Swimming with the jellyfish! Who does not want that? But mostly, people are afraid to do that because of the stings. Jellyfish’s sting may be deathly so it is better to not go near them. But in Kakaban Island, such thing would never be your problem. In Kakaban, you can swim along with jellyfishes safely because they are stingless. Kakaban Island is a small island in Berau district, Derawan Archipelago, the Province of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Derawan Archipelago itself consists of 31 beautiful islands including the four famous islands of Kakaban, Derawan, Sangalaki, and Maratua.

The Pier to Enter Kakaban Island (Source: Flickr. Credit: an putri)
The Pier to Enter Kakaban Island
(Source: Flickr. Credit: an putri)

Getting There

Kakaban Island can be accessed from Berau district by using speedboat. Renting a speedboat may cost you $37.25 to $75. The boat can occupy up to 15 people. So you could really save money if you go there in a group. You can also use the boat to reach other islands on Derawan Archipelago.

The closest airport to Berau is Juwutan International Airport in Tarakan city, East Kalimantan. The flights available are from Malaysia, Singapore, Jakarta, and other cities in Indonesia. From Tarakan to Berau, you can take small domestic flight such as KalStar or Deraya Airlines.

Other option to reach Berau is from Balikpapan where you can get a flight to Sepinggan International Airport. Available flights are from Malaysia, Singapore, Jakarta, Surabaya, and Makassar. From Balikpapan to Berau, you can also take small domestic flight.


Staying There

There are several inns and cottages nearby the beach. The room rates are ranging from $3.75 to $30. If you are interested in staying on a fancier accommodation, you can book your room to one of these resorts:

  • 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.
Maratua Paradise Resort (Source: Flickr. Credit: tinybubble)
Maratua Paradise Resort
(Source: Flickr. Credit: tinybubble)

Lake Kakaban

The one thing that people are looking for in Kakaban Island is the Lake Kakaban. Lake Kakaban is a prehistoric lake formed about two million years ago in a unique circumstance. The lake was actually a part of sea that got inside an island, Kakaban Island. Geological movement caused the sea water could not come out back to sea. Neither could the sea creatures. The water was trapped inside the island and mixed with ground water and rain water. For million years, this process had slowly caused the water to be brackish. In order to survive to this new circumstance, the sea creatures then adapted and evolved themselves with this new environment.

Lake Kakaban takes most of the area of Kakaban Island. In their folk language, Kakaban means “Hug”. The island was named that way because it looks like the island is hugging the lake. This prehistoric Lake Kakaban is about five square kilometers wide and seventeen meters deep. The water is slightly warm. If you swim down until you reach the base, you will see marine green algae covers most of the lake base. Lake Kakaban is surrounded by steep coral reef that could reach up to 50 meters high.

Lake Kakaban is Very Wide (Source: Flickr. Credit: Indonesia dot Travel)
Lake Kakaban is Very Wide
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Indonesia dot Travel)


Jellyfishes and Other Creatues

Overall, the ecosystem you find on Lake Kakaban would be exactly similar to the one you may find on Derawan Ocean surrounding the island. But, the one on Lake Kakaban had evolved so the creatures will look slightly different. The most unique creature is the jellyfishes.

Inside the Lake Kakaban, you will find plenty of cute jellyfishes. Being trapped inside a brackish water environment had caused them to evolve. The most extreme evolution is their loss of stings. In an open sea, jellyfishes use their stings to defend themselves from predators. But in Lake Kakaban, there are no predators that may harm their lives so they never need to use the sting. Because it was not used for a very long time, the stings got weaken and weaken for years until it permanently disappeared.

The Cute Tiny Jellyfish (Source: Flickr. Credit: hapakuna)
The Cute Tiny Jellyfish
(Source: Flickr. Credit: hapakuna)

This sting loss also caused other evolution on their body size. The trapped jellyfish on Lake Kakaban is one third smaller than the normal jellyfish living on open sea.

There are four species of jellyfish in Lake Kakaban; Spotted Jellyfish, Moon Jellyfish, Box Jellyfish, and Cassiopeia Jellyfish. The spotted jellyfish in Lake Kakaban no longer has spots on its body due to the evolutions. Cassiopeia jellyfishes are mostly to be found on the base of the lake with upside down position. This is because they are capturing the chlorophyll from green algae for photosynthesis.

Besides jellyfishes, there are about eight species of unique fishes in this lake including serinding fish, coral fry fish, needle fish, and puntang fish. You can also find several anemones inside this lake. But all of them would be white colored. The anemones turned white because the evolution process had caused them to not symbiosis with algae anymore.

Cassiopeia Jellyfishes and Fishes Over Green Algae at the Base of the Lake (Source: Flickr. Credit: Indonesia dot travel)
Cassiopeia Jellyfishes and Fishes Over Green Algae at the Base of the Lake
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Indonesia dot travel)

The Ocean

Swimming and diving on Lake Kakaban would not feel complete before you dive on the open sea of Derawan as well. This way, you could see the difference the evolution had caused to the creatures trapped in Kakaban. The sea around Kakaban Island was ranked third place as the best international standard diving zone. There are several famous diving spots you could try. But the most unique ones are:

  • Barracuda Point

Barracuda point is wall diving spot. It is a huge steep coral wall covered with soft coral. The current is quite strong here. Just as its name, this diving spot is a habitat for a bunch of barracuda fishes. It is also the habitat for white tip shark, leopard shark, hammerhead shark, manta rays, and several species of fishes and turtles.

  • Blue Lake Cave

Besides lake and wall diving, you can also try a cave diving around Kakaban. Blue Lake Cave is a unique underwater cave around Kakaban. The entrance is through a small crack about two meters below the surface. The crack follows with a narrow tunnel that would take you 20 meters deeper. At the end of that tunnel, you will find a large cavern with about 100 meters. The cavern is illuminated with blue light from the refraction of sunlight under the sea. To exit this cave, there is a vertical crack at the depth of 45 meters.

Cuttlefish at the Sea Bottom (Source: Flickr. Credit: Ria Qorina Lubis)
Cuttlefish at the Sea Bottom
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Ria Qorina Lubis)

The Derawan Archipelago

As mentioned above, Kakaban Island is a part of Derawan Archipelago. This archipelago consists of 31 wonderful islands which are as beautiful. Overall, there are four of them which are famous and popular as tourism destination; Kakaban island, Derawan island, Sangalaki island, and Maratua island. The whole archipelago has unique characteristic and is classified as UNESCO’s World Heritage Zone.

To that reason, you should not miss to visit the other three islands too. Derawan Island is just 40 minutes away from Kakaban. Sangalaki is only 20 minutes away. Meanwhile, Maratua is just 30 minutes away. You can use the speedboat you rent from Berau to reach those islands the same way you reach Kakaban. The rental fee is same no matter how many islands you explore using that boat anyway.

Derawan Island (Source: Flickr. Credit: an putri)
Derawan Island
(Source: Flickr. Credit: an putri)


Kakaban Island really has a unique natural character with brackish water and such ecosystem. There are only two lakes in the world which have this unique character. The other one is Lake Palau on Micronesia. But that lake only has two species of jellyfishes. Therefore, you will never find any lake better than Kakaban Island to swim with jellyfishes.


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