Derawan Islands

Derawan Archipelago in Kalimantan, Borneo, are the tropical Islands you come to Southeast Asia dreaming about. The islands have rich coral reefs, big green turtles, white sandy beaches and emerald green waters.

Highlights

  • See rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles nesting on the beach
  • Get Up Close And Personal With Manta Rays
  • Swim With Jellyfish That Won’t Sting You
  • Diving at Maratua Channel

Derawan is a group of tropical islands you come to Southeast Asia dreaming about.  A perfect tropical paradise with soft white sand beaches fringed with waving palm trees, a pristine sea that changes colour from green to deep blue, and amazing underwater life of green turtles, manta rays, dolphins, sea cow “dugongs, barracudas, stingless jellyfishes and sometimes whale sharks.

The Derawan archipelago is considered one of the best dive destinations in the world.

Located just away from the mainland of East Kalimantan in the district of Berau, the Derawan archipelago comprises 31 islands; most well-known among these are the islands of Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki, and Kakaban. Derawan archipelago is the Indonesia’s largest nesting site of the rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles.

Derawan Island

Derawan Island is a 45-hectare teardrop-shaped oasis that can be circled on foot in an hour.  An exotic island that time forgot with stilted guesthouses suspended over turquoise water, amazing marine life and friendly local people are all part of its charm. Derawan is a place for a few drift dives and a bit of muck. Ghostpipefishes, frogfish, blue ring octopus, harlequin shrimp and tiger shrimp to name a few. Especially a place for photographers, who always wanted to get a picture of jawfish with eggs.

 

Maratua Island

Maratua, part of the Derawan Archipelago, is a large tropical atoll situated within the fabled Coral Triangle, with all the richness and beauty within its exotic underwater landscapes which contain the third highest level of marine biodiversity in the world after Raja Ampat and the Solomon Islands.

Over 20 dive spots across the island allow visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves amidst the bountiful treasures which lay tucked neatly beneath the sapphire waters. Maratua’s garden under the sea proudly exhibits an abundance of colourful coral reefs populated with a variety of species of fish, green turtles, manta rays and other marine life. Most of the dive sites consist of an intact reef roof and drop off. Among the highlights, there is “The Channel” also well known as “big fish country”. Due to the strong currents, you can see here a startling array of pelagic fishes.

A 10-minute boat ride across the turquoise waters from Maratua brings you to Nabucco Island Resort, a boutique hotel set on its own island amid sand spits and trippy rock formations.

Unlike some of the other Derawan islands which are uninhabited, Maratua has a population of about 3,000 people and is divided into 4 villages, most of which come from the Bajau Tribe, The Bajau people, or Sea Gypsies, are a landless tribe that is sustained completely and exclusively by the ocean. The Bajau tribes maintain an intimate knowledge of the maritime coastal ecosystems, as well as the seasons, winds, currents, tides, lunar cycle, stars, and navigation. These mysterious sea people are also distinguished by their exceptional free-diving abilities, and through years of practice have acquired physical adaptations that enable them to see better and dive longer underwater.

 

Kakaban Island and Jellyfish Lake

A special feature of Derawan Archipelago is the Kakaban Island, where you can swim in a lake that is filled with the world’s largest and most diverse collection of jellyfish, including four unique species of stingless jellyfish which swims upside down. With no direct predators, over thousands of years, these creatures have lost their sting.

Thanks to its unique feature Kakaban is considered for UNESCO nomination as a World Heritage Site. The seventy percent of Kakaban Island is comprised of the unique salt-water lake, surrounded by a slim trip of dense jungle.

The brackish water lake is, of course, the main dive spot on Kakaban Island, and the one not to be missed. And you don’t have to be a diver to admire this underwater world!

Another amazing dive site in Kakaban Island is the “Barracuda Point”where divers frequently see reef sharks, leopard sharks, tunas and a big school of barracudas. With a little luck, you might even see a hammerhead shark.

 

Sangalaki Island

Sangalaki Island is the world Capital of Mantas, and its dive sites will really make your heart race. At Sangalaki, majestic mantas wing through the water, emerging from all directions. Snorkeling is the best way to interact with these gentle plankton feeders. Sangalaki Island is also home to green turtles that lay their eggs on the pristine beach, and beautiful intact coral reefs.

HOW TO GET THERE

You can fly with SilkAir from Singapore to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan or from Jakarta, Surabaya or Denpasar to Balikpapan or Tarakan with Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Air Asia, then take a connecting flight to Berau.
Very soon the islands will be better connected to the mainland, with the completion of a small airport on Maratua island, which will handle short-haul flights.

From Berau continue by boat to the islands.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

Derawan archipelago is a year-round destination. Because the archipelago lies on Equator line, generally the climate is tropical warm, sunny and humid throughout the year. The best season for scuba diving is from May to October.
The best time to see mantas seems to be during full moon when is common to see 15-20 manta rays at one time.

ACCOMMODATION

Derawan Dive Lodge
Derawan Dive Lodge is located on the island of Derawan. Built on a private white sandy beach, the Lodge with its just 10 rooms is a perfect place for everyone who likes the personal touch in his holiday.

Maratua Paradise Resort
Maratua Paradise Resort is an intimate and comfortable resort on Maratua island. The resort has exotic water villas, the main hall, turtle station pavillion, dive centre all located on stilts over the water as well as beach chalets lining along the seashore.

Nabucco Island Resort
Nabucco Island Resort offers spacious waterfront bungalows built in the traditional Indonesian style. Around the island are a few little beaches where visitors can swim and sunbathe during high tide. The exotic resort combines the magic of nature and a family atmosphere.

DIVING FACTS

What to expect: Large pelagics like sharks, tuna, eagle rays and schools of barracudas and sometimes mantas or hammer heads.

Average Visibility: 10-80 metres

Average water temperature: 23 – 30 °C

Depth: 5-40 metres

Diving Season: Although the dive resorts are open to diving all year round, the best time to go is during the dry seasons between May to October

Must dive: The Channel is known as the Big Fish Country, Kakaban Barracuda Point and Sangalaki Manta Point

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