On the 23rd of November 1996 the Caledonian Star dropped anchor off the little Kakabia island. It was time to fit in a cruise around this interesting island, and a fleet of small black zodiac, seating about eight people, began the tour. It was a hot and humid day but the rain stayed away. Overhead we saw a frigate bird in all its glory, looking fit and healthy. We felt quite privileged being there and having a knowledgable expert in the boat with us. He knew all about the birds and wildlife in these waters.
Red-footed boobies were spotted on the island. We went ashore for a rather brief visit before heading back to the ship, lunch and a snorkel session for those interested (I was – and saw lots of brilliant coloured fish). It was a wonderful experience. I am no strong swimmer, but we all wore life vests and simply floated on top of the water admiring the brilliant under-water life we don’t even realise is there.
The next day was spent at sea – just relaxing by the little deck-pool, eating and drinking and chatting with newfound friends. Very pleasant indeed.
On Monday 25th of November we dropped anchor off the Banda islands, in the Banda sea. The Gunung Api volcano overshadows Banda and has erupted many times. The latest eruption took place in 1988. We all gathered on deck as we approached Bandaneria. This is where the majority of the population live, and the active volcano is only 650 metres away! There are ten small attractive island which make up the 60 square km archipelago. The sea here is very deep, more than 6500 meters of ocean water.
We felt very honoured indeed as we approached shore and were met by traditional war canoes. They circled our ship several times. It was a wonderful welcome. Theses colourful little boats and singing and happy-looking crew seemed glad to see us. Not many visitors come this far. (I really wonder if that has changed now, all these years later?) Little boys dived from the boats and were so at home it the water I felt quite envious.
We went ashore for a guided tour. The oldest couple onboard were presented with gifts, consisting of spices grown on the island. A brass band (not very good!) played for us. Their only ‘properly presented’ tune was ‘Onwards Christian Soldiers’.But it was a great experience. The band followed us around town, and played the same tune over and over again.
Ron and I walked around the market and chatted with some of the locals, The children were lovely and eager to be photographed. The parents didn’t mind at least to have their children’s photos taken. The market was scruffy and the fish on sale full of flies, but people looked fit enough. The climate here is hot and humid all the year round.
These isolated islands were discovered by the Dutch in 1512 when they went in search of spices. They found an abundance of nutmeg and mace growing there which brought great profits to those who were able to control production and trade. Now a days they hope that tourism and fishing can stop people from leaving. The islands have great potential and will hopefully benefit by increased tourist trade and the excellent fishing and diving facilities.