Diving in Derawan Islands
The archipelagic country of Indonesia has been known for a long time as the host of several ultimate diving sites in the world. Some of its dive sites like Bali, Bunaken, or Raja Ampat have long carved its way in to the world’s top diving sites with its spectacular underwater vistas and abundant marine’s biota. However, little known that Indonesia actually has another hidden diving paradise, located near the lush green island of Borneo, a set of beautiful islands named Derawan Islands.
Since there is no direct international flight to Derawan, visitors may go to international airport in Sepinggan, Balikpapan. From Balikpapan, the visitors may choose either going to Tarakan or Berau with smaller plane. If you choose to go to Tarakan, you need to continue the journey within 3 – 4 hours across the sea by a speed boat. If you choose to go to Berau, you need to go to Tanjung Batu first by land transportation that takes about 2 hours long from Berau, and then take 30-minute journey using a speed boat to Derawan.
Derawan Islands is a group of islands located in the Makassar Strait and included into the administration area of Maratua District, Berau regency, East Kalimantan. It has three districts namely Derawan Island, Maratua, and Biduk-biduk. There are a number of islands in the Derawan Archipelago with four main islands which is Maratua Island, Derawan Island, Sangalaki Island, and Kakaban Island.
Derawan Islands have several coastal and small island ecosystems, which are responsible for its abundant biodiversity in forms of coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangrove forest. It is also a home to many protected species such as green turtles, hawksbill turtles, whales, dolphins, clams, coconut crabs, dugong, fish, barracuda and a few other species. Because of its vital function as natural shelter and the various life forms inhabit it, Derawan Islands has been nominated as the one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005.
Asides from the pristine blue waters, clean coast and towering palm trees, diving in Derawan Island has become tourists’ top attraction. Here, there is Indonesia’s largest nesting site of the rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles, where one can daily watch turtles laying their eggs in the sand or swim to sea with the turtles. With warm water temperature around 28°C and visibility up to 50 meters, Derawan Islands promises a spectacular diving for any divers of any level. Here, divers may experience an amazing underwater adventure where the sights of giant turtles, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs, barracudas, and stingless jellyfish can often be seen and sometimes, even whales. Besides Derawan Island, other areas around it also offer unique diving experience.
Fifty minutes away by boat is the stunningly beautiful Sangalaki Island, where manta rays flock in numbers for the plankton-rich waters. As they flap and soar through the sea, these giants of the deep as mysterious as alien often stay for a week before vanishing. If manta rays do not pique your interest, a 10-minute boat ride away from Sangalaki Island is Kakaban Island, where a brief walk from the jetty to its interior brings you out by a lagoon where you can swim with flocks of non-poisonous jellyfish. Maratua Island, another island in the Sangalaki Archipelago, has even greater numbers of non-poisonous jellyfish in its lagoon, as well as a very strange coral reef.
Derawan Islands is indeed one of world’s richest areas in bio-diversity. Some even consider Derawan Islands as the third best dive destinations in the world.