Home > Dive Discovery Trip Reports

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai I
Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

Page 1

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

This will be my 15th trip to Indonesia for a first time exploration of the fabled Forgotten Islands. Where are they you ask? Many of you have been to Indonesia several times, and most likely have dived the amazing rich waters off Alor & Wetar off the eastern tip of Flores.

This is the island group that dots the continuing chain heading east and north on the way to Papua and Triton Bay/Kaimana. Only a few boats have been out here and the feedback have been beyond positive! I was very excited as I have covered nearly all the great diving spots of Indonesia, since starting my business here 23 years ago when there was only 1 liveaboard dive boat!

Nothing is easy about getting to these very remote parts of Indonesia, however if it were easy,,, everybody would be there and it would not be as we found it, PRISTINE!!!

Our first dives out of Tual began at Kurkap, we dove Kurkap slope, WOW! First thing we see is a full grown Zebra shark, I have never seen one before! The visual delight of this slope was breathtaking. The hard coral went on as far as they eye could see. So many species of pristine, untouched spectacular hard coral, in clear water! I was awestruck!

You may know that Indonesia is the epi-center of where life began; it has the MOST species of marine life on the planet over 3000, it also has the most hard coral species on the planet, over 400. It also holds ¼ of the worlds’ hard coral. I believe it must be here in the Forgotten Islands! Being a dive operator and one who escorts many groups around the world diving (and Africa Safaris), I will tell you, I was gobsmacked! Not only was this prolific array of pristine hard coral a sight to see, but accompanied by hundreds of schools of different species of fusiliers, surgeon fish, rainbow runner, Giant Trevaly and so many types I could not keep track, and right in the middle appeared a Manta ray! Wow!

We dove several sea mounts in the area, one spot called Ultimate Frontiera was outstanding! Very busy water, with the usual hundreds of different species of fusiliers, many different types of surgeon fish, prolific tuna which I may never have remembered seeing in INDO before. Many fish at different depths, so as you make your way up, you are among many different types of fish!

The barrel sponges here are HUGE and bountiful, they were smoking and spawning, you could put your hand over them and nearly feel the magic taking place here. They looked like white smoking, steaming calderas. The fish were feeding and frenzied. This is also the first time I have seen so many Giant Trevally, normally I see them in Komodo. What a great surprise to see them plentiful on many dives!

The shallows awarded us with lovely white mouth moray eels, colorful reefs, massive schools of schooling barracuda, this would be a normal happening on most dives out here. They came in different sizes but always huge schools of them and very curious! These dives were so very productive, very pleasant and Zen like! Some current, enough to keep the fish around but not out of control current!

Next stop Tannenbaur Island, wow! Kalbur south is amazing!! Andrina and I decided this needs to be called Kalbur Gardens, it was simply ‘out of this world’! I have never seen a dive where you swim along the entire dive in awe of the absolute pristine, untouched glory of a real ‘hard coral’ untouched garden loaded with so many species of huge brittle flower like hard coral. After all these trips in Indonesia, I witnessed hard coral I have never ever seen before! Not only that, they are massive! As though some one just created them, fertilized them and lapse time, perfection! No bombs, no rubble, no bleaching, just perfect specimens of substantial varieties!

Also in the mix were many colorful huge giant fans and gorgonians, just to add the right amount of color! In abundance for good measure; big schools of all sorts of fish! A very fishy place, who doesn’t like to be ‘one with the fish’? Loads of colorful bannerfish, the biggest school I have ever seen, layered from deep to shallow water and close to the reef! More surgeon fish of several varieties and as you got shallower, thousands of happy anthias! You cannot end a dive like this without a huge smile on your face, joy-filled knowing ‘THIS’ still exists.

Not to forget, pigmy seahorses and a wonderful ‘winged pipefish’ a beautiful species of pipefish I have never seen before! Now at the end of this dive, was an awesome fairly large bommie in shallow water loaded with goodies! Thousands of the bigger very gold glassy sweepers, moving in a synchronized swimming ballet mixed in with much smaller translucent glass fish moving in their own ballet, a true cacophony of fish! Floating in this space in a Zen like state, pondering this surreal dive then ending in this place of amazement, is the true expression of what the diving in Indonesia is all about! Stunning!

On another dive in this area was a huge black and white banded sea snake, hunting among the abundant coral gardens. Dive masters on Damai are fantastic, they found Halimeda ghost Pipefish, makes sense since there is SO much of it,,, do you think I could find my own if it saved my life??? They look just like it, I was bound and determined to find my own, and no matter how hard I strained to look, only the amazing dive guides could find them! A lot of wonderful small critters to photograph, keeps one very busy in Indonesia! Beautiful pink and purple (my fav colors) squat lobsters are plentiful on the many large barrel sponges, again found only by the guides!

Molu Island, another 5 star dive in my log book, a great macro dive; loads of wild nudi’s all over, the big bright green ones and some with a shock of orange rhinophors and branchs. That lumpy velvet thing which I just learned is a mollusk! Orangutan crabs of all sizes and variations are everywhere, not only on bubble coral but brown sponge and algae, the ever adorable ‘True Clown’ the Percula anemone fish!

Other wonderful tidbits; cuttlefish, harlequin ghost pipefish and the ghost pipefish that look like broken off seaweed, they really amaze me how camouflaged they are floating among the rest of the dead natural floating sea debris on the sand, except they have a snout and eye balls!

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

On another dive near here they found amazing yellow skeleton shrimp on yellow gorgonian! My Gosh, I have never seen this before, looks like a small patch of yellow hydroid however it happens to be a different gorgonian on the sand, with all these bits of yellow sticks coming off of it! However the guides show me closer,,,, they are alive, the yellow sticks are moving, when you magnify them after you photograph them, they are amazing like small yellow praying mantis! Yet they are called skeleton shrimp, the most amazing NEW find for me!! I just love them!!

Another favorite 5 star dive at Dai Island, Tertuti wall. Huge fans, gorgonians, giant barrel sponges, I have never seen so many HUGE perfect barrel sponges as in the Forgotten Islands! More huge nonstop schools of fusiliers, again several species; snappers, big school of barracuda and at the end a big school of huge bumphead parrotfish that were NOT afraid of us, could swim right next to them with their glowing white beaks and teeth, amazing! Gorgeous brilliant soft coral inside the under hangs, it is worth taking a torch on these dives, my new thing! Then along comes a MASSIVE school of Unicorn fish, where did they come from? This was a sensational wake up dive! Wow all before #2 breakfast!

Dai island diving is really special, next dive around the corner offered us beautiful blacktip reef sharks, the markings on these sharks are very perfect and precise, I just love them. We did not see a lot of sharks however I saw more sharks in the Forgotten Islands than I have seen anywhere else in Indonesia! WE did see several white tip sharks, a few black tips and zebra shark. Not bad! This dive as well as many others had very curious yet cautious, good size Maori wrasse. Loads of colorful large fans, soft corals and tons of wonderful small stuff for the macro lovers!

*The Forgotten Islands are about the ‘big picture’, the clear water enables you the glorious big view of the only place on earth where you can see and greatly appreciate the impeccable vast size, scope and diversity of the most beautiful hard coral gardens in a pristine state on earth!

Damar Island, rates another 5 star in my log book ;-)! Lovely wall, covered in soft corals, very bright and brilliant, giant sponges and something new again,,,, colonial anemones!! Really? I have never seen these before either, and they are everywhere, without current they look like branches of some sort of sponge with white round parts with brown dashes of stripes. With some current, they are amazing, opening to show gorgeous white tentacles feeding the nutrient rich waters. They are stunning!  They are only in this certain area of the Forgotten Islands, very special indeed!

This area also full of wild small critters and life! Several dive sites in the Damar Island area, all 5 star and loaded with life! Purple and pink squat lobsters all over these sponges and some out and dancing, four of them very close to each other, leaf fish, more interesting different nudi’s and more orangutan crabs.

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip ReportThe Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

A great big and small picture place, also I was distracted with looking into the blue as there are sooooo many fish out there, since I enjoy diving deeper, lurking deeper are the Big Boys,,,, lots of schools of unicorn fish, bumphead parrot, sharks and all sorts of fun stuff. My fun dive master Yanto and I would create a symphony with our sticks on our tanks and bringing in the schools of fish, big fish and a big shark once, NO idea what it was but it was BIG!

Heading further west to Kapala and Lalang, another 5 star diving day! Nice clear water here with BIG schools of Big fish. Nothing like a magnificent wake up dive loaded with hundreds of fusiliers of various species, surgeon fish, a large school of GT’s (Giant Trevally), bumphead parrotfish with enough current to get them balled up close to the reef and going off!! In the shallows the usual wonderful cuttlefish, imperial shrimp on that special sea cucumber.

Lalang;  Yanto and I had the most stellar surreal ‘Africa Drum Beat’ dive with wild crazy big fish coming in fast right up to us! The entire dive, we called in all the fish, very close to us, it was wild! Larry Smith would have had so much fun doing this!!! WE had Giant Trevally in our face and swimming over our shoulder, BIG surgeon fish with yellow stripes on their cheek, I have not seen these before, there were tons of them, they are big and they came right up to us! Rainbow runners were deep with us also,, then wow a GIANT huge mega grouper came up from the depths to check out this crazy africa drum beat duo,,, OH my he kept coming up and back down and up and back down. He had to be at least 2 ft long and big and fat!! I followed him as he was like a siren to me, he vanished into this huge gorgeous cave filled with abundant soft coral and fans, wow! We had nice current with all the fishy-ness we even saw another shark with stripes! It could have been a Tiger but it was a bit in the murk and difficult to tell for sure.

This continued for nearly an hour but I was running low on air, so excited!!!!! As we are doing a safety stop flying by the reef at 20ft and 15 ft, we enter one of the largest schools of barracuda I have ever seen and had the chance to be in the middle of as they circled us and swam around us and split in front of us in the most beautiful dance of the sea!! I am in shock at this epic dive, from the very beginning to the last breath out of my tank! Yep, I did the no no, breathed it dry to the last drop,,, and popped my head up on the surface  belly laughing so hard with disbelief!!!!

After this dive Yanto says, that big grouper liked you! ;-) I think so!! What a wild adrenaline dive!!! So many fish and so many big fish, a wonderful surprise for Indonesia, I am so glad these Islands are forgotten!!

Page 2 >>