We travelled back from Banda Neira to Ambon by PELNI boat. When we travelled there in March 2023 two PELNI boats were operating on this route: the Pangrango and the Sabuk Nusantara 106.
About the Sabuk Nusantara 106
We took the Pangrango when coming from Ambon to Banda Neira.
On the return trip we used the Sabuk. It was our first time on this ship which is more of a cargo ship than a passenger ship. The passenger capacity was pretty limited.
The Sabuk Nusantara 106 is 62.80 m long, 12.00 m wide and 4.00 m high, with a passenger capacity of 404 and a cargo capacity of 100 tonnes.The ship is relatively young, built in 2018, although seemed older than five years old
Buying PELNI ship tickets in Banda Neira
PELNI ship tickets can be purchased at the ticket office in Banda Neira which is easy to find. There is a whiteboard in front of the ticket office where you can check the latest boat schedule…well probably the latest schedule!
We purchased our tickets for the Sabuk Nusantara on the same day of travel on 24 March, while the Pangrango was scheduled to sail from Bandaneira to Ambon the following day, on 25 March.
The Sabuk was already in the port of Banda Neira early in the morning of 24 March, so we went to ask if we could get a cabin on the morning of the day. We were told that a crew cabin would cost 700,000 rupiah. There was also a dormitory type room (maybe eight people), I was told that it would be Rp 250,000 per bed, but I would have to share the room with other passengers. Both options were somewhat expensive.
The Sabuk was scheduled to depart at 3pm on the 24th and the Pangrango was scheduled to depart at 7am on the 25th. So initially we tried to buy a ticket for the Pangrango, thinking that the Pangrango would be better as we would be sure to get an economy class bed…
When we actually tried to buy a ticket for the Pangrango for the next day were told that the ship was supposed to leave at 7am the next morning, but would actually “arrive at 1am” during the night.
When we asked, “So the departure from Banda Neira will still be at 7am?”, the reply was, “Probably at 3am or 4am, or maybe even 7am.”
PELNI boats can normally be boarded two hours before departure, but if they might leave at 3am, we would have to be at the port from 2am at the latest. This was not a great option and we decided to give up on the Pangrango.
Incidentally, the Pangrango costs 110,000 rupiah per person for a boarding ticket, while the Sabuk Nusantara is a ‘No Seat’ ticket, which is cheaper at 20,000 rupiah. Meals are not included either.
Boarding the Sabuk Nusantara 106
When purchasing tickets at the ticket office, we were told to be at the port at 2-3pm as the boat would leave at 4pm.
As no food was available, we took out nasi goreng from a nearby restaurant. We also bought bananas and water and boarded the boat at about 2.30pm.
The port was quiet when we first came to check on getting a cabin in the morning, but boarding was really crowded. I had expected that there wouldn’t be that many passengers because it was a cargo ship, but I was terribly wrong.
This means that if we could’t arrange a cabin, we are going to struggle to even find a space to sleep on the floor (deck). We renegotiated with the crew for a cabin again. Once again, the asking price was 700,000 rupiah, but we finally got it for 600,000 rupiah.
We managed to secure a nice cabin. It had air-conditioning, a toilet and a shower.
We got the key and walked around the ship a bit, but it was really full of people. The deck, aisles and landing were all crammed with lots of passengers and their luggage.
We felt really lucky to have arranged a cabin and when the ship showed no sign of leaving at 4:00 or 5:00pm we were extra happy.
After loading what was probably a large quantity of fish, the boat finally left at 6pm.
At this time it was Ramadan and most Muslims in Indonesia do not eat or drink until sunset. The deck of the boat was full of people waiting for the sun to set and were cheerfully watching the sun set.
As the boat rounded the Banda volcano (Gunung Api), you could see the black lava flow.
Arrival in Ambon
The Sabuk Nusantara 106 departed Banda Neira three hours behind schedule. The seas were calm and the voyage went smoothly, arriving in Ambon at around 8 am the following morning.
From here we would travel by Grab Taxi to Ambon Airport.