Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Derawan, Kakaban, Maratua and Sangalaki, Indonesia

Speedboat to Derawan
Dive Center
Located at the coast of East Kalimantan, these group of islands are about 2 hours boat ride from the Berau river. We flew from Singapore to Balipapan with Silkair and a local flight to Tarakan with Trigana Air. The resort arranged pick up from Tarakan Airport to Berau river where we transfer to a speedboat. We were welcome by the crew at the Restaurant/Jetty, their restaurant is built on the water, you get a view of the crystal clear water below and colorful reef fishes. The food was good but the portion was not big enough to feed our hungry stomach and service was ok. 

Our Standard Room was pretty basic with 2 single bed, an attached toilet/shower and a small balcony facing the sea surrounded by trees and garden. Just a perfect holiday getaway. There have options for Deluxe, VIP and Suite Room with better facility.

Tohir briefing with a 3D dive map
We had an excellent Dive Master -Tohir who could point us to all kind of critters. Visibility here varied depending on which island you are diving in, in Derawan the visibility can be as low as 3m up to 10m but you will find very interesting critters, nudibranchs, crabs, shrimps and lots of pigmys. 

Derawan Pigmy
Here we saw the rare Derawan Pigmy that can only be seen during night dive, it was only as big as 1cm. Can you imagine how hard it is to find one on a day dive and our DM just knew where to find them. He limits us from taking only 2 shots as the flash will probably blind the poor fella. The diving off the jetty of Derawan Resort was my favorite. We just need to grab our tank and jump in for unlimited diving. The sunset dive was awesome, loads of mandarin fish. At Coral Garden, we saw huge honey comb moral, glass fish, leaf fish  ghost pipefish, cuttlefish, octopus, nudis, shrimps and others just around one big rockStone fish the size of football and never miss a dive without a cuttlefish or a turtle.

Sangalaki is famous for its Manta sighting, visibility is between 10 - 20m, beautiful white sandy beach with only 1 resort on the island ( As we stayed in Derawan, we only made one trip to Sangalaki to see Mantas (but we were very very unlucky for not seeing a single manta) 

Upside down Jelly Fish
To Jelly Fish Lake
Kakaban island is limestone formation, in the middle of the island lies the famous Jelly Fish Lake. We made a 10 mins trek over the hill from the shore to the lake, the poorly maintained wooden path was badly damage. For those who were carrying huge camera, you have to be very careful as the limestone rocks are sharp and slippery. We were only allow to snorkel in the lake, there were 4 different species of jelly fish in the lake. There is one that always lie upside down. :-) The jelly fish has lost their natural defense system because of the lack of major predators in the lake. They live by photosynthesis, so the sunnier it gets the more you will see them near the surface. 
Maratua island looks like a "<" shape surrounding a lagoon in the middle, visibility is between 10 - 15m. The famous dive site - The Channel is not to be miss. The narrow opening into the lagoon creates a strong tidal flow that brings in large school of pelagic like barracudas, jacks, eagle rays, tuna and sharks. The dive has to be planned  properly according to tidal change, bring with you a current hook if possible and enjoy the superman dive.

Travel date : 20th - 26th May 2006
Travel route : Singapore -F-> Balikpapan -F-> Tarakan -B-> Derawan
Accommodation : Derawan Dive Resort (
Dive Center : Derawan Dive Resort (
Type of diving : Shallow Reef, Wall, Drift, Muck
Water temperature : 28-30°C year round
Best time to dive : Open all year round - Best time is mid July to mid August as well as from September to November

-F-> Flight -B-> Boat

Photos of the trip

Crab living in Tube worm

Glossodoris cruentus


Baby cutterfish

Goby on Sea Squirt

Hippocampus bargibanti


Chromodoris Kuniei

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