Indonesia's Forgotten Islands
Indonesia's "Forgotten Islands" - also known as the Southeast Moluccas (Maluku Tenggara), are not a single destination, but rather a 1,000 km long chain of archipelagos stretching from Timor to West Papua on the island of New Guinea. Undeveloped, distant from population centers and far off any beaten path, these "Forgotten Islands" have been largely isolated from the rest of Indonesia and the world.
The terrain of these islands varies from forested mountainous peaks in the Inner Banda Arc of islands (Wetar, Roma, Damar, Nila), with peaks as high as 868 m (on Damer) to essentially flat islands of the easternmost Aru and Kei island groups, dominated by savannah, mangroves and broadleaf forests.
The Inner Arc islands are volcanic, while the island groups in the Outer Banda Arc (Leti, Luang, Sermata, Babar and Tanimbar islands) are mostly up thrust coralline limestone, often characterized by terracing resulting from periodic uplift and changes in sea level.
Together, the islands of Maluku Tenggara make up the eastern end of the bio-geographic province of Wallacea, a transitional region between continental Southeast Asia and Australia-New Guinea, with flora and fauna of the easternmost islands the most similar to New Guinea.
Culturally, most of the Austronesian peoples of the islands of Maluku Tenggara appear to be closely related, sharing similar languages, myths, and traditional beliefs. They are known for their powerful woodcarvings and sculptures depicting ancestral figures, distinctive hand woven ikat fabrics, and plaited bamboo and palm baskets.
Hammerhead Shark, Kadola Island
Mandarinfish near Laha Village
» Click here for more information on the history and culture of the Forgotten Islands.
The Forgotten Islands offer some of the best diving in Indonesian waters. Attractions include gin-clear waters, patch reefs and coral bommies, spectacular wall dives on impossible drop-offs.
On our inaugural trips to the Forgotten Islands in 2010, our excited visitors enjoyed seeing rare Weedy, Bumphead parrotfish, Jacks (Big-eye trevallies), Giant trevallies, Spanish mackerel, schooling barracuda, hammerhead sharks, a 3 meter salt water crocodile, and a whale shark!
Salt water crocodile, P. Wetar
Weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa), P. Lembata
Since 2012 we are offering two expeditions to the Forgotten Islands each year in November/December. One trip starts in Maumere (Flores) or Kupang (West Timor) and ends in Saumlaki, in the Tanimbar Islands, and another trip returns along the same or a similar route. Detailed itineraries in this area will vary according to weather and diving conditions and other factors. But a typical journey through this region might include:
- P. Lembata, a traditional whaling island, which usually offers spectacular critters dives
- Solor/Alor archipelagos. Stops in these islands can include P. Pantar, P. Buaya, P. Alor, Kalabahi)
- P. Komba, location of the Batu Tara volcano.
- P. Wetar. The people of this island live in harmony with salt water crocodiles!
- Barat Daya Islands (P. Romang, P. Nyata, P. Kital, P. Laut, P. Telang)
- Leti island group (P. Leti, P. Lakor, P. Moa)
- Sermata Group (P. Sermata, P. Luang) P. Sermata is known for the many surviving myths that are still part of Forgotten Islands traditional culture.
- Babar Islands (P. Dai, etc.) These islands are known for the survival of boat symbolism.
- Tanimbar Islands
The Forgotten Islands
by Linda Johnston (06:45)
Forgotten Islands - Schooling Fish
by Linda Johnston (04:01)
North West Monsoon:
South East Trade Winds:
Calm Cruising Season:
Other relevant info:
Late December - April (North West rain storms Dec - March)
May – October (strong steady winds from South East)
November – first half of December (in recent years)
June through November
December through May
27 - 32°C
27 - 32°C
Switch from South East to North West has provided a "window" for calm cruising in November and early December in recent years, where several years ago this calm season started earlier, in October. Switch from North West to South East in April-May has been very quick with unreliable short calm season. Not recommended for cruising. Wind and sea conditions may still vary unpredictably, forcing itinerary changes. Dive conditions vary with the tides, throughout the day. Therefore it is important to dive according to the tide tables in order to hit each site at the optimal time. This is where your Seven Seas crew and dive guides excel!
Published information about the Forgotten Islands
There isn't much useful information available. The de Jonge/van Dijk book was produced in conjunction with an exhibition of Forgotten Islands art and culture at the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden, Netherlands. It is probably the best sourcebook on these islands in English, but this book is out of print and may be difficult to obtain (There is a copy on the Seven Seas!).
Nico de Jonge and Toos van Dijk, Forgotten Islands of Indonesia: The Art & Culture of the Southeast Moluccas, Singapore: Periplus Editions (1995)
Stephen Oppenheimer, Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia, London: Phoenix Books (1988)