Perfect Getaway to Derawan Islands

Breathtaking afternoon view at Derawan Beach Cafe and Cottage

Yesss,,We made it!

After months planning for this trip, finally we went to Derawan Island in first week of September 2012. I’d like to Thanks to all my TK’05 fellas, you guys are the best. We have been planning such a trip for three times and all have been successfully made 🙂  .

First of all, Derawan Island including Maratua, Kakaban, and Sangalaki Island (hereafter I name it as ‘Derawan’) is one of underwater heaven in Indonesia. It is located in the north-eastern part of Borneo Island. Too bad I have no diving license, so I didn’t enjoy all the beauty of underwater there. However, Snorkeling is not that bad. So, don’t worry. It is still worth it.

At the first day, we almost spent a whole time for journey. It started from 4.00 AM in Friday and arrived in Derawan island at 16.00. It was indeed a tiring journey. We went to Soekarno-Hatta Airport by taxi for two hours, and then we had 1 hour delay, then 2 hours flight to Balikpapan, 1 hour another flight to Tarakan then 3 hours speed boat to Derawan Island. Yet, when you just arrived in all those beautiful islands and enjoyed all of them, all the tiring things is just nothing. It is paid off. Hehe.

On our first day, we enjoyed the afternoon time in the derawan beach café and cottage. We played around and took many pictures. Well, seemed like we had expert guide at this trip. She directed all poses mainly all group picture including some ‘alay’ picture. 😆 .

Snorkeling at Maratua Island

Maratua island

This is our first destination. Sadly, we visited a place which is owned by a certain people 🙄  . So what the sad thing is we are not permitted to enter the island. 😥 , I have no idea where was the entering point to the island. I just want to see the beach. After our speed boat arrived in the resort named ‘Maratua Paradise Resort’, we just tied up the boat and had snorkeling nearby. 😥 , No worries, we still enjoy the activity although just snorkeling with not really beautiful coral in there. Well,,,Let’s just count it as ‘warming up’ snorkeling before go to other destination. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of nice fish there (lion fish ,etc). Still FUN. 🙂  .

Snorkeling with Stingless Jelly Fish at Kakaban Island

Posing in front of Kakaban Lake

After snorkeling at Maratua, We headed out to Kakaban Island. I think this is the best from the entire trip we had. We went to a natural atoll anyway. It is in Kakaban Island which around 1.5 hours away by speedboat from our base camp in Derawan island. I just could not imagine if we used regular boat (not speedboat, It would take so long time). Kakaban Lake which has around 39 ha is created naturally over the course of million years trapping its saltwater in the raised atoll. It forces four species of jellyfish; Mastigias Papua, Aurelia Aurita, Cassiopeia Ornate,  and Tripedaila Cystophora to evolve into stingless organism. So magic! 😯 There are only two such places found in the world, Kakaban and Palau Republic, a country located in the northern part of Papua near the Phillipines. Awesome, eh?

Well, the jellyfish is very cute and the most important is stingless. I can touch all kind of jellyfish there without worrying to get sting. The lake is also beautiful and clean since it seems like has good housekeeping from local government. I took picture as many as possible (of course including posing with the jellyfish). By the way, Kakaban is kind of conservation area, so there are no civilization there (no people, no café, no resort, etc). There is only a simple port with wooden tracking way to the lake.

Heloo,,,Cute stingless Jellyfish!
more Jelly fish!
at a place called ‘Lubang Ikan’

Owh, I almost forgot to let you know. There’s another beautiful place found in Kakaban, They called it “Lubang Ikan”. It is located next to the lake but has different entrance. It was a good place to take picture with. The water was very calm, looks amazingly white – blue with remarkable view behind. There’s no significant organism found in there (no fish, etc). It just like a small dead-lake near beach (well no beach by the way,,,its kind of hill or something). I guess I must felt honored since we are the first visitor who visited the place with that travel agent.

another picture of Lubang Ikan

 Snorkeling and Beach time at Sangalaki Island

Hmm,,,,see, It is like private beach and awesome!

After enjoyable time with jelyfish, then we visited Sangalaki Island. Fortunately, the weather was good at that time. Like other island, Sangalaki has very very very white sand beach and good visibility of seawater. The island is a place for sea turtle to lay its egg. Sea turtle is always lay down its egg on white sand beach only. There’s a conservation place for sea turtle there. I visited the place for free. Then, we played at the beach. By the way, we visited at very low season, so that it looks like a private beach. No other group of people in there. How lucky I am.

looks clear, rite?

Snorkeling there is also fun. To be honest, that is the clearest sea water I have ever been. Just like crystal. I brought pocket camera with underwater casing with unfortunately there’s kind of fog since I forget to bring along the silica gel and It still looks good by the way….such an unbelievable! The coral is nice, I think it is the same with other coral I have ever been. It looks more dramatic since it has very clear sea water. Well, our purpose of snorkeling here is to ‘say hi’ with the Black Manta. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any. Seemed like we need to dive to find it.

Snorkeling at Derawan Island

underwater Derawan

The third day is also an awesome day. We went to a snorkeling spot near Derawan Island. Unfortunately, the weather is not really friendly. It was cloudy for a whole day, so that the sea is not as clear as we had in Sangalaki Island. The corals are various here. We found quite a lot nice fish, but we did not find sea turtle, which we were looking for. FYI, Derawan is home for million sea turtle. The island is blessed with super beautiful coral is all around the island. We can also have snorkeling just in front of our resort. We often see a big sea turtle playing around in the sea and eating some seaweed. It looks cute 🙂 . Actually we had two snorkeling spot to be enjoyed, but we did not go to Sniper (the last one) because of wave issue beside we were too tired, so we played Banana boat instead. We went around the island which is relatively small. We ended up in main port of Derawan Dive Resort and continue snorkeling in there. Damn, apparently the corral is more beautiful compared to previous place 😯 . Too bad my camera’s battery was running out. Ohhh.

played volley balll,,,wohooooo

Near the port, there is a dive spot. I could just see some western people playing in there. I wish I had diving license, so I could enjoy the sea much more than I had. Someday, I must have a license, I promise. We played volley ball in the resort since we had enough guys to play with. The girls, on the other hand, took picture and give some support. Again, we felt so honored since we played at the venue of PON 2008 Kaltim . Be aware of stingray in the beach. The beach guide often reminds how severe the effect of stingray is. It is one of dangerous sea animals.

Beach Time at Gusung Island

having fun at Gusung Island

Yes, this is the last place we visited in our third day. This is actually before we had banana boat. We enjoy another beautiful beach. It is literally Small Island. Really small. It is just a beach by the way. If you already visited Pulau Gosong in Karimun Jawa, Pulau Gusung in Derawan is pretty much the same, but it has wider beach and more beautiful of course. Once we arrived at the beach, every people is like suddenly crazy, just screaming OH MY GOD, this is so Damn beautiful  😯 . It is very nice. We took picture here like a million times and still not enough.


The last day is dedicated for jouney. We leaved derawan at 9.00 heading to Tarakan. We again spent 3 hours passing through relatively calm sea. Then, we get stuck in the middle of sea due to lack of boat fuel 🙄 . Fortunately, it near Tarakan Main Port, so the Driver (is it the right term?) called somebody for help. What a nice experience, isn’t it? After got helped, we shopped for some souvenir there which was dominated by Malaysian products. Then, we went to mangrove and Bekantan conservation. We also experience a nice culinary near Tarakan airport: Kepiting Kenari.  And our trip is just done. 🙂 .

Well, this is another a complete getaway. We had snorkeling, playing in the beach, play volley ball, sightseeing at conservation area, souvenir hunting, experiencing culinary, etc. it is just a perfect getaway ever! 🙂 .

23 thoughts on “Perfect Getaway to Derawan Islands

  1. how much does the whole trip cost you?

  2. Hmm…roughly IDR 3 million. 🙂

  3. mas numpang tanya, ini tripnya arranged sendiri or ikut tur?
    klo ikut tur boleh minta kontaknya?
    trims sebelumnya..

  4. kita kemaren pake tour,,,, pake Wisata Kita.Com sy ga ada kontaknya, kebetulan bukan yang ngurus2 waktu itu,,,coba cek websitenya aja,,, 🙂 worth it lah,,,

  5. ok mas thx yah..

  6. so cool! im planning to go there. but just i dont know where to stay. so many small island. so do u suggest to stay at dermawan island? may i know where do you stay at dermawan?

  7. actually,,,you can also stay in Maratua Island…but, seems like Derawan has more resort with wide range of price to choose from. There are also bunch of home-stay available. I stayed in a resort called ‘derawan fisheris’,,,pretty nice yet cheap place I think. btw,,,,summer is a perfect time to go there since sometimes the sea is quite dangerous in rainy season. you don’t want part of your trip is cancelled, rite? 🙂

  8. Hi there thank you for the post as it has contributed to part of my research for my upcoming trip. I can’t wait to get there but I’m still not sure how.

    Do you have a contact I can use to get to derawan? I’m planning to visit kakaban for its phenomenon as well! How do I go about doing that? -must it be by tour, am backpacking…

  9. Hi…how much is the boat from tarakan to derawan?

  10. I have no idea. I went to derawan by a tour agent, so I did not rent a boat by myself. I guess, That’s supposed to be expensive since There’s no regular boat available.

  11. wow, Maasha Allah, awesome… pasti suka pantai ya kak?

  12. Hehe. I do like beach. And I love mountain either. God’s creature are all awesome :))

  13. yes indeed, sadayana luar biasa 🙂

  14. Wow those pictures look awesome! Thanks for writing about Derawan Islands. This is such a great article 🙂 Anyway, if you need more reference about Indonesia maybe you can also visit, I also read some informative articles there. I hope it could be useful for you too.

  15. Always, a nice sharing of journey. Love it and want to have wonderful experience

  16. Thanks buddy,,,,,go get some vacation and write them down too. It’s nice to share things with others :))

  17. Thanks Gita for the valuable info :))

  18. Great story…. I would like to share my story about derawan and kakaban too. Please check this link out:

  19. Seemed like you had a lot of fun, too. Derawan is awesome! Would love to visit the place again and explore it all the way to Nabuco.
    I’m a bit confused about your tendencies towards ‘our neighbour’ though. I think what you meant was he didn’t allow you to enter his resort? Maratua right? I think it’s understandable to a degree. You wouldn’t want people entering your house on a daily basis, too, right?

  20. hey,
    the speed boat from Tarakan was it a private one or is there a daily connection?


  21. Hi Phil,
    I hired a speedboat thru the travel agent. I have no idea whether there is a daily connection or not but considering the development of the society, I don’t think there are any regular schedule. I’d suggest to hired some reliable agent unless you have plenty of time doing some backpacking….

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