An archipelago of 11 islands spread across the central Maluku region in eastern Indonesia, the Banda Islands once formed a significant trading route for the Dutch and Portuguese spice trade in the early 1600s (owing its other name, the 'Spice Islands'). These days, intrepid divers are heading to the Banda Sea to experience extraordinary diving without the crowds.
The diving here is truly astonishing, with pristine coral reefs (it is in the centre of the Coral Triangle, after all) topped with explosions of marine life, including clouds of fusiers, jacks, dogtooth tuna, redtooth triggerfish, spinner dolphins, pilot whales and great hammerheads, to name but a few. Muck diving also reigns king here in Ambon Bay (the psychedelic frogfish was first discovered here) while steep drop-offs, seamounts, calm coral gardens, thrilling channels and a smattering of coral-encrusted wrecks are also on the agenda. For a truly original diving experience, divers can mingle with hundreds of sea snakes in the southernly Snake Island in Gunung Api.
While there are a few resorts scattered across the larger islands, the best way to experience the most remote sites is by liveaboard. Sailing across the archipelago provides endless vistas of emerald islands, towering volcanoes and white sand beaches, while divers can spend surface intervals exploring the remnants of the spice trade still present on some of the islands.