Borneo, an island famous for its dense rainforest rich in endangered species, has more than Orangutan and proboscis monkeys. It boasts magnificent aquatic wonderland too. Have you ever heard of Derawan Islands? If the forest is the main attraction for hikers and wildlife lovers, Derawan then is the true paradise for divers and snorkelers. The underwater beauty magnificence of the archipelago is just as splendid as that on Raja Ampat in Papua. In fact, the marine beauty of Derawan is just second to the Raja Ampat, making it the best scuba mecca on Borneo.
Derawan archipelago encompasses more than 30 small deserted islands. Most of them do have names, but the most frequently mentioned are the islands of Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban. The largest island is Maratua which is fully equipped with accommodations and entertainment center of all types. Hotel or resorts are also abundant on Derawan which are best for those who want to stay not so far from the Borneo mainland. But it doesn’t matter where you stay – if what you look for are corals, turtles or manta rays, you’ll sure to find them wherever you decide to base.
Thirty minutes boarding on a speed boat, sparkling sandy beach dotted with trees and stilted houses come into focus in the middle of the deep blue ocean. It’s Derawan, the island in the group located the nearest from Berau city, East Borneo. The scene is busy on the island – local fishermen hunt on fishes while tourists swarm both the souvenir center and the beach. But still, the busiest part is beyond the shore – where snorkelers and divers can swim with large green and hawksbill turtles as they are grazing on sea grass and algae. Derawan is unmistakably the kingdom of turtle as it’s the only site in Indonesia where the endangered animals nest and lay eggs. Every full moon and new moon, tens of female turtles come out of the sea, dragging their heavy bodies to the beach and lay the eggs in the sand. Weeks later, hundreds of hatchlings will come out of under the sand, slowly crawling to the ocean.
Sangalaki island is nearly as tiny as Derawan. In term of the atmosphere, however, Sangalaki is much more soothingly quiet. Lush trees cover all over the land with mangrove forest sprawling along the shoreline. You come to Sangalaki not to see turtles but manta Alfredi, a rare manta species existing only in Derawan islands. Take the coziest seat on the boat and you can enjoy those winged fish gliding under the shallow water rich in plankton. Diving is even more fascinating as the view down the water is exceptional with Barracudas, giant squids, and starfish maneuvering among the colorful coral reef.
Ten minutes to east is Kakaban island where you’ll find a huge salty lake dominating half of the island. Most of you may already hear of stingless jelly fish in Derawan islands. Here on Kakaban, you’ll find a lake of them. There is a lake in Kakaban where you can swim safely and get friendly with the tame fish. Standing on the pier of Kakaban, you’ll see another island roughly shaped like a horse shoe. It’s called Maratua, the farthest island in Derawan archipelago. But the distant will be no more an issue as soon as the airport on Maratua is operating later this year. Lake on Maratua has more jellyfish with dots of corals and starfish. There are some tiny islands at each ends of Maratua including Nunukan, Nabucco and Bakungan. You’ll find some high-end resorts on each islands as well as underwater wonderland of intact reef, brilliant giant see fans, variety pelagic fish and more turtles.
Derawan islands will be forever Borneo’s favorite destination for beach lovers. The diving condition is excellent though divers need to be cautious due to the strong current. Thus, reef hook is mandatory in this area. So, happy vacation on Derawan islands!