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Published: February 18th 2007
The freezer Guy
Journey to the Spice Islands - Spice Islands, Indonesia, Asia
By: Dave Stocking
We recently returned from a trip to the Banda Islands, previously the mysterious Spice Islands. The islands have both a European and a local history. They have long been a major point of conflict for their riches. Getting there is an adventure in itself. This is our trip with a few tips.
We are in our mid to late 50s, don’t do hard travel, long bus journeys or speed boats (hard on the back). We don’t speak Bahsa Indonesian, but are trying to learn. We spend a little extra to smooth the trip out, try to avoid too much moving about, hire porters where possible. The journey was from Europe, with a stopover in Jakarta.
Not caring for basic accommodation in cities. We booked the Cipitura Hotel at $75.00 per night. It was good for swimming and resting after the flight. Also, it was close to the airport, had a pool and an attached shopping mall for SIM cards and getting cash changed; exchange rates in Maluku are abysmal.
Our flight to Ambon from Jakarta was purchased in advance. To get flights from outside Indonesia, you have to
email your credit card details to a reliable agency. The risk is yours alone. Indonesian banks don’t issue secure web pages for payment. Banker’s drafts, money orders, etc. are a pain and expensive. You can get a reservation over the web for so many hours/days, but they will only hold it so long without payment.
Flight to Ambon from Jakarta purchased in advance through www.indo.com for US$ 105 each delivered to the hotel by there courier for $7 Carrier Mandala departure about 0700 hrs Lion air fly that way to and maybe others. Try http://www.oag.com/oag/website/com/en/Home/Flight+Lookup/ for worldwide info on who flies where. It has Ambon, Ujung Pandang (Makassar) etc but not places like Bandaniera and the Keis.
Ambon airport is a long way from Ambon. It’s possible to go by Bemo. We took a taxi for 150,000 rupiah, about $15.00. On arrival at the airport, the police called us into their office. Expecting the usual shakedown, they politely registered us as being in Maluku, and offered travel advice.
Cheap accommodation in Ambon is poor we stayed Mutiara Hotel Rp 250,000 /n quite nice.
Ambon There’s the Museum Siwa Lima - 20 min from Ambon city there was a Dive operation
Ceramai docking in Banda The type of boat you can hire to get to Ceram is shown in the foreground the larger of the 2
on Namalatu and maybe some bungalows though there was no one there someone offered to go and get the dive guy, though we I don’t dive. Snorkeling not great murky, lot of rubbish. Santi panti was a bit better than Namalatu. On another day it could have been fine but the Jellyfish frightened us off. People have reported good dives with big stuff in this area. Best beach reported as being Panti Liang about 2 hours from the city.
It’s not possible to book your onward travel from Ambon unless you are actually there, due to the payment problems and you can’t be sure if the flight to Banda will go Its worth getting your name down ask a local travel agents to do it. Commercial flights to Bandaneira are on an 18-seat plane, Mondays only. When we were there, flights didn’t run for the full 16 days due to high winds. If passengers are carrying heavy dive gear or are heavy, fewer people get on. When we left the island, there were 30 people on the list for the next Monday’s flight. The travel agents mostly deal with local tourists. For travel information in the area, we found a
Gunung Api Bandas
Dominating the islands a small but often angry vulcano
travel agent in Ambon who speaks English and is connected -
P.T.Daya Patel Tour and Travel service,
Jl Said Perintah No 53 Ambon.
E Mail email@example.com
Tel 0911 353344- 310255 / 3303355
Hand phone 0811470608
Guy named Tony Tomasoa. He can give you approximate ferry days and flight days, (if they fly) and make reservations, even though they do expire. Advanced times for boats remain pretty much hit and miss, even on the day of travel. The most reliable way to Banda is by the Pelni ferries which run once a week.
It takes seven hours to Bandaniera you can find the current routes on -http://www.worldtrippin.be/pelni/index.php?lang=en_US local knowledge required for the times and dates. It’s a 2006 schedule.
Getting off the islands has to be planned. A good option, in my opinion, would be to link in flights from Ambon airport directly to Langgur in the Kei Islands. There are daily flights to the Kei islands they have some fantastic beaches with accommodation. There is supposed to be an airport hotel in Ambon. The Pelni ferry ships currently go Ambon/Banda/Kei Islands, then around a small loop, two to four days back to the Kei Islands/Banda/Ambon. This gives
Fort Belgica Bandaneira
The restored fort dominating the island all the main islands have forts.
you two options per week to get to and from Banda, iThat is if you can afford 400,000 rupiah, flight costs between the Kei islands and Ambon. If you get stuck in Ambon then hop over to Lease islands to pass the time nicer than Ambon I am told.
Here are more choices. Hire one of the larger wooden boats around Bandaneira and charter to Seram. The price when we were there was 1,400,000 rupiah and you can share. I think they go to Tehoru, it’s the nearest point and takes around six hours. The problems are small boats in open waters; however, some of them are as large as the yachts that sail around as live aboard dive boats just not so well appointed. It depends on the weather the swell and your comfort level.
Watch for larger cargo vessels and the oil tanker that does the round trip from Seram to Banda. You can hitch a lift with them. The issue of unreliability, though, is always present. Delays are common. The bigger the boat, the better. See the captain and rent a cabin from a crew man he will sleep on the deck or you can stay on deck. If language is a problem, find someone who can communicate for a good deal before you get on. People who speak English in Banda will find you.
Once you get to Seram, its road transport to Amahai or Namano, then ferry to Ambon. We had to stay a few days in Ambon before we could get a seat on the flight to Denpasar. Paid 1.4 million each and the plane was full. If you leave, say 1,000,000 rupiah per person with the travel agent, you can phone him from Banda, book your ticket once you are sure of the return date. You can also book a hotel in advance. Use the travel agent’s airport bus, cheaper than a taxi.
There are many other options in the area, most popular being Lease Islands, and Teluk Sawai bay on Seram. People also go to Ternate and Tidore, although I wouldn’t recommend them or anywhere else in Maluku. If you want to hang out with tourists.
Was it worth the bother to get to the Bandas? Absolutely. It’s a great place for history buffs and the snorkeling is probably the best in the world this is not just my opinion but seems to be the opinion of everyone who goes there. Diving is possible as well reported as expensive with only one operation. Snorkeling here is better than diving most places.
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