Each year our plucky explorer the Anne Judith II spends the majority of the year in either Raja Ampat or Komodo, two destinations in which she and her crew are extremely well versed. Of course, these two destinations are magnificent in every way but what lies in between is potentially even more unique.
With that in mind the Anne Judith II set out to follow the ancient Spice route, through the Maluku Islands also known as the Moluccas, a journey steeped in history and as stunning a voyage as you could possibly hope for. Having already made the crossing from Bali to Labuan Bajo via the Gili’s, Sumbawa, Saleh Bay and Moyo Island, the next stage was to get the Anne Judith to Ambon to begin the 8-night cruise to Sorong while discovering all the magic in between.
We picked up our guests, a lovely family of divers excited to discover the underwater world of this remarkable region, at Ambon Airport and transferred them to the Anne Judith for a quick briefing and a much-needed meal prepared by our always smiling crew. We all had a good night’s sleep, excited to depart the next day.
Cloaked in tropical rainforest, Ambon Island is a fertile, mountainous piece of land that lies off the southwest coast of Seram on the north of the Banda Sea. It makes up part of a chain of volcanic islands on the northern side of the renowned Banda Islands.
Back in the 16th century, the Banda Islands were the only place in the world where nutmeg could be found, which at that time was the most expensive spice in the markets in Europe. For many years, the isles were known for their significance in the spice trade. Today, they are known not only for their history but also for their breath-taking landscape, both above and below water.
With a mix of history and natural beauty, these islands are the perfect place to enjoy diving, snorkelling, beach barbecues and time ashore exploring forgotten forts reclaimed by the jungle and nutmeg plantations dotted with ancient almond trees.
As mentioned, the aim was to follow the historical spice route while visiting as many islands and experiencing their unique dive spots along the way. Well let’s just say we weren’t disappointed.
Not venturing too far the diving began in Ambon Bay with a wreck dive, home to frog ﬁsh, devil ﬁsh, Coleman’s shrimp and many other critters. We even snuck in a night dive before setting sail that evening. The next stop was Nusa Laut. Featuring excellent coral reef with large Acropora stands and giant schools of ﬁsh.
We wanted to see some bigger fish and we were delighted to arrive at Suangi Island for the opportunity to swim with sharks and manta rays. Sure enough, the sites delivered and we marvelled at the inquisitive and gentle giants until we needed a much-needed energy boost ,aboard the Anne Judith, prepared by its cracking crew.
Our onboard chef prepares your daily meals catering to specific tastes and dietary requirements while ingredients are locally sourced to ensure quality with both western and Indonesian specialties prepared with love.
After another dive we set sail for Banda Neira and arrived just in time for a spectacular sunset, the likes of which you only really dream of or see in the movies. The Banda islands are particularly impressive thanks in large to their active volcanoes. After the last eruption in 1988, corals re-growth was boosted by the resulting minerals and are truly a sight to behold.
The next spot was Batu Kapal, famous for pinnacles covered with sea fans and sponges while the afternoon was spent ashore visiting the colonial forts and spice plantations. But there is no rest for the wicked as we jumped back in that evening for a night dive off Koon Island, an incredible reef with walls, slopes, overhangs, caves and huge sponges. It really is one of the best dive sites for ﬁsh life in Indonesia. Macro life is exceptional here with leaf ﬁsh, ribbon eels and much more.
We head out overnight for Misool and reached the south-east of Misool at midday. Two dives in the area of Yellet and Boo with Batu Kecil welcoming us with a pinnacle reef system with great soft corals and dense ﬁsh life. Boo point east is another soft coral rich dive, where you can observe schools of batﬁsh, turtles and napoleon wrasse.
Elsewhere in east Misool we visited Three Rocks, a gorgeous pass lined with sea fans and whip corrals. Caves, Wall and No Contest were also options, but we decided to conserve energy for another night dive in a lagoon hidden deep in the rocks.
Happily exhausted we climbed into bed dreaming of what the next day would bring. The Anne Judith boast two comfortable cabins, each featuring a double and single bed, air conditioning, en-suite bathrooms, charging ports and closet space. Two lounge decks make for perfect rest areas after a day of adventure while dining both indoor and out are available depending on your mood. Nothing is too much trouble for our dedicated crew and your desires are our priority.
There are a hundred other dive spots, but you would need 6 months to even dive half of them, but highlights include Pet Rock, Candy Store and Andiamo. That night we made for the Dampier Straight and we jumped in at Batanta Island. Diversity, on the south-east corner of the island, is a reliable spot for mantas and once again our luck was in. That said you don’t have to be lucky in this region as we found out on our next dive at Cape Kri on the north shore of Raja Ampat. We marvelled at schools of trevally, barracuda, bannerﬁsh and sweetlips. It was the perfect end to what can only be described as a once in a lifetime journey.
It was with tired limbs and happy hearts that we cruised back to Sorong and the end of our time in the Moluccas. We truly recommend this trip to anyone, divers or otherwise.
Some people wait a lifetime, some people don’t. Which are you…?