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Derawan Island (Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo)

In the Eastern part of Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo and about 45 km from Berau River estuary out in the Makassar Strait lies a small tropical island called Derawan.

Derawan offers divers some of the best diving in Indonesia. With 9 dive sites around Derawan, record numbers of big green turtles, white tip, leopard and nurse sharks, cuttlefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, batfish and ornamental reef fish in varied terrain including caves, walls and reef slopes. A completely new species of coral is also found here named appropriately Acropora Derawanensis.
Derawan's 656ft jetty is home to dumpling squids, crocodile fish, finger-sized purple crayfish, squat lobsters, decorator crabs, sea horses and various species of worms, tunicates and Dwarf scorpionfish.

Manta Ray Sangalaki

Manta Ray Sangalaki Island

Dive Sites

The types of diving available at Derawan Island are diverse, ranging from spectacular wall dives to wreck and shore dives. There is an incredible diversity of small marine life in the shallows, as well as an ever dominant presence of turtles cruising the reef edge in deeper water.
The Shipwreck is a favourite site among many divers as it is only 220 yard from the resort and has a maximum deep of 88 feet. This is an enjoyable yet simple dive, as the wreck sits on a sandy bottom at the base of a beautiful coral slope. Being nothing more than a burnt-out hulk, the attraction is not so much the wreck, but the marine life abound it. With scorpion fish, giant clams, cuttlefish and ribbon eels, the wreck is always full of surprises.
The Blue Trigger Point is an excellent site for wall diving. The clear, deep blue, nutrient-rich waters provide an outstanding base for the gorgonian fans, black coral trees and soft corals to spread out their feeding polyps and in turn give valuable shelter to myriad tiny animals. Ornate ghost pipefish, hawkfish, shrimps and crabs are all found here, as are scores of trevally, barracuda and vibrant fusiliers. On the reef top an abundance of blue triggerfish gives this site its name. 
Other popular sites are the Lighthouse, Snapper Point and the Old Pier.

 

 Derawan Island

Derawan Island is inhabited by the seafearing community of Bajau Moro originally from South Philippines and renowned for their hospitality...no wonder some say: - Derawan Island is like a piece of heaven on the Earth. 
Astonishment marks the faces of visitors entering Derawan Island by boat. The calm sea is a clear shade of turquoise and the sky is a pastel blue. About 600 m from the beach, the sea gets shallow and the water is clear as a glass.

 

The Tropical Arcipelago

The diving from Derawan is shared between: Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban and on occasion, when the conditions are suitable, Maratua Island is also visited. A typical day’s diving would consist of two boat dives at Sangalaki or Kakaban Island with lunch, followed by a third dive at Derawan to finish the day. At night dive on the Derawan Resort pier is also an option, however, most of people prefer an early dinner, so that they can watch the Green and Hawksbill Turtles make their way up the beach after dark to lay their eggs.

Turtle laying eggs Derawan Island

Turtle Dearwan Island

Sangalaki Island

Sangalaki is the world capital of Mantas. The island is 50 minutes boat ride from Derawan. Sangalaki is surrounded by a shallow lagoon and the reef starts a distance out from the island. Since there is so much shallow reef, there is a vast diversity of marine life.
The most popular dive site is Manta Base Camp, where the graceful Manta Rays are found. The Mantas emerge from all directions; their wings tips breaking the surface at regular intervals.
Snorkeling is the way to interact with these gentle plankton feeders. Totally unperturbed by your presence, they swim in eurhythmy and sometimes glide right up to you before making a sharp nose dive into the blue. It is not unusual to find ten of them encircling you. Though most of them are about 12 ft wide with a white belly, there are a few black giants with 20ft wing spans!
Another popular dive at Sangalaki, is Turtle Bay, with its unusual abundance of Green Sea Turtles. The turtles tend to congregate against a backdrop of pristine hard corals and crystal clear water. Most of them were found between 20 and 65 feet of water.

The Lighthouse and Sea Garden are the other two sites at Sangalaki and are generally deeper, with more current, as they offer an array of magnificent gorgonian sea fans and sea whips, with gentle soft corals to a depth of 118 feet. Mantas and turtles are also seen here at times.

Lion Fish Sangalaki Island

Manta Ray Sangalaki

Sangalaki Island

 Kakaban Island

The island of Kakaban is an exceptional marine environment located in the deep water, east of Sangalaki Island and about one hour boat ride from Derawan Island.

An uplifting, thousands of years ago during the Holocene period, had trapped an area of seawater, turning it into a land-locked saltwater lake, similar to the one found in Palau, Micronesia. The beauty of Jellyfish Lake is that it supports an amazing array of unique marine animal and plant life. The lake is teeming with at least 4 species of stingless jelly fish including one of an upside species of Cassiopea. About 3 species of Halimeda green algae cover the bottom, and mangrove roots live side by side with tunicates, sponges, tube worms, bivalves, crustacean, anemonies, sea cucumbers, sea snakes and at least five known species of gobies.

The water is very warm and salty and is an eerie green colour, which can make you hesitant to enter. The jellyfish are not as abundant as those found in Palau, but the remoteness and abundance of different marine life makes this lake very special.

The current can be very strong at times, especially at Barracuda Point dive site, where thousands of schooling barracuda can be found. The drop-off here exceeds 217 yards, and on rare occasions Hammerhead sharks and even sunfish have been spotted.

The Blue Light Cave is an interesting dive site for those who like it deep. It is therefore recommended only for the very experienced or cave diver. The cave stands out as something special because entry in made on top of the reef flat, in just three feet of water. The entrance opens up to a large cavern, with an exit at 144 feet and another at 197 feet. Care must be taken not to silt up the cave, as visibility can diminish to zero if one is not careful. This cave is difficult to photograph, and diver are advised to leave their cameras behind and just enjoy the experience.

Jellyfish Kakaban Island

Jellyfish Lake Kakaban Island

Maratua Island

Imagine you are sitting on a ringside seat, the arena an underwater coliseum at 100 ft, beneath you an abyssal plunge beyond the depth of mortal endurance. The arrival of a lone 7 ft great barracuda heralds for the show to begin. A dark cloud emerges from the distance, like an uprising tornado, as it twirls towards you, the dark mass metmorphosizes into a silvery screen of barracudas, thousands...uncountable.

Maratua island, about an hour from Sangalaki by boat is a large island with a massive lagoon. The island only rims part of the lagoon; the rest is fringed by reef and wall. A Channel into the Lagoon is an incredible drift dive and the surrounding walls are loaded with hard and soft corals.

Large dog tooth tunas and mackerels make up the chorus line to fleeting appearance's of hammerheads and mantas, this show is the greatest show on earth beneath the sea, the performance thrice and after having over 8000 sojourns is tropical water.

Maratua Island

Maratua Island underwater

Nabucco Island

Nabucco Island is located 90 minutes by boat from Berau. The dive sites around Nabucco are captivating due to their biodiversity and the nutrient rich currents coming from the Pacific Ocean. Most dive sites consist of an intact reef roof and drop offs. The highlight, "the Channel", also well known as "Big Fish Country", is one of the best dive sites in Borneo. Due to the strong currents you can see a startling array of pelagic fish.

Nabucco Island

Marine Turtle Nabucco Island

Conservation - The Berau Marine Protected Area

The Berau Marine Protected Area (MPA), in the Sulawesi Sea, is part of a tri-national sea turtle conservation corridor called the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape. It is situated along the coast of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The MPA includes islands such as the diving destinations of Derawan, Sangalaki, Maratua, Panjang, and Semama. The 1.2 million hectare MPA serves as habitat for an abundant and diverse marine life, with countless unexplored submerged reefs and islets. It hosts numerous species of coral (347), mollusk (222) mangroves (26) and a variety of rare marine biota such as dugong, the highly endangered Napoleon wrasse, tridacna or giant clams, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, and nudibranchs.


Sangalaki Island has the largest nesting and feeding site for the endangered green turtles and hawksbills in Southeast Asia for the endangered green turtle and for the hawksbill turtle. Approximately 5,000 female turtles nest in the islands every year. The unique island of Kakaban contains the world’s largest and most diverse jellyfish lake, with four unique species of stingless jellyfish.


Points of interest:
• About 5,000 female turtles nest in Berau every year
• Four unique stingless jellyfish live in Kakaban lake
• Huge seagrass beds support great feeding areas for turtles
• Manta rays, dugongs, dolphins, sharks and various rare marine species

 

Dive Fact-Sheet Berau Arcipelago 

What to expect : Mantas, barracuda and amazing macro life
Average Visibility : 5-20 m Derawan is the closest to the Borneo mainland so visibility is lower than the other islands, between 5 and 20 metres. That's not really an issue though as most of the diving is macro diving
Average water temperature : 28 °C
Depth : 49 feet
Must dive : Manta Base Camp, Jellyfish Lake and Shipwreck