There are a lot of magical locations in all of Indonesia, but there is rarely one that has a lot riding on its back, as Banda Neira does. Saying that this is the jewel of the entire Banda Islands is not giving it enough credit, making it one of those locations that we cannot truly talk about until you see it for yourself.
Astonishingly remote Banda Neira island is where the central city of the Bandas lies, sometimes referred to as Bandanaira. Earning itself the reputation of the largest and most significant location on all of the Banda archipelago, it is little surprise that this newfound tourist haven on Banda Neira has become the darling of many travelers looking for some sense of history and adventure.
The Spice Island
The story of Banda Neira is never complete without touching upon the Dutch conquistadors that first discovered the location in the 15th Century. The spices that came out of the soil at Banda Neira were enough to get them glued to this region and were worth fighting for, literally. Banda Neira has come to be on the map for its aromatic nutmeg, mace, and other spices, which were believed to be a cure for the bubonic plague happening in the European continent at that time. But it was not the only reason for Banda Neira’s colonization. Awash with natural beauty and such exoticness that is almost out of a mythical story, anyone would want to set up abode here. Besides the spices, the locals, and the imposingly beautiful landscape, Banda Neira is better revered for its collection of important historical relics of significant size.
Bandanaira is a charming town to take a leisurely stroll and explore the magnificent UNESCO-nominated site, Fort Belgica. This star-shaped fort is unlike what we have seen elsewhere. The fort was built in 1611 and still bears a testament to the engineering expertise and feats achieved as far back as those days. Perched atop the hill, Fort Belgica overlooks the Banda Neira Bay. Witness the ancient canons that poke out as a reminder of times when Banda’s production of one of the world’s most sought-after commodities (nutmeg) was considered worth fighting for.
This truly star-fort on Banda Neira was initially built to specifications in a way that would allow residents to keep themselves safe from the effects of the rising water – or a local uprising from the residents of the area. Years later, Fort Belgica has proven to be much more than that – surviving multiple earthquakes to date. Fast forward centuries to 2020, you likely should not have worried about only the rising waters. After all, one of the things that makes Banda Neira an adventure for most people today remains the fact that it sits next to one of the active volcano sites in the Banda archipelago – Gunung Banda Api.
Onwards, as you explore a quaint little colonial outpost in the capital town of the Banda Islands, more historical relics of the colonial era emerge. Banda Neira tourists are treated to Fort Nassau, which was built into the backdrop of lush green vegetation to not only make the site easy on the eyes but also a delight to visit. Sadly, there is not much of this fort left, but there is enough for you to see how the Portuguese – who were the primary residents of this fort – lived.
You can move on to see all of Hatta’s residence, Rumah Budaya, and the Mini Palace – or Istana Mini, as the Dutch had named it when they were in control of the region. You can also visit another notable sight on Banda Neira, a 300 years old Chinese temple – Sun Tien Kong – offering relics from when the Chinese were involved in the Banda spice trade. An intricate piece of art, it is a must-see for history enthusiasts. With these in tow, it is little wonder why Banda Neira is considered a prime entrance into the list of the world’s heritage centers.
What’s on the land is not the only thing you can enjoy when you get here. Snorkeling and diving are prime when you are around Banda Neira. That is boosted by the fact that lava from nearby Gunung Api volcano flows into the oceans during an eruption caused the development of a new coral reef, which has birthed support for more marine life too. It is almost like nature worked everything to perfection here. Fortunately, Banda Neira is not at the tourist overcrowding stage yet. So you have all the time and space to enjoy the rich cultural heritage, local exoticness, natural lushness as well as fun adventures around Bandanaira for as far as you want to.