The Forgotten Islands
Do not let the name of The Forgotten Islands fool you. On the contrary, once you descend into the waters in this area, the only thing you will get is once in a lifetime journey.
Instead of referring to one particular region, The Forgotten Islands is a stretching chain of islands and atolls, covering around 1,000 kilometers across the Banda Sea. The variety of dive sites here is unmatched because of the vast area and the fact that most of the sites are in the open sea.
The trip to The Forgotten Islands is tailored for the brave as most of the journey will be spent on the water.
Top highlights of The Forgotten Islands
- Dive alongside the schooling—yes, you heard it right—of the hammerhead sharks in Serua Island or Nils Desperandum
- Witness the different species of whales and dolphins while diving or lounging in your liveaboard while they pass the Banda Sea for migration
- Experience the hydrothermal vents in the underwater steep walls around Nusleur, Terbang Utara, and Terbang Selatan
- See the explosion of colors of the hard and soft corals in the various dive sites in The Forgotten Islands
- Explore the underwater black sand during the night dive on Damar Island
About The Forgotten Islands
Stretching from Timor to Southeast Moluccas and covering a 1,000-kilometer chain of archipelagos, The Forgotten Islands got the name because of how sheltered this area is from the rest of Indonesia and the sparse population. And the fact that only a few people explore this area, the name seems fitting.
Divided into Inner and Outer Banda Arc, the terrain of these islands is varied. From volcanic islands, monsoon forest, flat islands with mangroves and savannah in the Inner Banda Arc to coral islands with lime structures and sandy beaches in the Outer Banda Arc, this is one of the best regions to represent the diversity of nature that Indonesia has to offer.
The challenging way to access this region has proved to be one of the main reasons why marine life is in splendid conditions and attracting many species.
Diving in The Forgotten Islands
One of the best things about The Forgotten Islands is the variety of species that can be discovered underwater. It’s not surprising since this area is within The Coral Triangle, and The Forgotten Islands is one of the secluded areas in Indonesia and hasn’t been explored widely. Diving here feels special because of how unspoiled the area is.
Steep, long walls, and seamounts are expected in The Forgotten Islands, adorned with healthy and colorful corals, giant sponges, and different species of sea fans. At the same time, Napoleon wrasse, anthias, parrotfish, jacks, barracudas, surgeonfish, and fusiliers swim freely among the coral gardens.
Critters like lionfish, ghost pipefish, frogfish, octopus, triggerfish, scorpionfish, moray eels, nudibranch, and pygmy seahorse should satisfy any macro enthusiasts as the presence of those small animals is abundant in The Forgotten Islands, hidden in the crannies of the corals.
Refrain from counting out the big creatures, as hammerhead sharks, silver, blacktip, and whitetip sharks are often seen patrolling the area. Prepare yourself to witness killer whales, dolphins, and oceanic manta rays while diving or sailing with the liveaboard in The Forgotten Islands. Not to mention that the Banda Sea is in the migration route of dolphins and whales.
Please keep in mind that most of the dive sites in The Forgotten Islands are in the open sea. The current can be strong, so only experienced divers are allowed to dive.
The Hammerhead Sharks of The Forgotten Islands
In Galapagos Island, diving with hammerhead sharks has been widely commercialized, but in The Forgotten Islands, this phenomenon still needs to be developed. In Cenderawasih Bay, the whale sharks become the main star, while in Raja Ampat, the black manta rays are seen as anomalies. In Nils Desperandum and Serua, the sightings of hammerhead sharks have become a fascination due to the numbers seen in the area.
Though the exact reason has yet to be determined, one may wonder if the location of The Forgotten Islands plays a crucial role. The isolated nature of The Forgotten Islands and the depth of the Banda Sea may attract the schooling of these apex predators.
The encounters with the hammerhead sharks mostly happen around the tiny atolls, far from the nearest land, at a depth of 10-50 meters. Though luck plays an important role, sometimes 40-50 of these sharks can be seen swimming around in groups, a sight to behold and an unforgettable one at that. One diver even reported seeing two hammerheads just 5 meters deep!
Diving Environments in The Forgotten Islands
Diving in The Forgotten Islands is certainly testing the level of your adrenaline rush, as many of the dive sites have yet to be identified. But you will be guaranteed your diving here will forever be remembered as one of the most notable experiences.
The topography in the Forgotten Islands is marked by endless reefs and sensational deep walls covered in soft corals, sea fans, and sponges. The water temperature in this region is considered warm, ranging from 27 - 30 degrees Celsius. Wearing a 3 mm long wetsuit is still advised to give you comfort in enjoying the beauty in every corner of The Forgotten Islands.
The visibility during the best time is excellent as it ranges from 30 to 50 meters. While wind and sea play instrumental roles in predicting the currents, with our current climate change, the conditions can still change unpredictably.
How to get to The Forgotten Islands
There is no public transportation to reach The Forgotten Islands due to the secluded nature and the inadequate sites used for moorings and shelters. The only way you can explore the dive sites and then hop from one island to another is by liveaboard.
The period in which Liveaboard operates is also limited. The liveaboard service is only available from October to November and then again from April to May. Commonly, the liveaboard combines the trip to The Forgotten Islands with the other islands in the Banda Sea and Papua.
Diving Seasons & Weather in The Forgotten Islands
Since The Forgotten Islands consist of a chain of islands in the open sea, it is important to plan and know exactly the best period to go.
During the dry season, which lasts from June to November, the sea is choppy due to the strong wind from the southeast aside from October to November, which proves to be the best months to dive. If you would like to dive in the rainy season, which happens from December to May, the best period to explore and dive in The Forgotten Islands is from April to May. Outside those months, storms frequently occur.
Dive Sites in The Forgotten Islands
Marine Life in The Forgotten Islands
The location of The Forgotten Islands, which is sandwiched between the Banda Sea and Timor Sea, ensures that the variety of fish here is abundant. Fish species like angelfishes, anthias, blennies, trevallies, damselfishes, triggerfishes, and sweetlips, to the pelagic ones like barracudas, groupers, mackerels, and wrasses are thriving here.
The depth of the Banda Sea, combined with the hidden locations, ensures this variety of species gets all the best nutrients and foods that they need.
Whale & Dolphins
The Forgotten Islands’ waters are strategically located as the migration route for giant mammals like whales and dolphins. If luck is on your side, during your diving, you will encounter different species of whales and dolphins, like whales, sperm whales, spinner dolphins, and even orcas, giving you a spectacular show in the open sea.
The waters in The Forgotten Islands attract many different species of sharks, especially hammerhead sharks. In Nils Desperandum and Serua, sightings of this shark are numerous, and they often come in groups.
Besides the hammerhead, whitetip, blacktip, and silvertip sharks are also prominent in this region. Some divers even reported they witnessed the appearance of Atlantic threshers and nurse sharks.
For macro enthusiasts, The Forgotten Islands is another hidden getaway to observe and photograph many small creatures. From ghost pipefish, frogfish, and lionfish to pygmy seahorses, shrimps, nudibranchs, and octopus, these critters are hidden away among the dense coral gardens. Different species of eels, like ribbon and moray eels, are also abundant in the waters of The Forgotten Islands.
As part of The Coral Triangle, it is no wonder that the coral ecosystem in The Forgotten Islands is in excellent and healthy conditions. Add that to the isolated location; the corals in this region are second to none.
From hard corals like black sun corals, mushroom corals, and table corals among any other species to soft corals like different kinds of sea fans, sponges, sea whips, and sea pens in different colors, The Forgotten Islands has everything that you can think of.
The vast body of waters and the variety of small fish in The Forgotten Islands is the perfect place for both oceanic manta rays and reef manta rays. These gigantic creatures have made some of the spots in the region their cleaning stations, where they let small fishes eat the parasites off of their bodies.