Banda’s  Spice Islands

Recently Calico was fortunate enough to visit the mysterious, legendary Banda Islands Cruising – Sorong to Misool (amazing Shadow Reef and Secret Lagoon)- Pulau Koon (too many fish)- The Banda Islands-Ambon.

View of the amazing Anchorage in Banda Harbour 1724

View of the amazing Anchorage in Banda Harbour 1724

These 7 small islands in Maluku , 250km South East of Ambon  has become such a backwater in recent decades  few people know of their fascinating historical importance .

First discovered by the Portuguese in 1512, it has changed hands constantly between European powers competing for the nutmeg monopoly . 

Banda Islands were once the only source of the world’s nutmeg  and mace in the middle ages and the driving force behind modern European  international relations and colonialism in the East Indies from the 16th century onwards .

Christopher Columbus was trying to find a shorter route to these very islands when he stumbled upon America. 

In the Elizabethan days  nutmeg was more valuable than gold by weight, as the nuts were believed to be a cure for the dreaded plague that was devastating Europe at the time. With so much potential wealth at stake it was only a matter of time before  one of the European powers would attempt to assert control over the Banda Islands nutmeg and mace.

The freshly harvested Nutmeg, the Mace is the outer skin.

    The freshly harvested Nutmeg, the Mace is the outer skin.

Portuguese, Spanish and finally the Dutch  and the English competed to out do one another in terms of seafaring , navigation and military supremacy, with bloodshed adventure and great risk for those involved !     

In 1621  the Dutch set about enforcing their monopoly over the Banda spice trade .  The orang Kaya ( Bandanese Noblemen ) were forced at gun point  to sign an unfeasible treaty, which was impossible  to keep and  gave the Dutch an excuse to use force on the Bandanese. The dutch quickly noted a number of violations in the treaty and attacked the Bandanese using samurai mercenaries  40 Village elders (orang Kaya)  were executed and their heads displayed on bamboo stakes .  

An original Canon lays as testament to the tensions and violence caused by the Nutmeg trade and competing powers.

An original Canon lays as testament to the tensions and violence caused by the Nutmeg trade and competing powers.

So obsessed were the Dutch in maintaining their strong hold in the Banda Islands that later on they would exchange  New  Amsterdam better known as Manhattan Island  for a little speck of rock in the Banda sea called Pulau Run from the English.   

History alone worthies a visit to these extraordinary islands but with its deep oceans and it crystal clear waters  the Banda islands are becoming one of Indonesia’s top diving destinations .

Calico Jack Charters is very excited to be able to add the Banda islands to it’s many wonderful dive/cruise destinations.

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