Ambon, Banda Sea & Forgotten Islands Itinerary

From September through December and also between April & May each year it is possible to embark upon once in a lifetime voyages across the Banda Sea, visiting the famed ‘Spice Islands’ to discover diving Nirvana in the ‘Ring of Fire'. This is diving as it was meant to be enjoyed, true exploration, away from the crowds, discovering dive sites that very few divers will get a chance to explore; discover unique and spectacular scenery both above and below the waves where volcanic activity has created a remote island paradise, only accessible to divers via live aboard. With our unmatched experience in this area, we can show you just what an incredible destination this is and take you to our ‘Hammerhead hot spots’ where at certain times of the year schools of more than 200 Hammerheads have been witnessed.

Besides the schools of Hammerhead sharks, you will find pristine coral reefs, unique local seaman in Alor, tons of sea snakes in Manuk and a visit to the spice island in Banda Neira. The remoteness of these islands along with the low levels of human population, have meant less fishing and pollution pressures resulting in a vibrant, natural and healthy reef system. You can expect reefs bursting with life, huge sea fans and sponges, some monumental hard corals, and more fish than your mask can cope with, there is an extraordinary variety and volume of fish life, both in terms of large and small marine life.

Beyond providing some of the best diving in the region the islands also have had a long and fascinating history. Spices, foreign traders, colonial conflicts, wars and earthquakes have all featured heavily in their checkered past. Up until the middle of the 19th century this was the only place on Earth where the spices nutmeg and mace could be found and as a result they were crucial hub for the spice trade, for a taste of the historic atmosphere going ashore in Banda Neira and visiting the old colonial fort is a must.

Water Temp: Generally 80-84F/27-29C. However Alor can have temps in low to mid 60’sF/20’sC.

Air Temp: 71-87F/22-31C

Visibility: 66-99FT/20-30M.

Currents: medium to strong.

Experience level: intermediate to advanced.

Best Time to Dive: March, April, & mid-September to December

Please contact us for trip itineraries, departure & arrival times along with details of domestic & international flights specific to each trip.

Sample Itinerary: Maumere -Alor -Banda-Ambon - 12D/11N

Please note that schedules are subjected to changes according to weather and sea condition.

Day 1. (0-1 dives) 5pm. Our staff will meet you in Maumere Airport and transfer you to Blue Manta Explorer. Depending on arrival time, if time permits, we can do check dive in Maumere Bay.

Day 2. (4 dives) Pulau Komba, amazing volcanic activity and “fireworks show”.

Day 3-4. (4 dive x2 days) Alor; diving around the best sites; Karl’s Dream and Critters diving. Sail to Palau Wetar.

Day 5. (3 dives) Wetar; excellent wall/ drop off filled with fantastic macro and pelagic life. Sail toward Ring of Fire overnight.

Day 6-9. (4 dives x4 days) Ring of Fire; Hammerhead sharks, Sea Snake dives.

Day 10. (3 dives) Banda Island & Banda Sea; best place to encounter huge schools of fish, tuna, reef sharks, & more. Then Sail back to Ambon,

Day 11. (2-3 dives) Critter dives at Ambon Bay.

Day 12. (0 dives) 6am. Check out after breakfast, farewells, and transfer to Ambon airport. Take your pre-booked flight to Jakarta or Bali, via Ujung Pandang.

There are several different embarkation & disembarkation points for our Banda Sea diving safaris. While some trips that visit the region begin or end in Raja Ampat (Sorong) and others in Flores (Maumere) the most common access is from Ambon. Please check your trip itinerary and confirm your start / end points before booking any flights. Wherever your trip starts / finishes we will be there to collect you at the airport on the day of departure and transfer you to your departure airport at the end of your trip.

Embarkation / Disembarkation points (please check your trips itinerary before booking flights):

  • Ambon (AMQ) / Ambon (AMQ)
  • Ambon (AMQ) / Saumlaki (SXK)
  • Saumlaki (SXK), / Ambon (AMQ)
  • Ambon (AMQ), / Sorong (SOQ),
  • Sorong (SOQ), West Papua / Ambon (AMQ)
  • Maumere (MOF), Flores / Saumlaki (SXK)
  • Saumlaki (SXK) / Maumere (MOF)

How to get to Ambon (AMQ): Lion Air daily flights from Bali via Makassar or Manado, Garuda Indonesia or Sriwijaya Air from Jakarta via Makassar to Ambon (flight time around 3 hours).

How to get from Ambon (AMQ): Lion Air daily flights from Ambon to Bali, or with Garuda Indonesia or Sriwijaya Air to Jakarta all via Makassar. Early morning flights should give you best chance of making connecting International flights (flight time around 3 hours).

Ambon Hotels: Trip Departures are from Laha Bay, Ambon. We only include local hotel/ airport pickups as Ambon is vast. If staying at Maluku Divers Resort then this is local and we will pick you & included. Hotels located on North Eastern side (i.e Dive into Ambon) or on the Southern side of Ambon (i.e Swiss Belhotel Ambon) are NOT local and we ask you to make your own way to Pattimura Airport (AMQ) where we will collect you.

How to get to Saumlaki (SXK): Lion Wings morning flights or Garuda Indonesia for afternoon flights from Ambon to Saumlaki (flight time 1.5 hours). Before that: Jakarta to Ambon.

How to get from Saumlaki (SXK): Lion Wings flights from Saumlaki to Ambon (flight time 1.5 hours). After that: Ambon to Jakarta (flight time 3.5 hours).

Saumlaki Hotels: For hotels located close to the airport and our departure point, which can provide a comfortable overnight stay, check out these options: Hotel Beringin Dua, INCLA Hotel or Hotel Harapan Indah.

How to get to Sorong (SOQ), West Papua: It is easiest to fly to Sorong (SOQ) via Jakarta (CGK), Makassar (UPG Ujung Pandang), Bali (DPS, Denpasar), or Manado (MDC). Domestic Airlines: Garuda Indonesia / Sriwijaya Air / Lion Air / Express Air. International Airlines: Silk Air operates regularly from Singapore to Manado. Garuda Indonesia flies daily from Singapore to Makassar. 
*Garuda Airlines now offers daily direct flights between Jakarta and Sorong.

How to get from Sorong (SOQ), West Papua: Daily flights from Sorong (SOQ) via Jakarta (CGK), Makassar (UPG, Ujung Pandang) or Manado (MDC) Domestic Airlines; Garuda Indonesia / Sriwijaya Air / Lion Air / Express Air

Hotels in Sorong: check out the following hotel options in Sorong; Swiss-Belhotel; Hotel Mariat; Royal Mamberamo; JE Meridien Hotel;Waigo Hotel.

How to get to Maumere (MOF), Flores: Lion Air & KalStar have daily flights from Ambon or Bali to Maumere. Early morning flights should give you best chance of making connecting International flights (flight time around 2hours).

How to get from Maumere (MOF), Flores: There are daily flights from Maumere to either Bali or Makassar. Lion Air & KalStar (flight time around 2 hours). 

Hotels in Maumere: For hotels located close to the airport and our departure point, which can provide a comfortable overnight stay, check out these options: Sylvia Hotel or CAPRA Resort.

How to get to Tual (LUV), Kai Islands: Via Ambon; you can connect with a flight from Jakarta (CGK), Bali (DPS) via Ujung Pandang (UPG/ aka Makassar) or Manado (MDC). To Langgur/ Tual Dumatubun Airport (LUV) from Ambon (AMQ) with Lion Wings (Lion Air) & Garuda Indonesia daily. Lion Wings best for earlier Trip Departure.

How to get from Tual (LUV), Kai Islands: From Langgur/ Tual Dumatubun Airport (LUV) to Ambon (AMQ) with Lion Wings (Lion Air) & Garuda Indonesia daily Via Ambon; after the flight from Ambon you can connect with Jakarta (CGK), Bali (DPS) via Ujung Pandang (UPG/ aka Makassar) or Manado (MDC).

Hotels in Tual & Langgur (Kai Islands): Recommended Hotels, close to the airport and perfect for a short overnight stay include; Grand Villa Hotel or Syafira Hotel.

Book online directly: Garuda Indonesia & Lion Air provides online reservations.

Other airline carriers: You may need an Indonesian credit card.

What Exposure suit do I need? Warm, tropical waters with temperatures between 78-82F/26-28C mean a 3mm shorty is fine for most of the trip, however in certain areas, especially Alor, water temps can be significantly colder, in the low to mid 20’s. It is therefore advisable to bring along a 5mm full wetsuit & hood for these colder waters.

Are you diving with 12L or 15L tanks and are you using DIN or Yoke valves? Our tanks have both INT valves and DIN inserts. You don’t need to bring an adapter. We can provide 15L tanks on request (rental fee applicable and subject to availability on booking)

When is the best time to visit the Banda Sea? Dry season in the Banda Sea runs from approximately May to November, with more likelihood of rain in the months of January and February. The temperature is quite constant between 27°C and 32°C, the best time to visit for diving is between September and November, this is generally the time with the best chance of spotting schooling scalloped Hammerheads!

Check List of what to bring? PASSPORT, Dive certification card, log books, Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, book, MP3/Tablet, camera chargers, memory sticks/SD cards, and CASH for any travel necessities.

Check List for Diving Gear: BCD, Regulator, Fin/booties, Mask, snorkel, wetsuit, dive computer, underwater flashlight/torch with batteries, SMB, hood, reef hook. If you do not have any of these items, we have rental gear available; just let us know what items and sizes (if applicable) in advance, as all gear is subject to availability. Please note the use of a dive computer is compulsory for all Indonesia itineraries, if you do not have one, we have them available for rent onboard.

Do I need a visa? Visa Exemption or Visa on Arrival (VoA): many countries now receive a free 30 day entry on arrival, some pay USD35 to obtain a VoA, others will have to obtain Visa BEFORE Arrival. Passport: ensure your passport is in good order, has enough pages, is valid for at least 6 months, and that you are able to enter Indonesia. Check with your local Indonesia Embassy if unsure.

Will I need to Pay Departure Tax at the airport? Departure Tax; Indonesia Passenger Service Charge (IPSC) has changed (March 2015) to be included in your flight ticket price. Please check with your airline if unsure.

Should I purchase Travel & Dive Insurance? Dive Insurance with evacuation coverage is compulsory for all trips. We also strongly advise you get adequate travel insurance. Please check your travel insurance policy for your travel needs. For dive travel insurance, we recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) or Dive Assure. More information about insurance options can be found HERE.

Travel Insurance: please NOTE: we cannot be held accountable for airline flight changes, delays, or cancellations. We STRONGLY advise you take out adequate insurance to cover such eventualities

Follow Safe Diving Practices at ALL times: we do not allow Decompression Diving or Solo Diving on any of our trips.

Is Malaria present in this area? Will I need Immunization boosters? You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. Some vaccines may also be required for travel; while the risk is low some health professionals recommend travel vaccines for Hepatitis A/B and Typhoid. Banda Sea area is a low risk Malaria Zone; however it is advised you take the proper precautions against malaria including speaking with your physician or travel medicine specialist for appropriate anti-malarials. DAN provides information on diving and anti-malarials, which can be found HERE. Good preventative measures include DEET-containing insect repellent and long armed/legged clothing in the evening. If unsure about any health matters please consult a diving doctor prior to your trip.

What Currencies are accepted in this area? Most places accept US Dollars, as well as Indonesian Rupiah. Please ensure ALL bills are in good order; NOT worn or torn and unmarked or they will not be accepted. Exchange rates differ for USD100/50 bills and USD20/10 bills.

Is there a fuel Surcharge? NO fuel surcharges in place at this time but may be implemented to account for any wide fluctuations.

What Plug types are available? We have 3 pin UK standard plugs, 220v in every cabin, salon, dining area, and dive deck. International plugs plus USB sockets are also available. We also have some adapters onboard. Most modern mobile phones, computers, camera batteries, etc. are dual voltage (check labels to be certain), so most guests only require adapters, rather than converters. If a converter is required, please bring your own.

Is there Internet/ Mobile signal available in Banda Sea? Local Telkomsel is the best local card to buy Telkomsel simpati bsim card starts at only 3usd. Plus credit to add on top!!! Some areas closer to larger population centers such as Ambon have a fairly good 3G connection, once amongst the islands of the Banda Sea however there is limited mobile signal / internet access. The Blue Manta Explorer does have 24hr Satellite Internet available onboard at a charge.

How much luggage is allowed on domestic flights? Most airlines allow 10-20kg/pax checked & 7kg carry-on. Additional weight is charged per/kilo (USD2-5/ kilo). Maximum allowance between 20-30kg. Consult with your Travel Agent or Airline carrier for actual details.

How about the weather? What Clothes should I bring? Generally, throughout the day, light clothing such as shorts and T-Shirt should be enough, most often it is hot and sunny with fine clear blue skies, you may want to bring a light sweater or jumper for the evenings, however the temperatures tend to stay fairly warm even after the sun goes down. 

Will there be any land based visits? Yes, when possible we like to visit the old Colonial fort at Banda Neira and make a visit to at least one of the local villages in the heart of the Spice Islands.

Am I guaranteed to see Hammerheads? While our experienced crew will do all they can to give you the best chance to see the schooling hammerheads, and we have had a fantastic rate of success with Hammerhead sightings on our crossing trips, nothing in nature comes with a cast iron guarantee. We can say that we are confident we will provide the best opportunity to dive with these amazing marine mega stars, but we do stop short at the word ‘guarantee!'

How much should I tip the crew? Average guest gratuities are around 10% of your trip price, or more if you wish to reward their excellent service, this is entirely up to you of course. (USD or Indonesian Rupiah preferred).

What’s included? Land transfer from local hotel/airport from destination on trip start & end days to boat, all nights’ accommodation on Blue Manta Explorer, all meals (Western & Indonesian) snacks, hot beverages, coffee, tea, Milo, towel, toiletries, cabin services, 12 litre air tanks, weights & belt, warm towel & drink after every dive, 5 dive guides (2x Instructor, 3x Dive Master).

What’s excluded? All flights, accommodation on land, marine park & harbor fee (USD250/pax), dive insurance (required), travel insurance, massage services (USD30/ hour), laundry services (USD5/basket), Satellite Wi-Fi (USD30/per person/per trip), Nespresso coffee (USD2), soft drinks, Alcohol; beer (USD4), wine (USD30-50), Diving Gear; 15L tank rental, Nitrox EANx32, Nitrox & Equipment Rental Items.

Credit card: MasterCard & Visa only, all credit card transactions incur 4.5% processing fee.