FORGOTTEN ISLANDS-TRITON BAY
12 Days/11 Nights Saumlaki – Kaimana Cruise Itinerary
Day 1 Embarkation in Saumlaki
Days 2-3 Forgotten Islands
The Forgotten Islands are part of a remote archipelago in the southeast corner of the Moluccas (Maluku Tenggara). Despite the remote feeling in other parts of Indonesia (such as Alor or Banda), the Forgotten Islands are isolated even by Indonesian standards, covering a 1,000 km long chain of islands staring at Timor and extending up to West Papua. The Tanimbar group of around 65 islands that separate the Banda Sea from the Arafura Sea include the island of Yamdena where the capital Saumlaki is where this cruise begins.
There are many groups of islands in this area and the Forgotten Islands are relatively undiscovered and still being explored. The exact itinerary around these islands will depend exclusively on the weather and current conditions. Also due to the big distances between island groups some of the days will include three day dives before heading off in the afternoon and travelling overnight. When the next location is closer and there are anchorage spots in sheltered bays we will offer a fourth dive, usually a night dive.
Dive sites in the Forgotten Islands are characterised by endless reefs and spectacular deep walls covered in soft corals, sea fans and huge sponges. These islands usually experiences amazing visibility and warm water around 27-30C (81-86F). Here are the names of the islands we may visit (weather permitting) during your cruise:
Dawera Island (4 dives)
This small island in the northern part of the Babar group of islands is our first stop from Saumlaki. The villagers on this island still practice traditional hunting with bow and arrow. Steep slopes provide hunting grounds for schooling barracuda and trevally. Large sea fans on the reef are surrounded by very healthy reef fish life. There is a seamount where the reef is untouched and so full of fish you won’t know where to look! The diving in this area is so good we may even stay an extra day.
Teun, Nila and Serua, often referred to as TNS, are all small, very remote volcanic islands only accessible by liveaboard, located just east of Damar. You will feel as if you have reached the ends of the earth and that may be why there is a growing interest in diving in this zone. Although the sites here remain relatively unexplored, experiences so far have revealed tremendous diving potential and splendid coral reefs.
Close to the small island of Nila are two atolls Dusborgh and Nil Desperandum. There is a small bay on the east side of the island of Nila with a night dive opportunity.
Nil Desperandum (3-4 dives)
Nil Desperandum means “don’t despair” possibly referring to a ship wrecked here centuries ago. It is a big atoll with very deep drop offs. Schooling sharks have been spotted in the deep here with a chance to see hammerhead, silky and grey reef sharks.
Pulau Serua (3-4 dives)
Serua is a group of islands between Manuk and Nil Desparandum. The big island of Serua has a small village with around 40 inhabitants. The smaller islands are called by the locals Keke Besar and Keke Kecil. Tanjung Keke is on the corner of Keke Besar. There is a ridge extending all around the island where maybe you can see hammerhead sharks. Also look for jacks, napoleon wrasses, groupers and schooling of fusiliers. Keke Reef is on the south side of the small island and between Keke Kecil and Keke Besar. There is a beautiful shallow plateau with very nice hard corals and then drops into a very deep wall. Alot of different fish can be seen on the wall with bumphead parrotfish, pinnate spadefish, blue-fin trevallies and schools of red tooth triggerfish, fusiliers and surgeon fish.
Day 4 Manuk (4 dives)
The island of Manuk is the eastern-most volcano of Indonesia and presents two very unique highlights above and below the water. Topside, it is possible to revel in the spectacle of thousands of seabirds, including comical yet beautiful frigate birds and boobies. The sight is unforgettable. One of the few phenomena able to rival that display is the vision of a dozen sea snakes undulating and swimming underwater. Some divers have even been lucky enough to watch them hunting in a pack. It is thought that the warm geothermal vents present in these waters attract these cold-blooded creatures in large numbers. In addition to these singular wonders, the island’s reefs are also stunning and there is a good mix of coral-covered walls and slopes in all colours and sizes. Besides an outstanding variety of reef fish, you may also see some tuna, jacks and sharks.
Day 5 Banda Islands (4 dives)
Most widely known as one of the main stops along the old spice route, the Banda Islands are an isolated group of islands in the midst of the wide expanses of the Banda Sea. The remoteness of these islands has given it a fascinating, colorful history, including the fact that it was once the only place in the world where nutmeg grew!
The diving here is usually fairly relaxing with mild currents, good visibility and calm waters, but there are spots with strong currents. However, our experienced dive guides will of course properly brief you on the conditions to be encountered and will plan the dives according to divers’ experiences. Here is a list of possible dive sites:
Karang Hata is a huge atoll close to Hata Island. The walls and steep slopes are covered with hard corals, massive barrel sponges and some gorgonian sea fans – with the chance to even see pygmy seahorses. In the deeper part we will look out for hammerheads and schooling jacks. Hundreds of fusiliers and red tooth triggerfish swim in the blue, especially on the corner area. We will end our dive in the shallows where we can find reef octopus, scorpionfishes and the famous soap fish.
We will start this dive at a huge swim-through before heading to the steep walls that surround the island. Visibility is usually very good here and hammerheads have been spotted out in the blue. It is also a great spot to look for leaf scorpionfishes and hawksbill turtles. Finish your dive in a pretty hard and soft coral garden in the shallows.
Tanjung Noret is on the south-west corner of Run Island. Tanjung means corner and from the shallows the reef slopes down steeply into very deep water. There are gigantic gorgonian sea fans and sponges here. Drift along the slope with great visibility and enjoy the view of thousands of tiny reef fish darting in and out of the cracks and crevices. Look out into the blue once in a while for a chance to see hammerhead sharks.
Here there is a submerged pinnacle next to the main dive site which has a rock breaking the surface that is in the shape of a boat, hence the dive site name Batu (rock) Kapal (boat). Fish are present here in incredible numbers along with huge gorgonians and some truly monumental sponges. Look out for Napoleon wrasses in the deep and a very special fish only seen in the Banda Sea area, the soap fish.
At most sites in the Banda Islands, you will see enormous schools of fusiliers, thousands of redtooth triggerfish and hundreds of schooling pyramid butterflyfish. At this dive site there is a large crack in the reef that creates a deep swim-through. Drift through the hole and then enjoy the wall covered in sponges on the other side. On the top of the wall see many moray eels and perhaps a school of Bumphead parrotfish munching on the rocks.
A famous dive site in the Banda Islands it is at the bottom of a lava flow coming down from the peak of the Banda Api volcano. Underwater be amazed by the growth of hard coral when you take into account that the lava flowed into the sea in 1988, not so long ago. Staghorn coral gardens stretch off into the crystal blue water as far as the eye can see. One unusual coral formation to look out for here is table corals that have collapsed on to their sides but continue to sprout mini table corals off its flat edges.
The sunset dive in the harbour can prove to be one of the best sites in the world to see Mandarin fish. In the very shallow water, among the stones from old, collapsed sea walls and jetties live many Mandarin fish. We will jump in just before dusk and they will ‘walk’ around on the rocks right in front of you preparing for the nightly mating ritual. Be patient, you may get lucky and see them flutter up off the reef, cheek to cheek. If you’ve had enough of the Mandarin fish, the rocks and volcanic sandy bottom are also covered in other macro critters.
Day 6 Banda Neira Tour/Banda Islands (2 dives)
Intriguing remnants of the old lucrative spice trade are still present in Banda Neira and give a taste of colonial times. Explore Pulau Neira and spend the morning walking through its historic little town. The town is full of interesting houses dating back to the Dutch and English periods. There is also the well-preserved Fort Belgica with its fantastic views overlooking the waters around the island. We’ll visit a traditional nutmeg plantation where you will see nutmeg, cinnamon and clove trees nestled around the plantation farmer’s house. Enjoy a plantation tea under the shade of cocoa trees and try nutmeg jam, candies, cake and cinnamon biscuits. Take a look at our Banda Islands photo album here.
After the tour we will do two more dives in the Banda Islands before heading north to Koon Island.
Day 7 Koon Island (2 dives)
Too Many Fish
Our next stop is Koon Island, located southeast of Seram Island and over a trench that goes down to more than 3000 meters. There is only one dive site here and its distinct name of “Too Many Fish” is aptly deserved. The reason for this name becomes obvious to anyone who dives here. Large schools of all kinds of fish are seen here especially black snappers, batfish, barracuda and fusiliers. The sloping reef is full of beautiful corals interspaced with white sandy patches, going into a steep wall at around 30m/100ft. In the deep look for large groupers, sharks or even a passing eagle ray. In the shallows schools of banner fish, Oceanic triggerfish and red snappers decorate the reef. With all the fish in the usually perfect visibility you probably won’t be looking at the macro residents of this reef but if you do pygmies, leaf fish, nudis and ghost pipefish have been seen here. Depending on the phase of the moon, strong currents can make this dive site very challenging but unforgettable.
Day 8 Tanjung Papisoi (2-3 dives)
Located in between Koon Island and Triton Bay, we have the opportunity to do some dives in this area. One of the most known fish experts, Dr Gerry Allen, broke his record of most species of fish counted in one single dive in this area – the total was 330 species. At Tanjung Papisoi you will find a slope area with rocks and some sea fans. Here we look around for nudibranch, sweetlips and Bargibanti pygmy seahorses. In the shallows we have found the shy red spotted goby. There is a village on the big island and in front of the beach there are two rocks where we will do the third dive of the day. Here we can see big napoleons wrasses, schools of surgeon fish, some groupers, schooling fusiliers, longnose emperors and perhaps even a marbled stingray. Also look here for some gobies and nudibranchs. Nusawulan is good for a night dive. We have seen the endemic Triton walking shark and Spanish dancers.
Days 9-10 Triton Bay (8 dives)
We call this area Triton Bay but we don’t actually dive inside Triton Bay itself! The bay is very close to the main island of West Papua and therefore has very bad visibility. Most of the dive sites are located in the strait created by the island of Aiduma and south West Papua.
This dive site was named by divers in memory of Larry Smith one of the pioneers of Triton Bay. It was previously named as Little Komodo by Larry. The southern part of the site is a gentle slope with big boulders. The slopes transform into a mini wall towards the east. All the boulders and the mini wall are completely covered in soft corals like you have never seen before. Look for flasher wrasse and sand divers in the sandy slope on the south west. With sweetlips and anthias decorating the reef with their marvellous colors, this site is the most popular dive in Triton Bay.
A perfect dive site for an afternoon or night dive depending on the current. Here you will be critter hunting along the bottom of the site. Look in the soft corals, you may find one of the most camouflaged crabs in the sea, the Candy Crab. Also, there is an opportunity to see the elegant walking shark (Epaulette shark).
Bo’s Rainbow is a small rock on the surface but a huge area underwater waiting for divers to discover all the macro marine life and enjoy the formations of this site. All the boulders are completely covered in soft corals and the gentle slope is covered in black coral. Look for ghost pipefish and saw-blade shrimps in the black coral bushes. Up in the shallows there is a swim through that offers a perfect place for wobbegong sharks to rest during the day.
Another great dive site that Triton Bay has to offer is Flasher Beach and it’s not for the beauty of the location but for the marine life. The name Flasher Beach comes from the amount of different species of flasher wrasse you can encounter on any dive. With luck you might get to see the endemic Triton Bay Flasher Wrasse (Parachieilinus nursalim).
Day 11 Mai Mai (snorkelling with whale sharks)
During our last day of the trip we will visit a small village called Mai Mai off the island of Namatote where there are fishing platforms called Bagans. The fishermen here have created an amazing relationship with the biggest fish of the ocean – the Whale Shark. We have to wait until around 8 or 9 am for the whale sharks to hopefully arrive and for the fishermen to be ready with the morning breakfast for the sharks. The giant gentle whale sharks allow us to get into the water with snorkelling gear only to enjoy the presence of these amazing wonders of the sea. This is an unforgettable experience. It takes time for the dive masters and cruise directors to arrange everything with the village and fishermen but the waiting is absolutely worth it.
Day 12 Disembarkation in Kaimana
Total dives: 29-31 dives