Banda Sea: Off The Chart Expedition 2019

In between two of the world’s greatest dive destinations (Raja Ampat & Komodo) lies the Banda Sea. Within this vast sea lie the Banda Islands. And around these islands is a world of marine life, still relatively unknown to the worldwide diving community.

October 30th – November 6th 2019

Banda Sea and Banda Islands diving map

Until now, most trips to the Banda Islands have been carried out by liveaboards moving between Raja Ampat and Komodo as the seasons change. On their travels, they have a quick stop in the Banda Sea. In the past this meant that trips here were rare, and even rarer to go when conditions are at their best. But as divers slowly begin to realise this area is home to not only some incredible pelagic life (Schooling Hammerheads anyone?), It is also home to incredible macro life like the hairy octopus and Ambon scorpionfish.

The Banda Sea is only accessible for a few short months of the year which makes this area so exciting and unique to dive. From our starting point of Ambon we will travel out to the dramatic volcanic Spice Islands (Banda Islands).

The Banda islands are located 132 kilometers southeast of Ambon. With stunning and dramatic reefs, warm seas and exotic marine life, the Banda’s are a heaven for divers who explore the most remote and unspoiled dive sites in the world.

What is an ‘Off The Chart’ expedition?

All previous ‘Off the Chart’ expeditions have had a few themes in common. Firstly, we always aim to dive the remotest and least explored dive locations. The Banda islands check this off quite easily. However, we also focus on promoting scientific research and conservation efforts by inviting some of the world’s leading scientists to explain how we as divers can contribute.

Dr. Andrea Marshall studying and researching on the Diva Andaman Liveaboard in Myanmar

Dr. Andrea Marshall (MMF) explaining to guests about the parasite sample she removed from a Giant Manta Ray at Black Rock in 2017

Giant Manta Rays in the Banda Sea

For years we have been working with the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) to assist them in studying the movements and behaviours of Giant Manta Rays (Mobula Birostris) in the Andaman Sea. Last year we expanded to Indonesia, with MMF researcher Stepahanie Venables, on a trip to Raja Ampat. After the success of our first trip to Indo, we are once again going to be joined by Steph. Here is what she has to say about Mantas in the Banda Sea…

“Giant manta rays are generally less well understood due to their pelagic lifestyles and seasonal sighting patterns in Indonesia. Sporadic encounters during expeditions in the Banda Sea and public submissions to indicate that these ocean giants can be encountered between September to November around the islands and reefs of the Banda Sea. We don’t yet know whether these are the same mantas that are sighted in Raja Ampat to the North, or in the Savu Sea to the Southwest. With the ability to travel long distances (1000+km), either could be possible. Who knows what mysteries the Off The Charts team will unravel on this trip…”

Stephanie Venables, researcher at the MMF

Steph Venables, Manta Ray Researcher

Steph Venables is a research scientist with the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) and a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia. She will be joining us to the Banda islands where she will be giving us presentations on the latest discoveries and what we can do to help. Find out more about Steph and what she will be doing on the trip by clicking here.

By joining our ‘Off the Chart’ expedition to the Banda Sea, you will not just have the chance at discovering an amazing and unexplored location, you will also get to become a ‘citizen scientist’. If you have any questions about the details of the trip, feel free to email us. Otherwise, take a look at the schedule below.

Banda Sea Expedition Itinerary 2019

Click here for our full Banda Sea Travel Guide.

The schedule has been created to hit the area’s best dive sites at the best time of year. We will be hitting the spots famous for Giant Mantas and Schooling Hammerheads!

Banda Islands Dive sites

30th October

Arrival at Ambon airport and transportation to the pier. Welcome briefing and Lunch. Check dive in Ambon Bay. Overnight cruising to Banda Neira; The spice island.

31st October

Diving around Banda Neira. Suanggi, Batu Kepal, Hatta island. Overnight cruising to Banda sea.

1st November

Diving in Banda Sea. Hammerhead sharks hunting. The specific dive sites depend on weather condition.

2nd November

Diving in the Banda Sea again, and once again Hammerhead shark hunting.

3rd November

Manuk island; the island of sea snake and sea bird. A chance to see Hammerhead sharks as well. Cruising to Banda Neira

4th November

Banda Neira, Pohon Miring, Batu Kapal and visiting the historic site on Neira island

5th November

North of Banda Neira, Suanggi or Ai & Run island. Cruising back to Ambon.

6th November

Wake up to breakfast, check out the hotel and then say your farewells before being transferred back to the Airport or your hotel in Ambon.


Re-routeing during a cruise can always happen if safe sea and/or dive conditions are not met. This is the decision of the Captain and the Dive Expedition Leader. Re-routeing is not considered as a cancellation and is not refunded.




TEMP: 25-30°C

Banda Sea Expedition Vessel

Panunee is a 36m luxury yacht designed by divers offering fantastic liveaboard scuba diving adventures in Indonesia. With only 16 guests taken onboard it is incredibly spacious and has a crew that see to your every need.

MV Panunee in Raja Ampat

MV Panunee in Raja Ampat

Each cabin has individual temperature control and abundant storage areas. There are no bunk beds so no need to fight over who gets the bottom bunk!

The Panunee has a dedicated camera setting room that has individual desks and charging stations for the avid photographer amongst us.

A spacious dive deck and a plentiful deck crew will make the ordeal of putting your wetsuit and equipment on a dream.

The best thing about this vessel however is that there is a Thai chef on board. So along with Indonesian specialities you will be able to get your Thai food fix. There is also a barbecue for the nights celebrating the diving under the stars.

MV Panunee



SPEED: 15 Knts

Suite Stateroom

Panunee state room

  • Max occupancy: 2 people
  • Bedding: Double bed
  • Ensuite bathroom: Yes
  • Aircon: Aircon with control in room


The Suites are fitted with a queen-size beds, en-suited toilets with hot showers, individual air-conditioners, wardrobes, mirrors, working desks, reading lights, wide storage space and pipe-in music.

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Single Cabin

Single cabin on MV Panunee

  • Max occupancy: 1 people
  • Bedding: Single bed
  • Ensuite bathroom: No
  • Aircon: Aircon with control in room


Cabins are fitted with one single bed and individual air-conditioners, wardrobes, mirrors, reading Lights, wide storage space, panoramic windows and pipe-in music. There are 2 of these cabins.

Deluxe Twin Cabin, Upper Deck

Deluxe upper deck cabin on MV Panunee

  • Max occupancy: 2 people
  • Bedding: Twin (2 Single)
  • Ensuite bathroom: No
  • Aircon: Aircon with control in room


Cabins are fitted with twin beds and air-con, wardrobes, mirrors, reading Lights, wide storage space, panoramic windows and pipe-in music.

Deluxe Twin Cabin, Lower Deck

Deluxe lower deck cabin on MV Panunee

  • Max occupancy: 2 people
  • Bedding: Twin (2 Single)
  • Ensuite bathroom: No
  • Aircon: Aircon with control in room


Cabins are fitted with twin beds and individual air-conditioners, wardrobes, mirrors, reading Lights, wide storage space, picture window and pipe-in music.


  • Transfers

    To/from Ambon only

  • 7 night liveaboard

    Onboard the MV Panunee

  • Food & drinks

    Soft drinks & alcohol available, additional cost

  • 7 days diving

    12L tanks, weight belts and weights provided

  • Research activities

    Evening presentations by expedition hosts


  • Marine Park Fees


  • Donation

    US$100 MMF donation

  • Flights

    International & domestic

  • Dive gear hire

    $40 per day

  • NITROX tank fills

    $8 per tank

  • Travel Insurance

    Diving/travel insurance recommended