Exploring Banda

Nutmeg (Myristica Fragrans, latin), or Pala, is one of the spices that was first traded by the Arabs and the Chinese back in the middle ages and later monopolized by the Europeans. This unique and luxurious fruit was first found in the treasure islands of Banda, also known as the Spice Islands. The location of Banda Islands was a well kept secret by the Arabs until Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese in the 15th century, followed by the Dutch, and then the English. Nutmeg seed is normally processed into nutmeg oil or it can be used as a condiment. The divine scent was believed to be as a protector from the plague and also believed to be a preservative agent. Part of its popularity was its mood changing, a mild chemical compound that can create a slight high. Often it was used by Kings and Queens as a perfume, flavour, and even used for medicinal purposes. In the 17th century, nutmeg was used as medicine to treat folks with ailments, and in the 19th century, it was used as an abortifacient, which led to numerous records of nutmeg poisoning. In 15th century, 1 kilogram of nutmeg would cost around 7-10 grams of gold, yet by the 17th and 18th centuries, nutmeg and other spices were worth their weight. Centuries later, nutmeg and other spices like cloves and cinnamon are still used by various people all over the world as their main ingredients. Coca-cola uses nutmeg as one of their main ingredients for their colas. In Italy, a bolognese is not a bolognese without grated nutmeg seeds on their sauce. In Europe, grated nutmeg seeds on your potatoes or your chicken soup will change your life forever! In America, some nutmeg seasoning on your pumpkin pie will spice up your cold winter days. The Banda islands is still the main island that produces grade A nutmeg. Penang (Malaysia), Sri Lanka, Grenada, and the Caribbean Island has a lower grade nutmeg because of soil disparity. The major re-exporters are still Singapore and the Netherlands. The main import markets are the European, the United States, Japan, and India. It's amazing how the search for this unique fruit would eventually lead to the beginning of Indonesia as a country. See pictures gallery

 

Banda Naira and the surrounding islands are fortunate to have inherited these Amazing 15th century colonial buildings left by the Portuguese,  the Dutch and the British. The Portuguese in 1529 previously built gigantic forts called Fort Nassau which later taken over by the Dutch, and there is also Sun Tian Kong temple built by the Chinese. The Arabs had also inherited their 100 year old mosque in one of the villages of Neira (in Kampung Baru village). Sadly some were burnt down during the religious conflict back in 1999 by thugs and the irresponsible crooks. Though some were restored and renovated, others were just left in ruins. See pictures gallery

The Spice Island of Banda is well-known for its diverse marine life and pristine reefs which attracts many renowned marine biologists from all around the world, such as Jacques Cousteau and Ron & Valerie Taylor. There are many diving and snorkelling spots around Banda Islands to explore. The locations are spread out around the islands like Ay island, Run island, Hatta (Rozengain) island, Sjahrir (Pisang) island, Gunung Api volcano lava flow area, Karaka island, Batu Kapal island, Manukang island, and Naira island. Banda Islands is among the top location site for diving spots in the world. See pictures gallery

 

 

Cakalele is a traditional warrior dance that is performed by the Mollucans. This special dance is sacred and can only be performed by the local people of the Mollucans. Each Island and villages (Kampung Adat) has its own style, weapon, traditional dress and unique dance moves which represent their villages and their sacred stories that is handed down for generations by their ancestors. Traditionally this dance is only used for formal cerimonial events like greeting important guests and honoring special visitors who comes and visited the Island. In order to do the Cakalele the villagers must all participated and contribute to the ceremony of opening the Rumah Kampung (Village House). Making offerings and other ceremonial activities must be implemented in order for the villagers to get holly blessings from their ancestors and their God. Depending on the event the Rumah Kampung must be kept open until the event is over, this could take days or even weeks for the event to be over.

 

Kora Kora or Belang, is a traditional canoe that is driven and performed by the people of Moluccans. It is approximately 10 meters long, very narrow and very low. Canoe from each villages and islands has a different head or the front of the canoe that represent their villages, Gods or their ancestor. Each canoe can fit up to 40 paddlers and has 3 post in each canoe for the navigator to navigate the rowers. In order to use the Kora Kora the villagers must also contribute in opening the Rumah Kampung (Village House) to make offerings and prayer to their God. The tribal leader is also required to make special spell (mantra) on a bucket of water. For that the rowers are required to drink the water that has been given the mantra and wash them selfs with it. It is intended that the rowers do not feel thirsty or tired during the race day, and also be immune from all spiritual attacks from the other opponent according to their own beliefs. At first the Kora Kora was used by the Bandanese as a ceremonial purposes only by welcoming special guests or guests of honor and escorting them back to the islands. But since the start of the european colony in the 17th century, the use of the Kora Kora was transformed into war vehicles used against foreign invaders as a battleships to attack enemy vessels or to defend the islands. Nowadays the Kora Kora is used for a yearly traditional race between villages from different islands or the national race which is normally held in November or December and can still also be used for welcoming guests who arrives in Banda Naira by the sea.