Around the fishmarket at Banda Neira

The fact that on our Seatrek voyages we can sail for 10 days around the Banda Sea from Flores to the Banda Islands and not see another ship tells you how isolated these islands really are.

The pristine waters make the Banda Islands a mecca for divers who come here from all over the world and a great place to see a variety of marine life.

All the precision photos and fish names are by courtesy of Martin Truefitt-Baker and the other photos are by Ian Burnet.

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Peacock Rock Cod

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Unicorn Fish and Rock Cod

 

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Bluefin Trevally

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Needle Fish

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Selling delicious smoked fish on a stick

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The Dutch church in Banda Neira

The church in Banda Neira was established in the 1600’s to serve the residents of the Dutch colonial occupation of the remote Banda Islands . Behind the building can be seen the summit of the volcano named Gunung Api or Fire Mountain The original wooden church was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in 1852 in this neo-classical style. With its solid Doric columns, white plaster and sturdy brickwork, it is a good example of a provincial Dutch-era church and is now  one of the sights to see in the tiny port of Banda Neira.

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Below is a distant image of the church taken in 1925 during the Dutch colonial period. The road and the open area are still there but all the large beautiful kenari (asian almond) trees have long since gone.

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It was the valuable nutmeg trees which only grew on the Banda Islands that brought European traders to this remote location. The Dutch eventually expelled the Portuguese, the English, and then the Bandanese during the ‘Banda Massacre’, after which they brought in their own planters and established a complete monopoly over the nutmeg trade. It was the Dutch East India Company or the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) that built the church and their symbol can be seen on the flagstones at the entrance.

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In 1999-2000 the Maluku Islands were hit with serious religious violence, which left thousands of Muslims and Christians dead. The idyllic Banda Islands were not spared from this violence and many Christians were driven off of the island by the Muslim majority.  During this time Bandaneira’s church was damaged but it has subsequently been restored.

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Services are held at the church every Sunday even if the Christian community is now considerably reduced.

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One of the historic highlights of the church are the elaborate carved tombstones of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) notables who died and were buried on the island. There are 34 of these tombstones in the church and they can be seen lining the aisle in the photos above and below.

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These engraved tombstones record various important people, mainly Dutch, but also some British, who played a role in Banda’s history. Governors, ‘Perkeniers’ (Nutmeg Planters), members of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and English East India Company naval officers are all represented.

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One of the earliest tombstones is that of the Governor of Banda, Willem Maetsuyker, dated 1675. Another example is that of Governor Cornelis Stull who died here in 1701.

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UWRF -photos from the ‘Indonesian Trilogy’ event

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From the UWRF Festival Club at Bar Luna. All aboard for an island-hopping adventure through Indonesia with voyager and historian, Ian Burnet. From Java to Timor, he’ll share stories and pictures of this diverse land – from the smoking volcanoes that form the archipelago’s spine, to its emerald waters and verdant jungles.

Moderator Toni Pollard interviewed Ian Burnet about his Indonesian Trilogy – Spice Islands, East Indies and  Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia to the delight of an interesting and interested audience.

Courtesy of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016 and photographer Wirasathya Damarja, we have a number of photographs from this event.

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Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – An Indonesian Trilogy

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A large crowd gathered at the Festival Club at Bar Luna on Thursday evening for an island-hopping adventure across Indonesia with voyager and historian Ian Burnet. The moderator, Toni Pollard, interviewed Ian about his three books on Indonesia – Spice Islands (2011), East Indies (2013) and Archipelago (2015).

 

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Some of the questions from Toni Pollard were:

‘What are your memories of those first days in Jakarta back in 1968? Was it way back then that you felt Indonesia had grabbed hold of your soul and would not let go?’

‘In Spice Islands you tell how for centuries, even millennia before the Europeans were involved, spices were being traded across the world. Tell us about this pre-European spice trade.’

‘Why were spices such as nutmeg and cloves so highly sought after and so valuable in Europe, five hundred years ago, that men risked their lives and countries like Portugal, Spain, Holland and England invested vast sums to mount expeditions to find them at their source?’

‘Many of the chapters of East Indies open with you standing right on the very spot where major events in the history of the great trading companies occured. Tell us about some of these moments, on these historic spots’.

‘In the book Archipelago you branch out into a much more personal approach to writing history. You undertake a journey from Malacca – like the centuries of explorers and traders before you –  and travel all the way across Indonesia’s vast emerald girdle of islands ending in East Timor, telling the reader the highlights of the history of each place as you go. What modes of transport did you use to travel the vast distances?’

‘After Bali your journey takes you into what was once Portuguese territory. Although the Portuguese domination in trade only lasted a century – the 16th century – they have had a lasting impact on the eastern islands, through the Catholicism that came with them.One notorious band of traders, the Larantuqeiros lasted unchallenged well into the Dutch VOC era. Tell us about them?’

‘Those of us who have travelled throughout the archipelago over decades have experienced some real highs and some ghastly lows in the accomodation available in various places. What were the zenith and nadir of your accomodation experiences on this journey?’

‘You end your journey in East Timor (Timor Leste) and write very movingly about its history, especially in its recent past. What does East Timor mean to you?

Thanks to Bar Luna and the UWRF for hosting this event. It was a very spontaneous and interesting session with a lot of audience involvement, especially from those with an intimate knowledge of Indonesia, and those wishing to learn more about the history and culture of this fascinating archipelago nation.

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Ian Burnet and Toni Pollard at Bar Luna before the UWRF interview  (Cathy Morrison)

 

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Manuk Island – A Bird Sanctuary in the remote Banda Sea

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East Indies Spice Exploration 2016 – Maumere to Ambon

The last stop on our East Indies Spice Exploration Voyage 2016, before reaching the Banda Islands, is the tiny island of Manuk which is just the tip of a volcano which pokes itself above the Banda Sea.

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The Ombak Putih approaches Manuk Island

 

Manuk is an andesitic volcanic island that rises 3000 meters from floor of the Banda Sea at the easternmost part of the Indonesian island arc. Because of its steep cliffs and rocky coast it is almost impossible to land on the island, which makes it a perfect sanctuary for seabirds. Frigate birds, gannets, brown boobies, white boobies and other marine birds have their nests in the trees. As we arrive at the island a brown boobie lands on the bowsprit to inspect the vessel, while frigate birds pass by while trying to decide wether we are a frigate or not.

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A brown boobie lands on the bowsprit

 

As we circumnavigate the windswept island, hundreds of birds wheel  overhead, waves crash against the rocks, and we can see vents surrounded by yellow sulphur blowing steam and sulphur fumes from the flanks of the volcano.

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The windswept vegetation and active volcanic vents on this lonely island

Numerous brown and white boobies are fishing in the surrounding seas, while frigate birds wheel overhead and dive to steal the fish caught by the more industrious boobies.

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Hundreds of seabirds wheel overhead as we circumnavigate the island

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We have seen no other shipping in ten days and wonder how many other vessels visit this lonely island

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Ian Burnet at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016

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The 13th UWRF will be held 26–30 October, 2016,  celebrating the theme Tat Tvam Asi or ‘I am you, you are me’. This powerful ideology is crucial to the collective identity of Indonesia – uniting people from incredibly diverse religious, ethnic, cultural and historical backgrounds to share common respect and understanding.

Ian Burnet’s interest in Indonesia and its lesser known eastern archipelago has led him to write three books on Indonesian history: Spice Islands (2011), East Indies (2013) and Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia (2015). He is currently working on his fourth book about this fascinating island nation.

Ketertarikan Ian Burnet akan nusantara Indonesia telah menginspirasinya untuk menulis tiga buku mengenai sejarah Indonesia: Spice Islands (2011), East Indies (2013), dan Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia (2015). Ia kini tengah menulis buku keempatnya mengenai bangsa Indonesia yang mempesona.

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Archipelago: A Journey Across Indonesia

Thursday 27 October, 17:00-18:00, Festival Club @ Bar Luna, Free Event

All aboard for an island-hopping adventure through Indonesia with voyager and historian, Ian Burnet. From Java to Timor, he’ll share stories and pictures of this diverse land – from the smoking volcanoes that form the archipelago’s spine, to its emerald waters and verdant jungles.

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Eternal Indonesia, Main Program Day 3

Saturday 29 October, 11:45 -13:00, Taman Baca

Wild jungles. Ancient cultures. Diverse beliefs. Indonesia casts a powerful spell on the visitor. Listen in as these writers reveal how the archipelago has captured their imagination, influenced their lives and works, and what keeps them coming back.

 

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Chance Encounters of the Indonesian Kind

We travel from Solo to Blitar by bus while on our 14 day ‘Journey Across Java’ tour. The bus is held up by a colourful street parade in a village as part of the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations. It is Festival Time and our group joins in the fun.

Some of the best travel experiences are of the unexpected kind and this was one of the many highlights of our trip (thanks to our guide Eddy Suryawan for the photos). The Indonesian people are always so welcoming and as you can see there are lots of happy smiles on the faces of all concerned

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