I fell in love with the Banda Islands, a group of 10 lush volcanic islands in Indonesia, when I visited them a few years ago. I sailed down there on a prahu – a small native sailing boat with a rectangular sail – and discovered a rare part of the world that was absolutely unspoilt and idyllic.
The islands were colonised by the Dutch, who grew nutmeg there, and for a long time they were virtually the world's only source of the spice. It's estimated that the Dutch sold more than a million guilders worth of nutmeg – all from these tiny islands.
As a result of the Dutch connection, the islands are dotted with these lovely Dutch colonial houses, many of which have survived thanks to the islands' remoteness. What's more, they are blessed with the most stunning scenery, most notably a volcano called Gunung Api (Fire Mountain), which has a wonderful interior lagoon.
I've also flown to the islands from a little place called Ambon and travelled through the archipelago as part of a five-man expedition. We cooked and slept on the boat. However, if you're looking for accommodation, I can recommend the Hotel Maulana (0062 910 21022). The local cuisine is very good. It's reasonably hot, the fish is delicious and the tropical fruits – bananas, durian, mangoes, paw paw, you name it – are delicious.
The weather is best from September to April, when the seas are calm, and while some parts of the Far East have a reputation for piracy, in my experience the Banda Islands are pretty safe. If you go, sail around the islands, admire the amazing local wildlife, visit a nutmeg plantation and go diving – the islands have the most beautiful reefs, not to mention the clearest waters where you can bathe.
Getting there might take some planning but this really is an earthly paradise – there are likely to be few, if any, other tourists and yet it's one of the most dramatic and beautiful places on the planet.
Source : Telegraph.co.uk