Seven Seas - East Indonesia Liveaboard
Christmas Newsletter 2007

The team of the Seven Seas wishes you a merry Christmas and a healthy and successful new year 2008 with more outstanding dive experiences!


Please contact us for bookings.

Dates Route Dep from Arrive at Spaces Remark
23/06 - 03/07 Komodo National Park Labuan Bajo Labuan Bajo 14 guaranteed

This newsletter is fully dedicated to the report from Mark Heighes on the The Banda Islands and the Seven Seas School Shuttle:

Last year after 7 years of religious conflict in Ambon, that virtually took the Banda islands off the map as a Dive destination in Indonesia, we were finally able to return to the almost forgotten Spice islands of Banda. These small oceanic islands located in the middle of the Banda sea have always had a special place in my heart since first sailing into the harbor over 25 years ago.

The Banda island group is a cluster of 10 small islands located just south of the equator and about 500 miles north of Darwin. The largest of the islands measures just 12 square miles and the smallest islet Ship Rock or Batu Kapal is smaller than the Seven Seas. An 18 hr steam from Ambon the Bandas are only to be found on the best of maps. The sea that surrounds the group is the deepest sea for its size in the world and famed for its pelagic fishing grounds and crystal clear deep blue waters.

The author John Keay who wrote 'The Spice Island Route' describes the islands as follows:

"...Green and unkempt stacks looming from a hazy horizon announce a sheltered anchorage. In a sea of halogen clarity, turquoise depths shade to milky ramparts of a sub aqua wonderland where liveried fish glide and dart through fretted coral palaces. Ferns and palms tumble down the hills to lean out for a better view of theses candy colored shallows. From the Flanks of Gunnung Api (the fire mountain) the lava flows slither straight into the sea there to dribble down the coral like dirty candle wax. And all the while, high in the forest canopy pigeons drum their special welcome..."

"Of birds" the naturalist Russel Alfred Wallace wrote in 1861 during his visit:

"...The most remarkable is a fine and very handsome fruit pigeon which feeds upon the nutmegs or rather on the mace. And whose loud booming note is continually heard… while lesser doves bill and coo the Blue Tailed Imperial Pigeons of the Banda's bill and with the smoking vents of Gunnung Api . In fact the occasional shower of volcanic ash is a necessary benison, replenishing the nutrients and minerals on which the islands unique ecology depends. That the setting is palpably soured is due to other eruptions. The taint of human greed hangs heavy in the air like the after thud of a cannon shot. Islands so favored invited close attention. As well as attracting traders they excited monopolists, fired patriots, and unhinged empire builders. Geographically ordained a paradise, history made it a killing field..."

Today the Banda's are much the same as I remember 25 years ago. Healthy reefs, great fish numbers and stunning wall dives on the outer islands. The lava flow on the island of Api has been transformed from the dripping candle wax, John Keay describes, to one of the most spectacular hard coral gardens to be found on the planet. The Nutmeg and Mace is still harvested in the same way as it has been for several hundred years. The Town of Naira is almost unchanged apart from the restoration of the old Dutch fort and a new dock built in the harbor.

During our second trip to Banda last year, I finally managed to track down my old friend Allan who I met when we were both in our teens. I first remember him as a skinny bloke in a canoe trying to sell shells and old Dutch VOC coins. He now owns and runs a guesthouse on the island of Naira and is married to the school teacher. We were sitting on the dock looking across the harbor at the smoking island of Api joking about the good old days and the time we climbed the volcano just 36 hrs before the violent eruption in 1987, when all of a sudden Allan said to me with a serious look of concern on his face: "you know Mark, school is free in Banda now but there are lots of poor children living on the slopes of the volcano who do not go to school because their families cannot afford the transport". He personally new of 5 kids that were orphans. I asked him how much it would cost to charter a boat to pick up the kids and ferry them to and from school. After some quick calculations we worked out that for a contribution of 1 dollar US per child we could have all 5 children in school the following day. So with a little help from the guests we launched Seven Seas School Shuttle and the next day Allan made sure that all five of those kids were on a boat and in school.

Upon returning to Banda this year Allan proudly produced a Bank Book under the name Seven Seas School Shuttle and accounted for every dollar we donated. He also was very happy to point out that he had started another smaller shuttle operating to a more remote village on the island and we still had credit remaining.

I am now happy to announce that with the generous support from our guests this year we now have 25 children attending school and enough funds to keep them in school for the next two years. Last month Allan brought out all 25 children out to the Seven Seas to meet our guests and show their appreciation by a welcome performance organized by Allans daughter.

This is a classic example of how a little bit of money donated then used in the right way by a caring individual from the local community can have immediate results and change underprivileged kids lives forever. To the guests of the Seven Seas who have traveled to Banda with us and supported this program I would like to sincerely thank you for your support. We have painted the two school shuttle boats in the colors of the Seven Seas and are planning to continue the program during our annual voyages to the Banda Islands. We will keep you updated.

Mark Heighes

The Seven Seas - Kuta Poleng D7 - Jl. Setiabudi Simpang Siur - Kuta 80361 - Bali - Indonesia