Gunung Api might be the island of the sea snakes, but it’s not the only place you can find these amazing creatures in the Banda Sea – Manuk is another remote volcanic island far from human contact where sea snakes thrive
Gunung Api is the famous volcano of the sea snakes which most Banda Sea liveaboards try and visit, weather permitting – but there is another volcanic island, Manuk, where scores of sea snakes can also be found. Manuk is as remote as Gunung Api, located nearly one hundred miles off the Banda Islands and out on its own in the middle of the Banda Sea. Not that many boats go there due to it being so out of the way of the usual Banda itinerary, so I was really pleased we were going to get a chance to see Manuk and Gunung Api on the same trip. (Sadly it meant we didn’t go to Luci Para atoll though, but you can’t win them all).
You can smell the stench of sulphur as the liveaboard gets near to Manuk, and there was even a visible plume of steam rising from one of the vents in the steep sides of the island. There are hot rocks in the shallows too, just like at Sangeang in Komodo, where the warmth from the volcano bubbles up through into the water.
There were perhaps not quite as many sea snakes as I was expecting here, though you can see from the photos below they were certainly not bothered by divers – these shots are not so great as I was still getting used to just how fast they move in the water – really quite incredible to watch. There is also a great deal of amazing hard and soft coral around Manuk as well – I spent one whole dive in the shallows trying to capture the surge of the ocean above pristine bommies and huge sponge corals.
Besides the sea snakes, the other thing about Manuk is the absolutely huge schools of barracuda to be seen here. I have never seen so many barracuda in one place and again, they were not particularly bothered by divers getting near to them. Watching a school of barracuda hundreds of fish strong moving together is a majestic sight and my enduring memory of Manuk. I hope I can go back there at some point, as one day just wasn’t enough to fully take in this amazing island.