Flathead fish has unique eyelids that can work to camouflage the eye and block the sun

About the Forgotten Islands

Snorkeling the Forgotten Islands of Indonesia

The Forgotten Islands in Indonesia are one of the off-the-beaten-path destinations we visit on our Coral Triangle Adventures snorkeling toursThis special snorkeling tour takes us way off the beaten path to a chain of islands so remote and so far from population centers that they are collectively referred to as the Forgotten Islands. Geologically part of the Lesser Sundas, Wetar, Leti, Sermata, and the Tanimbars are clusters of volcanic and limestone islands that spread eastward from Timor for over 1000 kilometers into the Banda Sea.

The big draw, aside from being able to really get away from it all, is that the reefs are in excellent condition. The relatively small populations of locals—most of whom are descendants of the original Austronesian-speaking settlers in the islands—and the lack of strong urban development means that few of the environmental pressures that can adversely affect a reef are present. Furthermore, only a select number of smaller liveaboards have been offering this itinerary within the last couple of years, so most of the area still remains largely unexplored. For the adventurous snorkeler, this destination is an opportunity that is just too hard to resist!

Our snorkeling tour begins in Bali where we fly to Ambon and then onto Saumlaki, the largest city on the island of Yamdena, Tanimbars. Our journey includes several days of exploring the rich reefs around the Tanimbars before we sail west towards Maumere, Flores. Along the way, we will visit the islands of Babar, Leti, Wetar, Alor, and Lembata. We will also have the chance to visit several villages and historical/cultural sites such as the stone boat on Yamdena Island and the colorful and chaotic marketplace of Kalabahi on Alor. If adventure and snorkeling are what you seek, please join us for this amazing departure to the Forgotten Islands!

Click on any of the images to learn more about the Forgotten Islands

Stone boat on Yamdena Island, Tannimbar Islands. This represents the first boat the brought the original peoples to the island

Stone boat of Sangliat Dol

Warty frogfish in beangbang bay, Alor archipelago

Beangabang Bay

Stone staircase on the island of Yamdena, Tannimbars. This staircase is the only access to the village from the beach, allowing for good protection from invaders from the seas

Stone staircase on Yamdena

Click on a tour date below to read about trip details including accommodationspricing, and how you can join us!


Route map for Forgotten Islands snorkeling tour, Coral Triangle Adventures

Route map of the Forgotten Islands tour, 2018. Tour begins and ends in Bali. Three, one-way internal flights; Bali->Ambon->Saumlaki, Tanimbar Islands, and Maumere->Bali

The snorkeling tour begins and ends in Bali, Indonesia. Internal flight from Bali to the Tanimbar Islands via Ambon and return from Maumere.

Please note that this is a new departure and though we have the benefit of an experienced boat crew, we expect a bit of flexibility in the itinerary that allows us to incorporate exploration, local weather, tides, and currents into our design. As always, this approach results in a solid, proven itinerary that not only delivers fantastic snorkeling opportunities, but also promotes a sense of adventure and uniqueness. Please note that the following is a general itinerary and that weather, tides, and other unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances may affect the schedule at any time.

Day 1: Bali / Sanur
Meals provided: D
Meet in Bali, Indonesia at our group resort, the Puri Santrian for the expedition orientation and welcome dinner.

Day 2: Tanimbar Islands / MV Pindito
Meals provided B,L,D
Fly to the Tanimbar Islands and transfer to the M/V Pindito. Depending upon flight arrival and port clearance times, we may snorkel around the southern end of Yamdena in the late afternoon.

Day 3 – 4: Tanimbar Islands / Yamdena
Meals provided B,L,D
There are about 65 islands in the Tanimbar archipelago and we will have the chance to explore the reefs around several of them including Selaru, Sera, Nitu, and Wuliaru. Many of the reefs are fringing and begin right from shore in only a few feet of water. The extensive reefs flats lead to vibrant reef margins where thousands of tropical fish make their homes in the colorful reefs below. With the usually excellent visibility, we may see sharks, turtles, and rays cruising in the cobalt blue waters. We will also have the opportunity to see teh ancient stone boat of Songliat Dol. Overnight MV PIndito

Female blue devil (damselfish) are all blue whereas the males have yellowish fins

A female…

Day 5: Babar Islands
Meals provided B,L,D
The reefs along the southeastern end of Masela, the southern island in the Babar group, are enormous and are home to variety of reef habitats including reef flats, channels, shallow reef margins, and seaward drop-offs. The bonus for us is that many of these habitats are relatively close to one and other, giving us the chance to explore many of them on any given snorkel! Overnight MV Pindito

Day 6: Sermata Islands
Meals provided B,L,D
Several of the islands in this island group are surrounded by a barrier reef, and we will spend the entire day exploring the shallow reef margins that plunge for hundreds of meters in near vertical fashion. Reef margins along barrier reefs traditionally hold the greatest diversity of marine life compared to most other reef habitats. Thousands of colorful fish roam or hover along the margin, darting frantically for cover in the corals as large predators like grouper, jacks, snappers and sharks patrol along the outer edge. As snorkelers, we float above and watch as the chaotic symphony of the reef unfolds below. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 7: Leti Islands / Kisar
Meals provided B,L,D
Three large islands in close proximity to one and other make up the Leti Islands group. Our snorkel sites take place on reefs between the islands, where protection from the oceanic swells allows delicate staghorn acropora corals to grow in abundance. Thickets of these forms of coral attract a variety of reef fish that hide, feed, and make homes in the network of branches. Kisar is a small island to the west of the Leti Islands and is surrounded with excellent reefs that begin right from shore. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 8: Pulau Wetar
Meals provided B,L,D
The reefs around Wetar are stunning, and are a good compliment to the beauty of the island. Interestingly enough, the locals are fond of salt water crocodiles and generally live in harmony with them. While we will not find ourselves in their company while snorkeling out on the reef, we may arrange a tour with local guides to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. Overnight MV Pindito

Geometric nudibranch in Alor, Indonesia


Day 9 – 10: Alor
Meals provided B,L,D
Alor has a wealth of snorkel sites, each that showcases the diversity of habitats and marine life that are found in the Coral Triangle. From the shallow reefs of Pulau Kumba and Crocodile Island where colorful corals host hundreds of reef critters to the black sand of Beangabang Bay where seahorses, snake eels, and dozens of nudibranchs can be found, we will spend two full days snorkeling many of these amazing habitats. We will also have the chance to visit the marketplaces of Kalabahi.

Day 11: Lembata
Meals provided B,L,D
The large, protected bay of Teluk Waihinga has some amazing stands of mangroves with lush reefs that grow only few meters from the prop roots along shore. Towards the mouth of the bay, along the east side, the reef turns nearly vertical with walls that are covered with corals and sea fans. On the western perimeter of the bay, the black sand beaches provide great contrast to the colorful corals that sprawl over the substrate. If this isn’t enough, the eastern flank of the active, smoking volcano of Lewotolo rises sharply right from the shore to add further drama to our day. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 12: Flores Islands / Ribbon Eel Reef
Meals provided B,L,D
Our morning snorkel takes place on the eastern end of Flores Island. Raw jungle grows right up to the water and almost touch the lush colorful reefs growing just below. In the afternoon, we will visit Ribbon Eel Reef, a snorkel site we named for, as one might expect, the abundance of ribbon eels that can be found here. To date, this is the only place we have seen all phases of the blue ribbon eel; adult males are blue with a yellow stripe, females are yellow, and juveniles are black with a yellow stripe. Overnight MV Pindito

Day 13: Maumere / Bali / Sanur
Meals provided B,L,D
Disembark and transfer to the airport for our flight to Bali. Farewell dinner to be held at our group hotel, the Puri Santrian.

Day 14 (May 5): International flights or extensions
Meals provided B

What to Expect

The Forgotten Islands experience year round, warm tropical weather with daytime temperatures averaging around 30º C (86º F). Rain may fall at any time, though it usually comes as quick showers in the early morning or evening. Water temperatures average around 28º C (82º F), though cooler temperatures, potentially as low as 23º C (73º F), may be experienced in destinations such as Alor. As such, please be prepared with exposure suits appropriate for cooler temperatures. In this case, a full 3mm wetsuit and hood are the minimum we recommend. Many of the reefs we will snorkel upon are subjected to currents associated with tide cycles that prevail in the area. While we often schedule our session during a time when the currents are minimal, there may be planned drift snorkels. These types of snorkels take advantage of the water movement and allow us to float over the reef without having to actively swim. All of our snorkels are boat supported and will be there to assist anyone at any time and for any reason.

Our planned walks and village visits will take place on paved or well established paths and for all but one destination, will not include walking at elevation or under intense, unobscured tropical sun. The exception is our visit to the stone boat on Yamdena. We access the village from the beach and the only way into the village is to walk up a steep set of stairs (upwards of 150 hundred stairs). We will plan to do this visit in the early morning when the sun is low in the sky and temperatures a bit more comfortable.

Please click on our page About our Tours to read about what a typical day of snorkeling looks like on most of our tour programs.

Join Us!

Click on the tour date to read about trip details including accommodations, pricing, and how you can join us!

April 22 – May 5, 2018

We are still finalizing prices for this departure. We hope to publish them in June 2016
Accommodations: MV Pindito

Please email us with any questions you may have about this trip.