Where are The Forgotten Islands? Adventure, unknown dive sites, spectacular scenery off the beaten track. This is The Forgotten Islands. The Forgotten Islands are part of Indonesia’s south Maluku province, a region located at the extreme southeastern boundary of the country and less than 200 nautical miles from the northern tip of Australia. These cruises concentrate on the most unexplored regions of the country and will start or finish in either Maumere, on the north coastline of east Flores or at Saumlaki on Jamdena, the largest island of the Tanimbar group. These itineraries will give guests the opportunity to dive some of the fabulous sites of East Nusa Tenggara around Lembata, Pantar and Alor during the cruise as well as exploring the fascinating reefs, walls and topside scenery of the islands further east, the mysterious and rarely visited Forgotten Islands.
The Damar Ridge The most northern or inner line of islands guests will visit are located along the top of a marine mountain range known as the Damar Ridge and take in the islands of Wetar, Romang, Damar, Nila, Serua and finally Manuk as well as their numerous satellite islands and associated shallow reefs and atolls. Composed of a chain of high jungle-clad volcanoes and surface breaking coral reefs that run-up in a curve from south-west to north-east, the Damar Ridge is a mini Ring of Fire and their close location to the extremely deep waters of the Banda Sea makes them a magnet for all manner of marine life. The southern arc of islands, which extend eastwards from the island of Timor is in shallower water and are larger with the topside consisting of barren limestone hills and mangrove forests. The coastlines are fringed by white sandy beaches shaded by swaying palm trees before the sea begins to run over extensive reefs and atolls.
South to Saumlaki This southerly line starts in the west at the Leti island group and continues to the atolls and island of Sermata, Barbar, and the Tanimbar Islands before finishing at the Kei and Aru island groups, made famous as the final destination of the Ring of Fire television documentary. The diving and anchorages across this southern line are for the most part more sedate than those on in the north, although they are certainly not lacking in vibrant reef life and incredible topside scenery.
Day 1: Arrival and boarding Indo Aggressor – Tual – Guests are welcomed at Tual Airport for the trip down to the quaint local harbor to meet with the Indo Aggressor. Once everyone is safely onboard, there is a check out dive.
Day 2: The Tanimbar Islands – West Yamdena – Yamdena is the largest of The Tanimbar Islands and the last day of diving. Guests will explore the islands on the northwest side on a known site or an exploratory site.
Day 3: More Islands To Explore – The Babar island group, around 40 nautical miles to the northeast of Sermata, comprises the main island of Babar, as well as its five satellite islands; Dai on the north side, Dawera and Dawalor to the east, Mesela south and on the west coast of Barbar and much closer than the rest, is Wetan.
While the whole island group is open to exploring the known dive sites are around the small island of Dai in the north. There are several known sites on the south side of the island in the channels that divide Babar from Wetan and Dawera and Dawalor.
Day 4: Picture Perfect Atolls – The Sermata Reef Complex – Nothing conjures up the image of a perfect south sea island seascape better than a coral atoll, and the Sermata group can certainly do that. The Sermata group begins only 12 nautical miles to the east of the Leti Islands at the Amortaun reef/atoll complex. There are only three or four surface-breaking islands at Amortaun, the rest of the area is taken over by coral reef that extends to deep walls and interesting reef points that are calling for the attention of inquisitive undersea explorers. The next point along the line is the huge reef that extends westward from the island of Sermata itself. Again this will provide plenty of scope for exploration, particularly on the sites in the channel that separates the reef system from Sermata island.
Day 5: Reefs Of Discovery – The Leti Islands – The Leti Islands are at the start of the southern arc of islands that border the Banda Sea and are comprised of three separate landmasses; Tombra, Moa, and Lakor. Lying to the east of the world’s newest country, East Timor, all three islands are ripe for exploration diving. Undived coral reefs and walls surround all three of these sparsely populated islands. They all feature some fabulous beaches and the channels between the islands could produce some thrilling current fuelled underwater adventures.
Day 6: Along The Circle of Fire – Damar – Traveling further east to the volcanic island of Damar, guests will explore the southwest side. Damar is some 17 kilometers from north to south and 19 kilometers from west to east. There are settlements dotted all around the eastern half of the island, the largest of which is the village of Kenili located inside and inlet on the eastern shore. The best beach is close by the known anchorage and features a long (900 meter) strip of dazzling white sand bordered by lush green forest and fringed by a shallow coral reef, a great place for a swim or snorkel. The major dive sites are not actually on Damar Island itself but rather on and around the smaller islands of Nusa Leur and Terbang Utara (North) and Selatan (South). These sites feature an explosion of different colors and forms and seem to be in constant motion with the schooling fish and busy reef action with animals that are unused to seeing scuba divers.
Day 7: Hard Coral Ridges – Romang – As the yacht continues east, the islands get smaller as we approach the Romang group that includes Njata, Mitan, Tellang, and Maopora as well as the main island of Romang. Some 23 nautical miles from west to east the group features some fantastic white sand beaches, particularly on Romang’s north-western shore and an inlet on the north side that houses a small village that could be nice for water-sport excursions.
At Romang and Nyata there are gentle terraced slopes that slip down into the deep blue of the Banda Sea. A big feature of diving on this western side of the island is the collections of large barrel sponges and huge vividly colored gorgonian sea fans. Fans of bigger animals can see Napoleon wrasses, reef sharks, rays, tunas, and other pelagic fish patrolling the reefs and walls.
Day 8: A Submarine Wonderland – Wetar – After an overnight relocation the yacht starts the next phase of the cruise at the northwest section of the island of Wetar, the last major landmass of the Nusa Tenggara archipelago. The Wetar Strait runs between Alor and Wetar and is extremely deep and is rumored to be of great strategic importance as nuclear-powered submarines can cross between the Pacific and Indian oceans unnoticed through this marine thoroughfare. This part of the island is littered with some fine white sand beaches and bays with a stunning green forest backdrop and fringing coral reefs. There is plenty to do and see along this rugged coastline that sees very few tourists. One particular place of interest is the village of Napar on the north side of the headland. It is rumored that a local chap is known as the crocodile whisperer and has the ability to communicate with these fearsome beasts that inhabit the mangrove creeks. There are a variety of diving opportunities on this part of the island. The offshore islet of Reong features impressive wall dives and further down the coast there is the chance to come across majestic manta and Mobula rays feeding and cleaning in the current. Reong Wall is located on the north side of the small island and the site features an impressive and pretty coral wall dive with the chance of spotting sharks, barracuda, and schools of large pelagic fish.
Day 9: Mythical Alor – The Alor Strait – After the first two days of underwater and topside excitement the yacht arrives at the top end of the strait which separates the islands of Pantar and Alor. This waterway, like the Linta Strait in Komodo, is a channel that endures the full force of the water movement between two much larger bodies of water, the Banda and Savu seas. Again, like Komodo, these huge water movements scatter nutrients over the reefs and walls of this remarkable area. There are several islands in the waterway creating obstacles to the heavy currents and this further disrupts the currents flow making for even more interesting marine environments. We start today diving at one of these, the island of Buaya, on the site called Cave Point. The flat shallow reefs extend from the island for a short distance before plunging down into the channel forming cracks, ledges, and swim-throughs for us to explore.
Next, the yacht travels down to Ternate to dive Babylon, yet another of Alor’s premier sites before moving into the Kalabahi Sound, a deepwater inlet that bites into the west side of the island and our anchorage for the night. The Kalabahi Sound is rapidly gaining credence as one of Indonesia’s finest critter diving locations with many great sites up and down this highly populated body of water.
Day 10: Dramatic Walls and Thundering Fireworks – Teluk Waihinga & Komba Volcano – We awake after spending the night in the calm north Lembata’s Bays for an action-packed day. The morning will be spent exploring the exciting and diverse dive sites of Lewotolo and Waihinga. One of them, deep inside the bay is a dome-like sea mount nearly breaks the surface and this is a great place to observe schooling surgeonfish and snappers as well as pygmy seahorses and pink hairy squat lobsters, it even has its own tiny wooden shipwreck. After the second dive, the yacht travels 25 nautical miles due north to visit one of the most remarkable places in the whole of the Indonesian archipelago, Komba island volcano. When approaching the 600-meter-high sulfurous mountain your heart jumps into your mouth every 10 to 15 minutes this beast belches clouds of volcanic dust, ash, and fiery rock high into the sky with a resounding bang. The afternoon will be spent diving here over the black sand reef and wall of the Komba Korner dive site, a little reminiscent of the Sangeang volcano sites close to the Komodo National Park. This is just a foretaste of the island before the evening’s firework display. As darkness falls, we move the Indo Aggressor around to face Komba’s eastern shores, here the mountainside has been completely blasted away forming a smooth slope of volcanic debris at the top of which is the blowhole. Eruptions are generally preceded by a deafening boom before the dust and ash explode out from the mountain top spraying superheated rocks down the sides before fizzing into the sea below. This is about as close as you can get while having dinner, to an erupting volcano anywhere in the world, a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Day 11: Sizzling Critters & Giant Bats – Lewoleba & Ipet Island – The town of Lewoleba is located on the island of Lembata and close by a few miles outside of the town is a remarkable collection of great dive sites that feature the finest critter experiences in the area. Just a little further north is the island of Ipet, this too features some nice dives, scenic sand bars and the sight of thousands of giant fruitbats hanging in the mangroves of the island.
Day 12: Disembarkation – Saumlaki– After 11 days of diving and immersing in the sights of The Forgotten Islands, it is time to head home.
Note: Reservations made less than 7 nights prior to departure must have the required paperwork submitted at least 5 days prior to departure date to allow time to process the necessary permits.
Getting There: The embarkation port for many of these special trips is Maumere, north Flores. This is easily accessible from Bali, sometimes with a non-stop flight. The other ports of embarkation or disembarkation will be Saumlaki on Jamdena for the majority of cruises and Tual, the capital of the Kei Islands for the rest. Both Saumlaki and Tual require transiting through Makassar airport on Sulawesi and Ambon.
Sample itineraries and maps are for illustrative purposes only. The exact route and sites visited are subject to change based on local regulations, guest experience, weather, and logistics, and are at the Captain’s discretion.