Manuk Island – A Bird Sanctuary in the remote Banda Sea

By Ian Burnet

The last stop on our East Indies Spice Exploration Voyage 2016, before reaching the Banda Islands, is the tiny island of Manuk which is just the tip of a volcano which pokes itself above the Banda Sea.

The Ombak Putih approaches Manuk Island

Manuk is an andesitic volcanic island that rises 3000 meters from floor of the Banda Sea at the easternmost part of the Indonesian island arc. Because of its steep cliffs and rocky coast it is almost impossible to land on the island, which makes it a perfect sanctuary for seabirds. Frigate birds, gannets, brown boobies, white boobies and other marine birds have their nests in the trees. As we arrive at the island a brown boobie lands on the bowsprit to inspect the vessel, while frigate birds pass by while trying to decide wether we are a frigate or not.

A brown boobie lands on the bowsprit

As we circumnavigate the windswept island, hundreds of birds wheel overhead, waves crash against the rocks, and we can see vents surrounded by yellow sulphur blowing steam and sulphur fumes from the flanks of the volcano.

The windswept vegetation and active volcanic vents on this lonely island

Numerous brown and white boobies are fishing in the surrounding seas, while frigate birds wheel overhead and dive to steal the fish caught by the more industrious boobies.

Hundreds of seabirds wheel overhead as we circumnavigate the island

We have seen no other shipping in ten days and wonder how many other vessels visit this lonely island

About Ian Burnet
Ian is the author of several books about Indonesia: Spice Islands, about the history, romance and adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2,000 years; East Indies, which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Indies; and Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia. You can read more about Ian's travels and stories on his blog, which you can go to by clicking here.