30+ metres.
- General information - Banda Sea diving is open to all diver abilities.
- Onboard options - land excursion to Banda Neira on the main Spice Islands. Walk through history in this colonial town, visit the museum, the old Dutch fort and a nutmeg plantation.
A highlight of a Banda Sea cruise is a land excursion to the main island and town of Banda Neira. Rich in history, the Banda Islands are also known as the Spice Islands. The Banda Islands were the world's only source of nutmeg until the mid-19th century.
A visit to the small museum with a knowledgeable tour guide will introduce you to the history of the Banda Islands. A pleasant walk through the quiet town will take you to the old Dutch fort. You can even go to a nutmeg plantation to see the source of this once precious spice.
Best Time to Go
The brilliant dives sites of the Banda Sea are best visited in March and April and during September to December. Liveaboards restrict their visits to the Banda Sea to these calmer times. The weather in the Banda Sea can be inconsistent out of these periods.
All the marine life is present all year round. Water temperatures do not vary, except during strange climate phenomenon such as El Nino. The Banda Sea is known for the amazing visibility and this will usually be a constant.
How to Get There
There are two main ports of entry into Indonesia - Bali (DPS) and Jakarta (CGK). From there you can take a domestic flight to the departure point of your liveaboard.
Liveaboards offering the Banda Sea and the Banda Islands as a unique destination will depart from Ambon. Bali does not have direct flights to Ambon so you will have to change planes in Surabaya (SUB) or Makassar (UPG). There are direct flights from/to Jakarta.
To join liveaboards for a cruise in the Banda Sea that visit the Forgotten Islands, you may need to fly into Saumlaki (SXK) on the island of Tanimbar.
To join liveaboards for a cruise through the Banda Sea you may need to fly into or out of Maumere (MOF). Maumere can be reached with a short domestic flight out of Bali (DPS).
Other cruises might begin or end in Raja Ampat. For those trips, you fly into or out of Sorong (SOQ).