Derawan Archipelago, The Perfect Tropical Paradise

The Derawan islands must be everyone’s dream of the perfect tropical paradise: warm, isolated islands with soft white sand beaches fringed with waving palm trees, pristine seas that change color from green to deep blue, and an amazing underwater life of giant turtles, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs and barracudas, stingless jellyfish and sometimes, whales. Derawan is indeed one of world’s richest areas in bio-diversity. Small wonder that the Derawan Islands are considered the third best dive destination in the world.

Located just away from the mainland of East Kalimantan in the district of Berau, the Derawan archipelago comprises 31 islands, most well known among these are the islands of Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban. Here is Indonesia’s largest nesting site of the rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles, where one can daily watch turtles lay their eggs in the sand or swim to sea with the turtles. The entire marine conservancy region covers a total area of no less than 1.27 million hectares.

The Derawan islands
The Derawan islands (Source : explorerventures.com)

Here, you can find 460 different species of corals, ranking this area second only to the Raja Ampat Islands in West Papua. The Nature Conservancy and a team of international experts also found more than 870 species of fish here, ranging from tiny pygmy seahorses to giant manta rays. On some days, groups of up to 50 manta rays have been seen feeding together in Derawan’s waters, says the Conservancy.

While on Kakaban, you can find the world’s largest and most diverse jellyfish lake, including four unique species of stingless jellyfish one of which can swim upside down. It is for this reason that Kakaban is considered for UNESCO nomination as a World Heritage Site.

ACTIVITIES

The Derawan resort provides transportation and diving equipments. For accommodation, the resort offers Kalimantan-style cottages facing the sea. There are also simpler accommodation and restaurant facilities available on Derawan and cottages on other islands.

You can also book liveaboards (boats designed for people living aboard them, usually for long journeys) to Derawan from Bali.

The Derawan island
The Derawan island (Source : prokal.co)

The Derawan Islands have a large number of unique and protected species, among which are the coconut crabs, whales, dolphins and dugongs. The coconut crabs are found near the islands of Kakaban and Maratua, while whales and dolphins in particular months can be seen around Semama, Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua. Dugongs swim around Pulau Panjang and Semama, and manta rays are found around Sangalaki with pygmy seahorses around Semama and Derawan. Other protected species are the barracuda. There are a total of 28 dive points identified here. Avid divers will need at least 10 days to explore them all.

Diving on Derawan island
Diving on Derawan island (Source : djesstranswisata.com)

GET THERE

To reach Derawan, Silk Air flies from Singapore to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan.

Or you can take a flight from Jakarta, Surabaya or Denpasar to Balikpapan or Tarakan by Garuda Indonesia or Lion Air. Then take a connecting flight by either KALStar, Deraya airlines or DAS to Tanjung Redeb in Berau. From here, boats will take you to the islands.

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