Are you looking for a holiday that lets you escape the predictable? Then a journey to Indonesia’s Spice Islands on board Scenic Eclipse, The World’s First Discovery Yachts™ is calling. Cruise these verdant islands, sprinkled across the tropical waters west of Papua New Guinea, and every day brings a different adventure. You may find yourself snorkelling over coral reefs with the Discovery Team, hiking on volcanic islands, or swimming in a serene lagoon sheltered amid towering limestone karsts.
Along with mornings spent exploring friendly fishing villages and lazy afternoons on powder-sand beaches you can expect some incredible animal encounters – from swimming alongside leatherback turtles to spying elusive species such as the bird of paradise or perhaps even a dugong. The Spice Islands offers much more than just natural highs, however.
LEFT: Banda Neira, Banda Islands, Indonesia
Located in.... among the archipelago’s most surprising attractions is its picturesque colonial ports, relics of a time when these isolated islands were among the world’s most important ports of call for European trading vessels. Back in the 1600s, ships sailed halfway around the world to anchor off sleepy islands such as Banda Neira, drawn by a crop available nowhere else in the world.
The island’s Myristica trees produced nutmeg and mace, rare substances so valued for their medicinal properties and their food preservation qualities that at one stage made it more precious than gold.
Today, Banda Neira’s sheltered harbour opens onto a quiet provincial town, its low-slung colonial architecture lining narrow streets. The mosque’s polished metal dome is one of the few landmarks that rises as high as the palm trees that stud the town.
Take the time to visit the former governor’s palace, a mansion with colourful floor tiles, plenty of highly-polished marble and huge wooden doors and windows shuttered against the tropical sun.
RIGHT: Nutmeg and Red Mace Spice, Papua New Guinea
Another highlight is the distinctive star-shaped Fort Belgica, once the European power centre on the island. Set on a plateau overlooking the harbour and protected by a high wall of rock, it is an imposing and atmospheric place to visit.
And yes, you can still buy locally-grown nutmeg and mace, as well as aromatic pepper and cloves, from local traders operating out of the pretty colonial shopfronts, some whitewashed, others painted in pastel colours.
Your explorations aren’t limited to the land. Many of the area’s most memorable sights lie beneath the waves. In these pristine waters you will find some of the world’s most impressive coral reefs. The Raja Ampat Marine Park, stretching for 4.6 million hectares, is known for offering some of the most spectacular diving and snorkelling in the world. The Scenic Eclipse Discovery Team will safely guide you to the very best locations for underwater exploration, or you may like to explore on board Scenic Neptune^, the state-of-the-art submarine that can submerge up to 200 metres beneath the ocean’s surface.
^Submarine at additional cost, subject to regulatory approval, availability, weight restrictions, medical approval and weather and tidal conditions.
LEFT: Fort Belgica, Banda Neira, Banda Islands, Indonesia
Raja Ampat’s reefs are home to 75 per cent of the world’s hard coral species, as well as a a dazzling collection of soft corals that sway in the currents. The intensity of the colours is astounding, as is the variety of shapes, ranging from spiked branches and vast platters to lace-like fans. Taking an aerial flightseeing experience on board the Scenic Eclipse helicopter^ will allow you to witness the region’s beauty in panoramic detail from the skies.
The marine life is just as profuse, with more than 1300 species of reef fish. In shallower waters, shoals of tiny neon-coloured fish that drift past like confetti. There is so much to see, in fact, that you have to look closely not to miss the details: tear your gaze away from the feathery fronds of a fern-like crinoid and you may spot a pygmy seahorse hiding amid the coral.
^Flights on board two helicopters and helicopter experiences at additional cost, subject to regulatory approval, availability, weight restrictions, medical approval and weather and tidal conditions.
RIGHT: Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua
Head out for the deeper waters and a whole new set of encounters awaits. Large schools of sweet lips and trevally, imposing Napoleon wrasse, manta rays that pirouette past with a nonchalant elegance. With every underwater adventure offering a different experience, one dive is never enough.
Join us on board Scenic Eclipse in 2024 for our 13-day Secrets of Indonesia: Spice Islands and Raja Ampat cruise, departing from Darwin.
RIGHT: Raja Ampat’s reefs, West Papua