Maratua : The Tropical Island in The Derawan Archipelago

Maratua Island in the Derawan Archipelago off the north coast of East Kalimantan, is a large tropical island partially encircling a massive lagoon on one end and fringed with sheer rocky walls and coral reefs along the other end. This giant upside down U-shaped island covers about 384 square kilometers of sandy white beaches and mangrove forests and 3,735 square kilometers of territorial waters which contain the third highest level of marine biodiversity in the world after Raja Ampat and the Solomon Islands.

One of the four most popular islands in the Derawan Archipelago, Maratua lies in the province of East Kalimantan. The Derawan Island chain includes the islands of DerawanSangalaki and Kakaban, and is home to one of the world’s only saltwater lakes as well as one of the largest green turtle nesting sites in Indonesia.

Maratua dive sites
Maratua dive sites (Source : sangalakidiveresort.com)

This paradise island is situated within the fabled Coral Triangle, with all the richness and beauty within its exotic underwater landscapes that one would expect from such a location. Over 20 dive spots across the island allow visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves amidst the bountiful treasures which lay tucked neatly beneath the sapphire waters.

Maratua’s garden under the sea proudly exhibits an abundance of colorful coral reefs populated with a variety of species of fish, green turtles, manta rays and other marine life.

Unlike some of the other Derawan islands which are uninhabited, Maratua has a population of about 3,000 people and is divided into 4 villages, most of which come from the Bajo Tribes.

Maratua island, Derawan archipelago
Maratua island, Derawan archipelago (Source : ilmaresonoio.com)

The Bajo people, or Sea Gypsies as they have often been called, are a landless tribe that is sustained completely and exclusively by the ocean. But not only do they survive solely on marine resources—they actually live in the ocean as well. Entire villages are built on stilts and connected by wooden bridges over large expanses of coral reefs and rocks in the middle of the open sea. The Bajo tribes maintain an intimate knowledge of the maritime coastal ecosystems, as well as the seasons, winds, currents, tides, lunar cycle, stars and navigation. These mysterious sea people are also distinguished by their exceptional free-diving abilities, and through years of practice have acquired physical adaptations that enable them to see better and dive longer underwater.

ACTIVITIES

Maratua Paradise Resort offers a selection of 8 beach chalets and 8 water villas, and is the only accommodation on the island. All rooms come equipped with double or twin beds, hot water, and air-con. Room rates are inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and coffee and tea throughout the day. Facilities include a restaurant, dive rental equipment and dive courses. From here, boats can also be rented to take you to any of the other Derawan islands. Address: Ground Floor, Lot 4, Block A, Taman Fortuna Shop lots, Jalan Penampang.

Derawan Dive Resort, on Derawan Island, has 27 traditional Kalimantan style cottages, each equipped with air-con and hot water. Facilities include a floating restaurant with a superb sea view and a delicious selection of international and local delicacies. The resort’s dive center is located on the beach with reliable dive equipment rental and professional dive guides. 7 boats are available for travel around the archipelago and back to mainland Kalimantan. Balikpapan office: Kompleks Balikpapan Permai Blok G-1 No. 34.

Derawan Homestay is a much cheaper lodging, nestled amongst the palms trees of Derawan’s sandy beaches. Rooms range from Rp 100,000 – Rp 150,000 rupiah per night, while the new bungalows on the sea cost from Rp 200,000 – Rp 250,000 per night. Facilities include a restaurant, and organized fishing trips and diving trips.

As it is located within the Coral Triangle, snorkelling and diving should be on the top of your list of things to do when setting foot on the beautiful island of Maratua. There are several dive centres with available diving and snorkelling equipment for rent to assist you in your exploration of these underwater worlds. A wide variety of marine life inhabits the waters surrounding Maratua, many of which are visible in just five feet of water. These include cuttlefish, lobsters, ghostpipe fish, blue-ring octopus, nudibranch, pigmy seahorses, ribbon eels and scorpion fish. 21 dive spots have been marked across the island, each offering a different experience, beauty and a varied biodiversity.

Maratua island, The Paradise
Maratua island, The Paradise (Source : marischkaprudence.blogspot.co.id)

Turtle Traffic is one of the most popular dive spots, and true to its name, is filled with Green Sea Turtles. Hundreds of turtles frequent this portion of ocean, gliding gracefully about in search of food. The island is also a nesting ground where the Green Turtles return each year to lay their eggs, hence resulting in Maratua sometimes being referred to as the “Turtle Capital of Indonesia.”

Big Fish Country is located between the islands of Maratua and Nabucco, where the stronger currents bring the big fish in to play. Many pelagic creatures like Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, Tuna and Mackerel roam this channel together with schools of Barracuda, White Tip Sharks, and even the occasional Hammerhead. This dive spot has deep waters and strong currents, and is therefore reserved for advanced divers. Other dive spots around Maratua include Maratua Reef, Fusilier Paradise, Mid Reef, Batfish Alley, Lumanlang, Divers Delight, Turtle Parade, Small Fish Country, Leo Point, Midnight Run Snapper, Sea Wall Garden, Sea Wall, Second Channel Shark City and more. Once you’ve had your fill exploring the world beneath the waves, complete your Maratua experience with a stroll around solid part of the island. Pay a visit to any of the 4 Bajo villages and take the opportunity to learn about the lives of these mysterious sea people. When all that is complete, sit back and relax on the beach and bask in the glow of the setting sun sinking beneath the horizon.

GET THERE

The closest airport to the Derawan Islands is the Juwutan International Airport in the city of Tarakan, East Kalimantan. International flights to Tarakan are available on Malaysian Airlines from Kota Kinabalu and Tawau, both located in Sabah, Malaysia.

Domestically, Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air fly from Jakarta to Tarakan. From here take an internal flight south by either KalStar or Deraya Airlines (DAS) to Tanjung Redeb in the district of Berau. Boats will take you from here to Kakaban and other Derawan Islands.

Alternatively, Silk Air flies from Singapore and Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Sepinggan International Airport at Balikpapan, capital of East Kalimantan, then connect by internal flight to Tanjung Redeb. Lion Air, and Sriwijaya Air fly domestically to Balikpapan from JakartaSurabayaMakassar.

Once in Berau you can hire a speedboat for the 2 hour ride to the Derawan islands. Speed boats generally have a seating capacity of 15 people, and can be rented to take you to several of the Derawan islands in one day.

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