This year we had a multinational group of 5 Canadians, 6 Australians, 3 English, 2 Dutch and 2 Germans making up our passenger list, we were ably led by our guides Jennifer and Arif, and the whole crew of the Ombak Putih. We also added some new islands to our itinerary -- Run, Lei Lei, and Machian.
The Ombak Putih sailed overnight from Ambon on October 24 and the next day arrived at the island of Run. For those who know the history of the Banda Islands, the English famously swapped Run in 1667 for the Dutch island of Manhattan, in what was the real estate deal of the millenium. Who knew that Manhattan would become the 'world's capital' and that the valuable nutmeg producing island of Run would sink into obscurity?
Run village was delightful, the people friendly, the houses freshly painted and tidy. We even found the Manhattan Guest House for those who are interested in staying there overnight. Modern technology has also come to the village as we saw some recently installed solar panels and storage batteries which will provide electricity. We then explored the nutmeg plantations in the upper part of the island and remembered the islands colourful history in the struggle between the Dutch and the English East India Companies for their share of the nutmeg trade.
Banda was as delightful as ever and we enjoyed our two days exploring the island and the old colonial buildings built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the perkeniers they installed on the island. Perhaps the highlight of our visit was the 'nutmeg dance' performed for us on the bastion of Fort Belgica by a dance group of 12 accomplished Bandanese girls. The following day we had a spirited departure from Banda with chants and drumming from two kora-kora racing either side of the Ombak Putih as they accompanied us through the 'Sonnengat'.
Again, some of the best snorkelling was off the white sandy beach of Molana Island near Saparua. The small dive resort must do some business in other times of the year but was deserted when we arrived, so we had the whole island to ourselves.
Thanks to the generosity of the 'friends of Ombak Putih' we were able to deliver boxes of medical and school supplies to the villages on the more remote islands of Manipa, Obliatu and Daworolama. The crew of the Ombak Putih especially enjoyed handing out the school supplies to the enthusiastic school children in these villages.
A new divespot was in the Guraici archipelago just north of Bacan. Here, money has been spent constructing a road of paving around the island of Lei Lei, and building some very nice villas and a dive centre for the tourists who are expected to come from Ternate. It would be a great experience to fly to Ternate, then voyage down the Patinti Strait with its line of volcanoes rising directly from the sea, before spending a few days diving off your own tropical island. No sign of the tourists this year, but perhaps it will be fully operational next year.
This year we were able to go ashore on the island of Machian which was recorded as being the most prolific of the clove bearing islands, and sailors have written how they could smell the sweet aroma of cloves far out to sea. We landed in one village and then did a 'jungle walk' through the clove, nutmeg, and coconut groves to the next village. For me the highlight was the native orchids we found growing in the jungle.
Captain Ibrahim managed to time our arrival at Tidore in the late afternoon and the spectacular sunset had all the cameras clicking. We then spent the morning exploring Tidore and the afternoon exploring Ternate before our final shipboard party and fond farewells the following day.
A date has been set for next year's Spice Islands Sailing Adventure which will be from October 8 - 19, 2014, please go to www.seatrekbali for more details.