As we arrived below a conical volcanic peak and approached the spectacular Banda Islands, two traditional canoes greeted us with a warm welcome ceremony. Some of us continued ashore, learning all about this incredibly significant, tiny island in the middle of nowhere. This island group was the center of the Spice Island trade, with traders coming from all over the globe.

Some guests set off to explore the undersea world. The last volcanic eruption was in 1988, and we snorkeled and dove on this flow. It was difficult to see the lava, as it was completely covered with coral and fish. A nearby point had a gentle current and clouds of fish, including a personal favorite: the pyramid butterflyfish.

Soon, it was time to head west to our next destination. As we passed Banda Run, we spotted six blue whales! What an incredible day in a tiny island group in the middle of the Banda Sea.

Photo caption and photographer: Canoe welcome below the volcano. Photo by Mike Greenfelder