This post was last updated on July 3rd, 2020 at 02:12 pm
Pulau Hatta is an island you’ve probably never heard of before. If you are on Ambon or Banda Neira, you will soon hear people talking about it.
It is one of the Banda Islands, a downright scenic place where you can snorkel/dive in an underwater paradise, go on an adventure in the jungle, or just relax on beautiful beaches. There is no internet there, which is quite nice.
But there is more…
In this article, we tell you all about the special experiences we’ve had on Pulau Hatta.
There is no boat going there – what now?
From Banda Neira, several boats a week go to Pulau Hatta, although there is no fixed schedule. Only if a boat sailed from Hatta to Neira in the morning, will the same boat sail back to Hatta.
In the morning we had to wait and see if a boat would come from Pulau Hatta. But it soon became clear that we didn’t have to count on that. We were waiting there together with someone we met in New Zealand before.
So we had to wait a day and see if there would be a boat the next day. However, our guesthouse owner Alicia – an American woman in her late 50’s who has lived in Bali for over 20 years – said that locals had chartered a boat and there were still a few spots left. We made grateful use of this offer.
Good to know: chartering a boat to Pulau Hatta costs around 700,000 IDR (~ US$48). The public boat costs 50,000 IDR (~ US$3.45) per person. The trip takes about 1 hour.
A bumpy ride
Allan took us from his homestay on Pulau Gunung Api to the opposite Banda Neira, where a boat with about 12 people was waiting for us. Alicia had said that they would leave at 10:00 a.m., only apparently they wanted to go right now. 20 minutes earlier. That is why we were no longer able to withdraw money while we still needed some cash. Our friend from New Zealand – the travel companion we spoke about above – offered to help with the costs, because she had enough cash in her purse. Yay!
Alicia, who also came along, said somewhat sternly that we should take off our shoes, so as not to get the deck dirty. “Okay, okay,” we said. At the same time, we thought: take it easy, though. It’ll be fine.
Time to leave.
Blue skies turned into thick clouds and the sea grew rougher. Sometimes we hit the water hard, but the passengers present showed no sign of fear. In fact, several men simply lit a cigarette. Surprising? No, this is the rule rather than the exception in Indonesia.
One of the passengers asked us if we were interested in staying in his homestay. We wanted to take a look on the island first and we thought we were being pushed. In the end we decided to give it a shot. And well, why not?
When we arrived after an hour, the sky was a clear blue again. One thing is certain: the weather in the Banda Islands can change in an instant.
A great homestay
The homestay -Pininapan Tiara- where we were dropped off turned out not to belong to the man on the boat, but to someone else. Family or friends probably. The owner -Semion- received us very friendly and immediately offered us something to eat and drink.
It felt good, so we threw out our original plan of finding some places to sleep ourselves. We went to check a few, although we were already sure that we wanted to stay here.
The view from the terrace of the beach, the sea, and the blue fishing boat made us realize that we had reached a special place.
However, even more special are the people who run this guesthouse. The man is called Semion and is a very good person. It is impressive to experience when there is not a grain of evil in someone and everything really feels sincere. No hidden agendas, just purity.
One afternoon he went fishing and suggested eating his catch that night. For example, we got fresh barracuda from the barbecue, marinated in a sauce of tamarind, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and a lot more. Well believe us, it doesn’t get any better than this. This is probably the freshest fish we’ve eaten in Indonesia so far, delicious! He also climbed a tree one afternoon to arrange coconuts for us. Super friendly right? 😀
And the children of the family are so very cute. Secretly staring at us and looking away quickly when we looked back. Or they keep looking and then laugh shyly. Or try to make an impression in a certain way, for example by showing tricks.
A special story is that the boy (also called Marcelo, after the famous soccer player of Real Madrid), is actually the son of Semion’s sister. Unfortunately, she was killed during childbirth, so Semion and his wife embraced him in their family.
TIP – Most homestays have a price of 250,000 IDR (~ US$17.20) per person per night, including three meals. Count on fresh fish, fried banana, vegetables, coconut soups, Indomie, and – of course – rice. In addition to Tiara, Sarah’s Homestay is highly recommended. The sweet owner, Sarah, is known as one of the better cooks on the island.
No internet, back to basics
Something important to keep in mind is that there is no internet on Pulau Hatta, only a limited telephone connection and every now and then a GPRS signal. We’ve experienced it before and it really keeps your mind clear. At least it does for us.
Instead of those many moments when you pick up your phone, you’ll feel inclined to do many other things. Conversations, reading a book or going out. But you also simply have peace of mind. In any case, you no longer have that continuous load of news, messages, and nonsense that you normally get thirty times a day.
Simplicity, that’s how people live on Hatta. Children play with marbles, draw something or run happily through the streets. Men go out to fish, climb trees to pick fruit or play guitar, and sing. You see women in the doorway cutting vegetables, drying nutmeg or talking on the balcony. You won’t see any faces hidden behind smartphones.
Sure, the internet is quite nice, but a few days without is definitely recommended. At two moments we happened to receive Facebook messages. Some people wondered (or were even slightly disappointed) why we didn’t return anything since the checkmarks showed we had read the messages. Due to the limited signal, we could not respond, only they didn’t know about this.
A snorkel tour is not necessary
On which beach did you go snorkeling and were you impressed? We honestly only experienced this on Koh Kradan. In other places, we always had to book a snorkeling tour, as it usually doesn’t get very interesting on the beach itself.
Pulau Hatta is a destination where you can walk into the water and get impressed. You can walk into the sea in almost any place, and within seconds you can swim between all kinds of fish in different colors and sizes. For example, we’ve seen large shrimp hiding among the coral, spotted trumpet fish, and schools of small orange fish swimming past us. And sea urchins, those terrifying things, were not there.
The soft corals that sometimes seem to dance in the water make snorkeling extra fun. Admittedly, around Pulau Hatta, you regularly see the paleness caused by climate changes, but that happens nearly everywhere.
And that’s not all.
Because if you swim to the “wall”, the part in the sea where it suddenly gets deeper, you have a great chance to view sea turtles. Unfortunately, we have not had this luck, but we have heard from several people that they have spotted these beautiful sea animals.
Pulau Hatta is described by many as the best place to snorkel in the Banda Islands. And from what we have seen, we can only confirm that. Pay attention when you enter the water, because it is very shallow and before you know it you step on the (sharp) coral. Therefore, try to start swimming as soon as possible.
From kampung Bara to kampung Lama
On Pulau Hatta, you will find two villages, kampung Bara and kampung Lama. Kampung Lama is where most accommodations can be found. The homestay where we stayed is located slightly off the tourist area and near kampung Bara. As you may have already understood, “kampung” means village.
A long fossilized road connects both places. The green landscape, a surprising forest, the view of the light blue ocean, the cheerfully colored houses, and the many enthusiastic locals, make walking here a great experience.
Nutmeg is drying in the sun, here and there you see a man sitting high in a tree and in kampung Bara, someone will regularly shout “Hey mister” to you. Sometimes the locals will stare at you with open mouth or children will run after you. They don’t see that many Western tourists in this village.
You can also occasionally deviate from the main road and take a trip to the beach. Because yes, the view of the clear water is too good to pass up.
On an adventure through the jungle
Not much is known about it, but if you ask around a bit you will soon discover that it is possible to walk completely in and around the island. Ask a local if he will show you the way and go on an adventure with him and some other tourists.
TIP – Gafur from the Sunset Bar is someone who can arrange this awesome trek for you.
Via the main beach, you walk into the jungle, and along the way you pass all kinds of idyllic beaches where you can snorkel, relax or enjoy the beautiful surroundings. But that’s not all, as you continue you’ll walk past pepper and banana plantations, limestone cliffs with spectacular vantage points, and watch countless tropical birds fly by.
The beginning is basically doable without a guide (if you can find the starting point at the end of the beach), only after that the path ends and you really need a guide. He can create a road that runs through the jungle.
Thirsty or hungry? Grab a coconut and chop it open. You’ll see plenty of them.
The end of the expedition takes you to the local kampung Bara, where you can drink some water. Or top up your sugar level and order a delicious green tropical pancake, filled with coconut and banana.
Oh before we forget: watch out in the jungle because big spiders and webs are coming your way… 😉
Spotting hammerhead sharks
Besides snorkeling, Pulau Hatta is a unique diving destination. Unique, because you can spot hammerhead sharks there. Some tourists went several times early in the morning and saw them every time. You can do this via Neira Dive on Pulau Hatta, but also with the well-known Dive Blue Motion on Banda Neira.
After 3 nights we thought it was time to go back to civilization. Our friend from New Zealand stayed longer to dive here. In the early morning, Semion took us to the harbor. His daughter sat in front of the scooter and looked at me through the side mirror with a typical look. A look of surprise and at the same time one of happiness. When we pointed it out to Semion, we both laughed at her. We hugged Semion and thanked him for everything. The people are so special here, and what a special place.
The boat left 1.5 hours later than planned, something that really suits this sleepy island. We got up before six o’clock with a little effort, but it was alright since we enjoyed the beautiful view. We helped two women with heavy cement bags and lifted them to the boat and left for Banda Neira with a happy feeling.