Luxury safari and adventure specialist, Explorations Company, is delighted to announce the launch of an incredible new journey in iridescent Indonesia, travelling through the beautiful Banda Islands with explorer, Dr Lawrence Blair, aboard a Phinisi boat. From October 2024 onwards, set sail from Ambon before spending seven nights travelling through Banda’s waters along a historic spice route. Explore the charm of crumbling fortresses and majestic volcanoes, and bathe in warm turquoise waters. Let the kaleidoscopic coral reefs take your breath away: the Bandas are home to some of the best diving spots on earth.
Located approximately 2,000 kilometres east of Java in the Banda Sea, the archipelago comprises a group of ten small volcanic islands in Indonesia. One of the world’s last true paradises, the Bandas possess a rich history, and were once the exclusive source of nutmeg and mace during the colonial era, leaving traces of Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences.
Leading the Explorer’s Retreat (and having led marine expeditions across the archipelago since the Lindblad Explorer’s exploration of the Spice Islands in 1978), few rival Blair’s knowledge of this multi-island nation. Adding a new dimension of discovery to this trip, Blair is a renowned explorer, author, filmmaker and public speaker. A regular on international radio and TV, he is specialised in topics including psycho-anthropology, tribal mysticism and Indonesia’s ‘secrets’. Who better to journey through the Bandas with?
The duration of the Explorer’s Retreat will be spent aboard a hand-picked phinisi boat offering a good standard of luxury with spacious and comfortable en suite cabins with excellent amenities. Traditional Indonesian sailboats, these phinisi offer the perfect base from which to explore Indonesia and the Banda Islands in a luxurious yet relaxed atmosphere. Divers will love the fact that nitrox is available, while guests keen for more relaxing pursuits can enjoy the beautiful spaces onboard or try kayaking or paddle boarding.
Explorer’s Retreat itinerary
Day 1: Ambon
Catch the morning flight from Jakarta to Ambon, where your journey begins. Upon arrival in Ambon in the mid-afternoon, you’ll be greeted aboard the luxury vessel by the friendly crew and seasoned guide, Dr Lawrence Blair.
Day 2: Banda Island
Witness the dawn as your phinisi glides towards the enchanting Banda Islands, where an extraordinary greeting awaits from the Kora-Kora war canoes, elegantly escorting your boat into the tranquil harbour.
Stroll through Dutch Fort Belgica on Banda Naira as you’re transported back to the 16th and 17th centuries as Blair unveils the island’s history as the epicentre of fierce global competition. Delve into the mesmerising tales interwoven into the tapestry of time, revealing the vibrant narrative of the Old World spice trade.
Day 3: Naira Gunung Api
Delve into the rich history of spice cultivation at the world’s oldest nutmeg plantations, that offer a fascinating glimpse into the intricate cultivation methods and historical significance of nutmeg.
As the sun rises, lace up your hiking boots for an exhilarating ascent of Gunung Banda Api, an active volcano with breath-taking panoramic views. This early morning adventure not only provides an opportunity to witness the stunning sunrise but also allows you to marvel at the geological wonders of this volcanic landscape.
After the invigorating hike, plunge into the underwater wonders of the Lava Flow dive site. The onboard dive master will lead you through the crystal-clear waters, exploring vibrant marine life thriving amidst the remnants of the volcano’s volcanic activity. Encounter colourful coral formations, schools of tropical fish, and perhaps even some unique species that have made this volcanic underwater terrain their home.
In this remote part of Indonesia, experience local life with traditions unchanged for decades before departing Banda Harbour at night.
Day 4: Manuk
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast onboard as the morning sun casts its glow upon the stunning 300-metre cliffs of Pulau Manuk. This volcanic island rises a remarkable 3 kilometres from the seabed, creating a haven for a variety of marine life, including fish- hunting birds, sea snakes, and reef sharks drawn to the area’s unique underwater thermal springs. Keep an eye out for the elusive hammerhead sharks that occasionally grace the waters.
As daylight fades, set sail northward to Pulau Run, an island steeped in historical significance. Explore the remnants of its colonial past as you navigate the calm evening waters, providing a serene backdrop to a journey that seamlessly blends natural beauty and historical exploration.
Day 5: Ai
Sunrise arrival at Pulau Run, the furthest west among the Banda Islands.
The clear waters surrounding Pulau Run provide an ideal setting for water enthusiasts. Whether it’s swimming, fishing, snorkelling, or diving, the vibrant marine life promises an immersive experience. For those with a penchant for culture and nature, village tours, trekking through lush landscapes, and bird watching offer a deeper connection to the island’s surroundings.
The day’s exploration concludes on a pristine beach, where a relaxed cocktail party awaits. Savour the moment and unwind, surrounded by Pulau Run’s natural beauty. The cocktail party on the beach provides a perfect setting for Blair to share some of his stores from his past adventures across the Indonesian Archipelago.
Day 6: Maulana
Explore the picturesque northern region of Nusa Laut as you embark on a cycle ride through the charming fishing villages of Ameth and Akon. Immerse yourself in the local culture and witness the daily rhythms of life in these coastal communities. Not only does this area boast stunning landscapes, but it is also a vital habitat for the dugong, a vulnerable species and the Southeast Asian relative of the American manatee. As you pedal along the coastal trails, keep an eye out for these gentle marine mammals in their natural habitat.
In the afternoon, cruise to Maulana Island, a small yet densely forested gem nestled in the pristine waters. Marvel at the island’s lush greenery and discover its rich biodiversity, both on land and underwater. Maulana Island is renowned for its fantastic coral reefs, providing a haven for a diverse array of marine life.
Day 7: Saparua
Depart for the enchanting island outpost of Saparua, sailing along the breath-taking north coast of Ambon.
During the voyage, take a moment to disembark at the coastal town of Hila. Here, Blair can help you step back in time and explore the intriguing history of the old Dutch fortification, Fort Amsterdam.
Continue aboard towards Saparua, where a plethora of exciting water activities await. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of Ouw village, witnessing the intricate artistry of local pottery-making. Visit a bustling local market, engaging with the vibrant community and absorbing the lively atmosphere.
Saparua is not only a haven for cultural exploration but also a treasure trove of European relics waiting to be uncovered. Blair will help you delve into the remnants of European influence, adding a layer of historical depth to our island exploration.
Nature enthusiasts will find solace in the opportunity to explore bird habitats, witnessing the diverse avian life that calls the island home. Alternatively, for those seeking underwater adventures, Saparua offers the perfect setting for diving enthusiasts to delve into the mesmerising depths of its azure waters.
Launching in October 2024, the Banda’s With Blair ‘Explorer’s Retreat’ experience is best enjoyed from October through to March.