The only source of nutmeg and mace (the seed and seed coating) in the world was this tiny and remote group of six islands to the south-east of Ambon. Adrift in the stunning Banda Sea, the beauty of these islands belie the violence that engulfed them during the seventeenth century as the Dutch sought a total monopoly on the nutmeg output, and the locals resisted.
The first colonial attempt to build a fortress, by the Portuguese, was abandoned due to the spirited outrage of the Bandanese. The Dutch adopted a much more aggressive strategy, fortifying first Banda’s main island, and gradually the others, and tolerating only subservience. A substantial portion of the indigenous Bandanese population perished in the carnage of these seventeenth century years.
Just as the Dutch managed to exert full control, enterprising French and British traders managed to smuggle nutmeg seedlings out of the Bandas, and transplanted in other tropical colonies, these crops flourished and dealt the deathblow to the Banda economy.
Today, the Banda’s retain an aura of mystery, allure and incredible remoteness. As they say in Banda, “if it was easy to get here, everyone would come”. Blessed with outstanding diving and snorkelling opportunities, spectacular scenery, a weight of history out of all proportion to their land area, and an intriguing collection of tropical colonial fortress architecture these islands are one of the most evocative spots on the planet.