Island Hopping in Derawan: Maratua – Kakaban – Sangalaki

East Kalimantan , Indonesia , Travel Guide / April 30, 2017


I have been craving to go to a new place that is not too close, but not too far away from my hometownJakarta, Indonesia.

Derawan Archipelago is the perfect answer for that. It’s a fit in terms of budget and access, at the same time offers the nature and island experience I couldn’t find in Java. 

One of the highlight of this trip is doing island hopping from Derawan to Maratua – Kakaban – Sangakali for one whole day. It’s a part of our itinerary to explore Derawan Archipelago for 3 days and 2 nights. If you start from Derawan Island, you can either go to Sangalaki Island or go to Maratua Island first. It only took around 1 hour from Derawan to either Sangalaki or Maratua.

Disclaimer: Yes, usually it can be more touristy in Derawan. But we went here during low season in February, explains why some photos seems to be clear from the crowds. We also came during rainy season, so we’re definitely betting a lot for the rain not to fall! 

 

Maratua Island

 

Unreal blue waters surrounding the resort built on top of it

We had to walk from our boat to the beach shore since the depth of water is already too shallow

You can see how the sun has made the color of my skin on my arms multi-colored :”)

 

Maratua Island is famous for its crystal clear turquoise sea floor and Maratua Paradise Resort. Even if you’re not staying in the resort, you can still can enter its area except there will be areas that are restricted for the resort guests only. As a guest, you can enjoy a walk around the beach and relax in the resort area that are build on top of sea water.

Part of the resort part that’s placed on top of the sea is the Water Villa. The Beach Villa of Maratua Paradise Resort are placed deeper in the island, along the beach coast on beach chalet. From what I see, the Water Villa is directly exposed to this incredible view (If you have the time, I recommend you to stay for at least on night in the Water Villa!).

Even when we see how beautiful the view here, it was a shame to see household waste along our way from Derawan to Maratua Island.

 

Kakaban Island

I have to say this is my FAVORITE island out of all 3! Why?

The stingless jellyfish

Yes, these stingless jellyfish is not dangerous because it doesn’t sting, so it’s safe for you to swim with them. The jellyfish became stingless because the lake is free from its predators, so they lost their ability to defend themselves using its sting.

They say there are only few places like this in the world, on Kakaban Island (Indonesia), Togean Island (Indonesia too) and Rock Island (Micronesia). Lately I heard that there are also stingless jellyfish spots in Misool, Raja Ampat (Papua) and Tojoman Lagoon (Philippines).

Even so, Kakaban is said to be the only place that has the most variety of species that is 4 unique jellyfish species! So swimming with the stingless jellyfish here is a must as this is a rare experience. Needless to say how lucky I am to live in Indonesia?

You can even see clearly some jellyfish that are swimming close to the surface before you take a dip!

The beautiful jellyfish. If you’re lucky enough to find a spot where the jellyfish are swimming close to each other, you can easily swim while surrounded by em

 

Upside down jellyfish species

The clear water makes it very visible to see the jellyfish

Tourists swimming with the jellyfish

 

Pro tip on swimming with jellyfish:

  1. Do not use fins to swim. The lake is very muddy and using fins will hurt the visibility of the lake. Try to avoid stirring up the sand as well as it can reduce the water’s visibility for a few minutes.
  2. Do not throw the jellyfish outside the water. During my visit, I’ve seen irresponsible tourists throwing around the jellyfish there and their tour guide weren’t responsible enough to prevent that. That can totally harm them.
  3. Do not use sunscreen when you’re about to swim to prevent harming the water with chemical ingredients.
  4. There are also beautiful corals in the lake, take some time to explore the surrounding areas. If you’re lucky, you can go to Laguna Kehe Daing, a beautiful lagoon located in Kakaban Island.

 

Rainforest vibe in Kakaban Island forest

From the Island’s main entrance gate, you just need to walk for around 15 minutes to reach the lake. Along the way, you will be surrounded by rainforest trees that gives the place this tropical vibe.

In front of the entrance gate

Had lunch here with the group. Enjoyed some fresh coconuts as a trade off for us for not be able to go to Goa Haji Mangku and Laguna Kehe Daing!

 

Outside of the entrance gate, you can buy some coconuts from the locals and enjoy the view after swimming in the lake. Enjoying your lunch there won’t hurt too! 

 

Sangalaki Island

This Island is outstanding for its sea turtles and white sands. Sangalaki Island is known to be the largest nesting area for the rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles.

Turtle conservation in Sangalaki

Seeing baby turtles hatched from their eggs & crawling from beneath the sand

We were lucky enough to be able to watch the process of hatching sea turtle eggs when we got in Sangalaki. These turtles hatched from their eggs that has been buried way beneath the sands, so they took a while to climb out the sands. We saw them coming one by one from the bottom of the sand.

Did you know that one turtle mom can lay up to 80 eggs at once? Unfortunately, it’s quite impossible for 100% all eggs to hatched safely, it has an average of only 80% for all eggs to hatch safely. That’s why the locals said don’t be surprised to find dead baby turtles and some unhatched eggs, so sad!

If you’re lucky, you can also watch the turtle lay their eggs in the sand.

The baby turtles where then preserved by the locals

 

White Sands in Sangalaki

Throughout the island hopping, I can say that Sangalaki Island has the prettiest white island of all! If you walk further from the sea turtle sanctuary, you will see a beautiful beach shore.

A decent place to play beach volleyball maybe?

When you just can’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful scenery around you

 

Derawan Island

Last but not least, let’s get to Derawan Island. Many of my friends (including myself) have the misconception that Derawan is the one island that we should visit. Instead, Derawan can be called more of an archipelago that also has one island called Derawan. Even so, due to the growing number of tourists, Derawan Island is the most crowded one because of the resorts and overwater bungalows that the locals has build. With the large number of resorts growing, it’s filling most of the coastline, allowing little beach coast we can see in this island. 

Besides floating resorts on the sea, there are some things you can do to explore this island. 

Sunset Spot 

The best sunset spot in Derawan is in front of the Kampung Wisata Derawan welcome sign, in front of the rainbow resorts.

Sunset on top of the boat parked near Kampung Wisata Derawan entrance gate

On the background is the rainbow resort, with children spending the afternoon fishing

Sunset in Derawan Island

 

Kampung Wisata Derawan

Kampung Wisata Derawan is where the local people lived. You can rent yourself a bicycle and go cycling around this island since it’s a small one. One of the food you should try there is Kima, a shell that tasted delicious with a mix of Indonesian sauce (Terasi).

 

 

Swimming outside the resort

We stayed in Reza Cottage in Derawan. Even just in front of our resort, we can see and even swim with sea turtles, lion fish, eel and more‐depends on your luck to find them. 

Saw a lion fish in front of our resort

 

Places we could’ve visited but did not:

– Haji Mangku Cave (Goa Haji Mangku) –This cave is near to Maratua Island, but by that time the water is surut so the boat cannot make it inside

– Kehe Daing Lagoon (Laguna Kehe Daing) – This lagoon is located on the back side of Kakaban Island (Stingless jellyfish island)

– Manta Point – We were supposed to see this after visiting  Sangalaki Island, unfortunately we can’t due to the high tide. Here, you can swim with the indangerous manta. Again, I recommend you to come here not during rainy season.

 

How to Get to Derawan

– Take a flight to Kalimarau Airport, Berau.

– Go from the airport to port of Tanjung Redeb, it will take approximately 2-3 hours by car. From the port, you can cross to Derawan Island using a speedboat that will take around 45 minutes.

 

Notes

– This is a part of 3 days 2 night trip with @beborneotour priced Rp 1,7million (include snorkeling gears if you didn’t bring one, food, accommodation in a resort, airport pickup, an awesome guide!), but exclude plane tickets and fins. Check out beborneo.com

  • If you want to see whale shark on your trip, make sure the timing fits, don’t come during full moon as it’s going to be impossible for you to find one.
  • You extend your time to go Labuan Cermin instead, @beborneotour has open trip package for 4 days 3 night, or you can go by yourself to Biduk-biduk just like my story to Labuan Cermin to be able to enjoy the city as well (Blog post coming soon!).

– At that time, I got round-trip ticket from Jakarta to Berau for around Rp 1,7million

– Derawan Archipelago is one of the most popular tourist attraction, but having to come here at February where it’s not a peak season gives us an advantage to enjoy a less crowded atmosphere. Of course, there are pros and cons, because it’s rainy season we’re always betting for it not to fall. Also, due to the high tide we also missed some spots.

 

Cheers,

Sabrina Anggraini