The Forgotten Islands

The Seven Seas News - December 2013

Forgotten Islands: Tual to Maumere, November/December 2013

Trip Report by Jeannie Sinclair

November 21st

A long day of flying, touching down in Surabaya, Makassar, and Ambon finally brought us to Tual on Kei Kecil. This travel time gave us opportunity to meet many of the fellow passengers with whom we will be exploring the forgotten Islands. When we flew over the Kei Islands both Stuart and I felt so exhilarated, the islands are picture perfect tropical islands with beautiful white sand beaches and palm trees. We didn't get to see this when we landed in Bali due to too much cloud cover (it was raining heavily when we left). We get out of the airplane and are met with hot humid air and the smell of clove cigarettes, a great combo that always brings back the memories of our first trip to Indonesia in 1996, when we fell in love with traveling in this country.

Karl and a few of the crew from Seven Seas met us at the airport and whisked us away to the boat. Linda, Rita and Dieter and the rest of the crew were on the boat ready with refreshing drinks and towels, a very nice welcome indeed. Aahh, we have made it back to this lovely dive boat. We had such a fantastic experience diving in Raja Ampat in 2011; we are thrilled to be back for another "trip of a lifetime".

Schooling Bumphead Parrotfish

November 22nd

We woke up in Tanimbar, the location of our first dive is Palau Kyabrengan. It was the cutest island, mostly white sand with only a steep little chink of treed land. I almost just wanted to head for the beach; I was nervous for my first dive with all new equipment. All went well during this beautiful shallow dive; full of beautiful coral and plenty of colorful reef fish. We spotted a few giant parrotfish, huge sea cucumbers, and an interesting sea snake I've never noticed before. The dive ends poorly for me as I drop my brand new weight pocket into the deep blue. The second dive was cancelled due to poor weather in the forecast, we pulled anchor and motored all evening and night in hopes of finding better weather tomorrow. We actually had a very pleasant afternoon, getting re-acquainted with the Linda and Karl, the crew and getting to know our fellow trip companions. As with our previous trip with the Seven Seas, the other travellers are a fantastic crew of people, an eclectic crew with fantastic life experience, a shared love for the sea and eager to see more of Indonesian life and its waters.

November 23rd

This morning we arrived at Palau Teun, a stunning island with an active volcano and two quant little villages of 6 or so huts each. Life on Teun must be a very peaceful one: at least when the volcano is still. We got there around 11 am and dove at "Crater Ridge". A beautiful dive site with a huge coral reef teaming with little fish, sea snakes, barracuda and tuna. The highlight for me was to see a small sea turtle that swam straight for me; away from Stuart: Todays lunch was fantastic with squid, sauté veggies and fritters. We leave right after the dive, motoring to Palau Damer for shelter form a storm that is coming towards Timor.

Schooling Barracudas, Teun Island

November 24th

The storm has cause our trip to be re-routed a bit in search of a safe place to wait out the weather, but also get in a few dives in a sheltered area. Spending a bit more time on the boat has given us opportunity to get to know each other better. It's really fun to talk with two very inspiring women, Rani and Nina, about their very interesting travels they have done, and places where they have lived. I'm excited to hear more stories from them. Last night there was an impromptu fishing derby, I'm afraid Paul came out empty handed but Big John's luck was better with a few small snapper. This morning we dove at south Terbang, a beautiful dive with colorful and plentiful fish, including some giant bumphead parrot fish, tuna, unicorn fish. At times, I didn't know where to look, the reef wall, teaming with fish, or into the deep blue where the bigger guys were. The second and third dives were on different spots of the same reef. We saw a pregnant reef shark sleeping under a ledge! Super cool.

November 25th

A cyclone has hit the coat of Australia, all part of this storm activity the Captain has done a fantastic job of avoiding. Bravo! Bravisimo Captain! (Paul has given us all some very positive Italian words:) We still are experiencing unsettled seas with the high winds, so our plans to move on were stalled for a day. Stuart and I must have picked up a bug on the plane; so missed out on the 3 dives and night dive on the Terbang Reef. The dark and rainy weather made it a bit easier to stay in. We did some "virtual diving" by watching the very informative and entertaining "Coral Triangle" series that was filmed from the Seven Seas. It was a nice reminder of the wonder that we are lucky to see in this precious area of the world.

November 26th

We arrived at Palau Sermata. I missed out on the first dive this morning but dove the 2nd dive at Palau Kalapa - Tanjung Ponelu. The sun was shining, the corals were stunning with loads of purple and pinks. When we got back to the boat some curious local fisherman boarded the boat, they traded a parrot for some Indo Mie. The parrot was later returned to land with a bunch of bananas. The 3rd dive of the day was the highlight dive to this point with an abundance of different coral, schools of barracuda that seemed to be playing in the current and putting on a nice show for us. The spongy corals were so big; I could have crawled into them. Some divers spotted sting rays, but I missed them. Linda wants to call this dive site "Bravo"; a very fitting name for the coral and fish show we were delighted with.

Clownfish & Anemone

November 27th

We are now at Palau Lakor. A great morning dive where we saw two seat turtles, numerous schools of blue and yellow trevally. I saw the prettiest sea anemone that was closed up like a blue iridescent vase with clown fish spilling out the top of it. In the shallows we saw the juvenile back snappers doing their shimmy dance. We did a few dives off of Palau Moa with loads of pyramid butterfly fish, lobster, stone fish, pigmy sea horses and orangutan crabs.

November 28th

Moa Island. Vero went in with a few "negotiators" to get permission to dive in the Moa Territory; mission successful. Our first dive was at Tangun Yaulu. We spotted two pigmy seahorses, orangutan crab, box fish of different colors and sizes and some squid as we came to the surface. The fan corals were huge and in perfect shape. Thomas had a fantastic snorkel with a manta ray! At night we celebrated American Thanksgiving complete with Turkey and the fixings and a couple bottles of "Cava".

November 29

We did a morning slope dive off of Palau Romang. After the morning dive we spotted pilot whales off the boat. We loaded up the tenders as fast as we could and went out to snorkel with them. I was lucky to see them in the water before they went deep. During the dive off the tiny island of Nyata, I saw the largest Moray eel I've every seen. The Bulb tentacle sea anemones were a very bright coral color. The light was great on this sunny day and again ended with a breathtaking sunset that colored the sky and the sea.

Napoleon Wrasse

November 30th

This morning we awoke in a bay off of Palau Wetar. On the morning dive off Pulau Reong a napoleon wrasse was spotted reportedly to be bigger than Napoleon himself. Tangung Nuake was a massive steep wall dive with beautiful yellow, red and purple coral and full of fish life. We watched some fisherman spearfishing near the end of the dive. This was fantastic to see them move so agile through the water with this super long spear gun. They were successful and got several small batfish. As we headed back to the boat we saw one of the resident crocodiles of this island. We were very fortunate to be able to watch him swim between the two tender boats. We got a really good look at him when he hung out on the bottom. Although, it must have been quite a sight to see all of the divers hanging over the edge of the boat with our faces in the water. After the third dive we went for a visit to the village of Perai. The people on this island attempt to live peacefully with the salt water crocodiles, believing they host the spirits of their ancestors. They were very welcoming to us, showing their cashews, nutmeg and mace they dry and bring to market. Rani put on a great show with her creative way of handing out goodies to the children, making a fun game out of it that everyone enjoyed.

Saltwater Crocodile, Wetar

December 1st

The water is slightly cooler here in PP Alor in the Pantar straight. The Pantar house reef dive was wonderful, we saw an amazing soft coral crab that looked exactly like the green coral it inhabited. The shallows were especially fishy, like being in a fish "snow globe" at times. Waiting for our return was a boatload of women selling their ikat woven sarongs. They were lovely with different fish, turtle and squid motifs. After a banana pancake we were back in the water for the 2nd dive of the day at P. Reta. A massive napoleon wrasse swam down below. The nice bit of current made for a lovely ride through the coral and kaleidoscope of fish. The final dive of the day was at Solongbali. We saw a whole lot of small critters, vibrant tube anemones, a juvenile sweetlips plus a massive dogtooth tuna made an appearance. The best was saved for the last; several mandarin fish. They weren't super shy either, so we were able to have a good look, the photographers were very pleased.

December 2nd

Pulau Alor. This morning several of us went on an outing to visit the Aboi tribe people in Latifui Village. They put on a very entertaining welcoming ceremony complete with song and dance. They were all wearing beautiful ikat sarongs, with bark belts and woven beetle nut baskets. We were welcomed to join in their dancing and try out the beetle nut. After a visit to the produce open air market and to the museum, housing an impressive collection of artifacts, we were eager to get back to the boat. It was a hot sunny day and we missed the sea breeze! The Mucky Mosque dive site off of Kalabahi bay was a nice critter dive. The highlights were a pair of flasher scorpion fish, a small white frog fish and a super cute long horn cowfish. The night dive was equally exciting with Spanish dancers, solar powered nudibranch, bobtail squid, and a massive orange nudibranch.

December 3rd

Pantar Island. The "Alcatraz" dive site began with a dive into a giant soft red coral forest. This was something out of this world, the trunks of the coral were up to 6" diameter and up to 5' high. Then we moved over to the wall, which was dripping with soft coral and loads of reef fish. An octopus was snuggled into a the coral, trying to hide from the cameras. This reef was really spectacular, so we were happy to dive it twice. Everyone was very excited about the zebra eel, a rare find. The temperature was a bit colder now that we are in the Indian Ocean. The afternoon dive at "Hungery Eel" lived up to its name as well as Box fish, huge Moorish idols butterfly fish and 2 xxl orange nudibranchs . Those who did the night dive reported it as "the best one yet". They were thrilled with the giant puffer fish that was over a meter long.

Schooling Pyramid Butterflies & Stewart

December 4th

P. Lembata. This morning we awoke next to the Iliwariran volcano. The Cardinal dive site was a beautiful shallow dive littered with thousands of cardinals. The pajama cardinal fish were very striking. The 2nd dive at "Tangung Bacatan" was very fun with a few white tip sharks, spotted rays, and lobster. After an amazing lasagna lunch we steamed straight for Kumba volcano. The sea was calm, so we got to see it erupt a few times in the daylight. However, at night it was spectacular to watch the red glowing lava spew out and roll down the slope. What a very memorable outdoor dining experience, being entertained by Kumba. Just as everyone was ready to go to bed, it let out the grand finale roar!

December 5th

P. Adonara. Black tip sharks, eagle rays, spotted rays and giant trevallies made for exciting diving at "Ipet" this morning. The water here is nice and warm. More sharks and spotted stingrays, puffer fish, octopus, anthias and beautiful coral pinnacles at "Middle Ridge". Ipet was so good the first time, we did it again in the afternoon. Wow, this was the best dive so far for big sea creatures. It was a very fun dive, we lost count of the number of shark, trevallies, stingrays, #FFFFFFs and giant groupers. As an added bonus, we saw a super huge sea turtle! We watched the sun set with drinks in hand, on a lovely sand spit surrounded by beautiful milk turquoise water; Nina seized the moment and went for a dip while we drank margaritas and cheered her on. Linda showed the fantastic movie she made with footage she has taken over the last two weeks. It's hard to believe that tomorrow is our last full day on the boat.

Spotted Eagle Ray Squadron

December 6th

Flores - Palau Babi. The morning was a bit cloudy and rainy, but we still had a very nice dive at "Deep Divers", with a few white tip shark, turtles, unicorn surgeon fish, fan coral, barrel sponges and some white tube anemone. Ginny found a little black frog fish that kept Dieter down for an extra long dive. The last visit under the sea was a lovely dive in the shallows just soaking it all in. We took a super great trip up into the mountains of Flores to see how the Ikat is made in the traditional method that has been passed down through the generations. It's beautiful handiwork all made from the resources around them, cotton died with herbs, trees and nuts then spun and woven in motifs specific to their culture. The music and dancing was also very nice, their voices are so powerful. The journey was just as much of a pleasure, driving on this tiny winding road through the jungle. What a fantastic taste of Flores.

Tonight we are frantically exchanging contact information with our newly made friends, feeling a little melancholic that we are saying goodbye and going our separate ways. May we meet again on one of the Seven Seas. Bravisimo!

» Click here to see what our guests had to say about this trip.

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