Being a maritime country, Indonesia has plenty of great diving zones. One of them is Derawan Archipelago which is located on the Province of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Derawan Archipelago is famous for its rich biodiversity. It also has unique natural forms.

Due to those reasons, UNESCO has classified this archipelago as World Heritage Zone. This year, in 2014, Derawan Archipelago was named as National Geographic Traveler’s Annual Best of the World list for 2014 based on Reader’s Choice.

Derawan Archipelago is commonly considered as the third best place to dive in the world after Solomon Islands in Papua New Guinea and Raja Ampat in Papua Indonesia. The archipelago consists of 31 islands where four of them are quite famous and mostly visited. Those islands are Derawan Island, Sangalaki Island, Maratua Island, and Kakaban Island.

The Pier on Derawan (Source: Flickr. Credit: green.pit)
The Pier on Derawan
(Source: Flickr. Credit: green.pit)

How to Get There

Derawan Archipelago can only be accessed using speedboat from the district of Berau. Renting a speedboat may cost you around $37.25 to $75 per day. The price depends on the season and how good you are at bargaining. This speedboat is also the only transportation that will take you from one small island to another one around the archipelago. To reach your diving spot, you also will ride this speedboat you rent. For your information, a speedboat may occupy up to 15 people. So if you could go there in this large of group, you could save a lot of money.

Access available to reach Berau District is by taking domestic flight with small planes such as KalStar or Deraya Airlines. This flight is available only from Tarakan and Balikpapan.

To reach Tarakan, you can get a flight to Juwutan International Airport. The flights are available from Malaysia, Jakarta, and other cities in Indonesia. To reach Balikpapan, you can get a flight to Sepinggan International Airport. The flights are available from Malaysia, Singapore, Jakarta, Surabaya, and Makassar.

 

Where to Stay

Even if the archipelago is slightly secluded, there are several choices of accommodation that you can find there. Cheap inns and budget hotels are available with the rates ranging from $3.75 to $30. Exclusive and fancy resorts are also available for your comfort and ultimate paradise vacation. The resorts are:

  • Maratua Paradise Resort at Maratua Island. You can contact them via phone to +62 88 248331 or visit their website on maratua.com.
  • Derawan Dive Resort at Derawan Island. You can contact them via phone to +62 542 7072615 or visit their website on divederawan.com.
  • Derawan Homestay at Derawan Island. You can contact them via phone to +62 813 4795 5950 or visit their website on derawanhomestay.com.
Floating Lodge in Derawan Island (Source: Flickr. Credit: Widiyanto Wibowo)
Floating Lodge in Derawan Island
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Widiyanto Wibowo)

 

The Biodiversity to Dive In

Derawan Archipelago is ranked third place as the highest biodiversity marine life in the world. First place belongs to Solomon Islands and second place goes to Raja Ampat. That means, this object is the second best diving zones in Indonesia according to its biodiversity.

There are about 480 species of corals, 870 species of fishes, and other sea creatures such as seahorse and turtles. The unique species of fishes that you can find here are barracuda, manta rays, cuttlefish, sharks, dolphins, tuna, and mackerel. Manta rays like to be in a large group. On some days, you might even see a school of manta rays with no less than 50 of them. Barracuda likes to be in a large group as well.

The Biodiversity in the Sea of Derawan Archipelago (Source: Flickr. Credit: Martin Hauskrecht)
The Biodiversity in the Sea of Derawan Archipelago
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Martin Hauskrecht)

There are about 28 diving spots that are famous in Derawan Archipelago. Each diving spot has its own attraction. Some of them are the habitat for specific species. Some of them have unique nature formation such as coral reef wall or underwater caves. Meanwhile, some of them offer the high biodiversity at one spot.

Those diving spots are scattered around the four islands; Derawan, Sangalaki, Maratua, and Kakaban. If you wish to dive in to all those spots, you might need at least ten days to finish. Each island on this archipelago has its own attractions. Below is explanation for each island.

 

Derawan Island

Diving around Derawan Island is very easy as you can just jump to the water nearby the floating lodge you are staying in. With tiny island and wide sea surrounding it, the sea around Derawan Island is good spot to see school of snapper fishes. A diving spot called Snapper Point is the best destination for that purpose. The sea surrounding Derawan Island is also good habitat for large predators such as sharks. To see them, try visiting the Shark Point diving spot.

Cute animals like pygmy sea horse, blue ring octopus, ghost pipe fish, and frog fishes are also everywhere to be seen around the sea of Derawan. A large school of barracuda is also the scenery commonly seen by the divers.

A Cute Pygmy Sea Horse (Source: Flickr. Credit: Ali Handisanjaya)
A Cute Pygmy Sea Horse
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Ali Handisanjaya)

Other diving spots around Derawan Island are Old Pierz, Coral Garden, Blue Trigger Wall, and Tuturaga Point.

 

Sangalaki Island

Derawan Archipelago also a natural habitat for giant green turtles and hawksbill turtle. Both of them are rare and endangered species. Most of the turtles like to lay eggs and make nests around Sangalaki. Therefore, Sangalaki Island has been declared as natural reservation center for those turtles. Diving there, you can see the turtles lying eggs and swim along freely in a wide open sea. And if you walk by the beach, you will see some turtle eggs lying on the sand. Please be careful where you step on to avoid breaking the eggs. If you are lucky enough, you can even get the chance to release those baby turtles back to sea.

Green Turtle Swimming Nearby a Coral Reef (Source: Flickr. Credit: Renee Picasso Manoppo)
Green Turtle Swimming Nearby a Coral Reef
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Renee Picasso Manoppo)

Other species that are commonly living on the sea around Sangalaki Island is the giant manta rays. There are three diving spots around Sangalaki to see this almost-endangered species; Manta Parade, Manta Cleaning Station, and Manta Avenue. An average manta ray could weigh up to 3 tons with the body of 3.5 meters long.

Black and White Manta Rays (Source: Flickr. Credit: Marcello Di Francesco)
Black and White Manta Rays
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Marcello Di Francesco) 

Other diving spots around Sangalaki Island are Ell Ridge, Light House Reef Night Dive, Coral Garden, Turtle Town, and Sandy Ridge.

 

Maratua Island

Maratua has a unique form of island. It shapes like the letter “U”, creating a wide and long laguna in the middle of the island. This laguna is perfect for swimming as the current is not strong like the open sea around Derawan Archipelago.

Enough with the swimming, you can then do the main activity to do here; diving. On Maratua Island, you can also find some large animals. There are some species of sharks and whales to be found during your dive. If you are lucky, you can even encounter some dolphins. Best diving spot in Maratua is the Big Fish Country where you can see hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, barracuda, eagle rays, manta rays, tuna, and mackerel. It is highly recommended to be accompanied by professional instructor on this diving spot.

Leopard Shark at Maratua (Source: Flickr. Credit: Liliana calani)
Leopard Shark at Maratua
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Liliana calani) 

The open sea around Maratua Island is the good place for turtles to live. Due to the large amount of the turtles, Maratua is sometimes called as “Turtle Capital of Indonesia”. If you wish to see them, try diving on the spot called Turtle Traffic.

Other diving spots around Maratua Island are Sleeping Turtle, Kehedaeng, Coconut Wall, and Paradise 123.

 

Kakaban Island

Another unique creature in Derawan Archipelago is jellyfish. There are four species of jellyfishes there; Moon Jellyfish, Box Jellyfish, Spotted Jellyfish, and Cassiopeia Jellyfish. The best place to see them is around Kakaban Island and on the brackish lake inside that island where the jellyfishes have evolved and lost its sting, making them harmless to swim with. More information about Kakaban Island will be explained on a separated article.

A Jellyfish in Kakaban Island (Source: Flickr. Credit: Hendra Tan)
A Jellyfish in Kakaban Island
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Hendra Tan)

It is so much fun to explore the beauty of marine life in the sea around Derawan Archipelago. Your vacation will be more ultimate with the accommodation floating above the sea. This kind of vacation is just too wonderful to be missed.

 

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