Advantages of Kei over Banda:
- With at least 3 flights a day to Ambon, you are much less likely to get ‘stuck’ in Kei. The only reliable transport to Banda is the Pelni ferry and they are infrequent and can have large delays.
- The beaches in Kei are much better and are often considered to be among the best in the world.
- Amazing beach walks.
- Kei has less tourists. That doesn’t mean that Banda is overrun with tourists, just that Kei has less tourists and in many places has an undiscovered feel. Banda also has a much smaller land area and tourists tend to end up in the same places.
- Swimming is better in Kei because there are more beaches that are sheltered from strong waves.
Advantages of Banda over Kei:
- Diving and snorkeling are far better.
- Hiking up the volcano which isn’t an option in Kei.
- Posh accommodation is available at ‘Cilu Bintang Estate’. Abba’s evening buffet at Cilu Bintang is also the best food I’ve ever had in Indonesia. Kei does have the newly renovated ‘Grand Vilia’ hotel which is quite posh as well.
- Internet and wifi is way easier to find and is a lot faster than in Kei.
- More tourists makes it is easier to organize tours, although in low season it can be difficult to find other tourists in Banda too.
- The town of Banda Neira is much more appealing than Langgur-Tual. It is far more walkable because it is smaller and has fewer vehicles.
Neither island group is better overall as they are very different. I’ve been to Kei 6 times and Banda 3 times and I have a small preference for Kei. Ideally though, you would visit Banda and Kei and decide for yourself.
The Pelni between Kei and Banda is reliable but can have delays. My Pelni last year was supposed to leave at 3 a.m. but ended up leaving at about 10 a.m. Fortunately I found out in advance and was able to get a full night’s rest. The journey takes about 12 hours. The Tidar is a large ship (maybe 1000 passengers) and can be very crowded. The top deck at the rear of the ship has an air-conditioned convenience store and outdoor seating area. If you can get a seat there that’s probably the best place on the boat. The Pelni is quite tolerable or even nice for a 12 hour trip but any longer would probably drive me crazy!
Don’t underestimate the transportation difficulties in Banda. Last year I met 2 tourists that took the Pelni to Kei in order to fly to Ambon because it was the only way to leave. I also got stuck in Pulau Hatta for 2 extra days because bad weather had stopped the local boats from traveling to Bandaneira.