Weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa)

The Banda Islands: Beauty, biodiversity, world-beating diving and historical bloodshed (Part 2)

In our three-part blog exploring Indonesia’s stunning Banda Islands, we are looking at the history, the wildlife and, of course, the diving.

One of the most incredible destinations in any Emperor Divers liveaboards itinerary, we last time found out about what the islands used to be. In part two we look at what these 10 small volcanic islands have become.


The volcanic eruption of “Gunung Api” in 1988 caused lava to flow into the water and destroyed parts of the surrounding reef. The dive site, now called “Lava Flow”, has become the fastest-growing reef on the planet and has prompted the curiosity of marine biologists due to the reefs rate of recovery and increase of biodiversity, contrary to other reefs around the planet. This new focus on the treasures below the waters has rekindled global interest in the Banda Islands – and for good reason.

The Banda Islands are considered by many to be a coral wonderland, which is no surprise given they are at the heart of the coral triangle. They boast an impressive 397 species of coral, 683 species of fish and an abundance of turtles and pelagic species.

It’s thought the high degree of biodiversity is due to the buffering effect of the surrounding Banda Sea which, with its depth of 8,000 metres, protects the islands from extreme equatorial temperatures. October to December is the best time of year to take a liveaboard trip in the Banda Sea as these months have the most favourable sea conditions and a very good chance of experiencing schooling hammerhead sharks.


A stand-out dive is Pulau Suanggi (Evil Spirit Island) which encompasses a bit of everything that the Banda Islands have to offer…and then some.

From vibrant shallows, white-sand slopes and walls teeming with life above and below the surface, you can also take the opportunity to kick away from the island and into the depths in search of schooling hammerhead sharks.

While solitary and schooling hammerheads are possible at most of the Banda dive sites, this site represents a good opportunity to go searching. It takes roughly three dives to see everything Pulau Suanggi has to offer, but the site rarely disappoints. In-between dives grab the binoculars and watch the large population of frigate and other sea birds squabbling for nesting space amongst the steep cliff of this tiny island.

If muck diving is your preference, then you might enjoy the chance to go looking for the endemic ‘Psychedelic Frog Fish’. It is a species that, if you don’t already know about it, will quickly make its way to your bucket list after seeing some pictures. The muck sites in Ambon also offer the chance to see a good range of shrimp, nudibranchs, eels, seahorses, frogfish, eels and even rhinopias.

And what of the diving itself? Well, more on that in part three…


Find out more about this amazing part of the world by exploring our
Banda Islands and Raja Ampat & Banda Islands itineraries.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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