The Banda group, about 160 kilometers southeast of Ambon, consists of three larger islands and seven smaller ones, perched on the rim of Indonesia’s deepest sea, the Banda Sea. Near Manuk Island, the water reaches more than 6,500 meters depth. Of the three biggest islands Banda, Banda-Neira and Mount Api, the first two are covered with nutmeg trees and other vegetation. The third however, is entirely bare and highly volcanic. The last eruption of Mt. Api occurred only a few years ago. The seas around Banda are the sites of the famous Maluku sea gardens with their bright corals and colorful fish darting through the crystal-clear waters. Facilities for sightseeing, snorkeling and skin-diving are available, as well as clean, comfortable cottages.
Banda saw some of the bloodiest episodes of Maluku’s past history during the 17th century. In 1609, the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) dispatched Verhoeff to the islands to obtain the contested spice trade monopoly at any cost. Confronted by a superior power, people Banda were forced to allow the company to establish a fort, but in that same year Verhoeff was killed together with 45 of his men. The Company retaliated, but peace was not restored. In 1619, V.O.C. Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen arrived at the head of a penal expedition and exterminated the entire population of Banda. The land was divided into lots, called “perken”, and given to former company employees, the “perkiniers”, who were obliged to grow nutmeg and sell them at predetermined prices to the company. Slaves did the actual work in the fields. The old “perkenier houses”, or what is left of them, and old churches still retain a peculiar colonial character to the port town of Bandaneira today. Two old forts Belgica and Nassau are inside the town limits. Others are found elsewhere on the islands. See also the former Dutch Governor’s mansion, the History Museum in Neira, and the huge nutmeg plantation nearby.