One of the wonderful tourism in East Kalimantan is Derawan Islands. In recent years this place popular as one of the excellent vacation of exotic beach in Indonesia. The beauty of Derawan Islands that you can enjoy such as; diving and snorkeling. Derawan Islands is like the typical dream of a tropical paradise with secluded white sand beaches, clear blue water and some coconut trees providing some shade. The islands are located in Berau district, of the coast of East Kalimantan and it is one of the bests diving spot in the world. The archipelago consists of 31 small islands of which only 4 islands are accessible: Derawan Islands, Maratua Island, Sangalaki and Kakaban Island. In 2005, this archipelago was nominated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Derawan Islands has 1,270,000 hectare area of sea and island are marine and coastal ecosystems: coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. It has a unique biodiversity with more than 460 kinds of coral spread around this area and several sandbanks like Pulau Panjang, Muaras, Masimbung, Buliulin, Pinaka and Tababinga Sandbank. There are also 870 kinds of fish, some of them are protected species like green turtles, scale turtles, whales, dolphins, giant clams, coconut crabs, and barracudas. This area has the largest turtle habitat and nesting site in South East Asia.
In Derawan Island, besides offers the spectacular white beaches, the underwater life at Derawan Islands is also very amazing. There are over 28 diving spots here and you will not be alone as many domestic and foreign tourists dive in this beautiful ecosystem. The Derawan Islands is a divers paradise.
How to Get to Pulau Derawan
Pending Maratua’s airport opening, most journeys to the Derawan islands begin at Berau, a coal and mining river port that currently has the nearest airport to the islands.
Balikpapan’s modern international airport has flights from all over Indonesia as well as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. From here, there are multiple scheduled flights daily to Berau. It’s also possible to connect from Malaysia by flying Tawau-Tarakan-Berau.
Note that the bus journey between Balikpapan and Berau typically takes at least 16 hours, and journey times can double when the road is bad. For overlanders, the range of attractions en route include waterfalls, jungle, caves with ancient cave art and a mirror lake. The national park has been logged to oblivion.
Boat enthusiasts and pan-Borneo overlanders can also catch the ferry from Tawau to Tarakan. This is a large city island with some surprisingly decent hotels and a boardwalk trail through mangroves with proboscis monkeys and walking fish. From Tarakan, catch another boat to Tanjung Selor, then the bus from Tanjung Selor to Berau.
Another option is to charter speedboats from Tengkayu Harbour on Tarakan directly to the Derawans: coming from Jakarta in a large group, it could make sense to fly straight to Tarakan then charter a boat. (Expect to pay around IDR 3,000,000 for the charter.)
From Berau, travelling independently, it’s easiest to pick up a kijang to Tanjung Batu – expect to pay around IDR 60,000 per head. (Derawan resorts will arrange kijang transfers for you.)
From Tanjung Batu, small speedboats with space for five people plus bags make the short journey to Pulau Derawan from a floating jetty at a stable price of IDR 250,000 per boat. You’ll need to get to Tanjung Batu by 4pm or spend the night either there or (preferably) in Berau.
The Terrains at Derawan are varied-from walls and fringing reef to caverns. Big green turtles (chelonia mydas), whitetip leopard and nurse sharks, schooling barracudas, napoleon wrasses, cuttle fish, spanish mackerel, jacks and batfishes, and ornamental reef fishes hang out in record densities and diversity.
Dr. Carden Wallace of the Museum of Tropical Queensland found over 50 species of Acropora hard coral on one reef.
Not only it is possible to dive with turtle on every dive at derawan, turtles are also found coming on land every night to procreate; hatchlings are often encountered just below the cottages and restaurant.
My Favourite site, however just on the door step-beneath the pylons of 200 m long jetty.
Here I have found some of the most mind-boggling and bizarre critters i have seen in years; luminous multi coloured dumpling squids, pairs of 3 ft (1 meters) crocodile fishes, finger-sized purple sea horses and unidentified species of worms, tunicates and dwarf scorpiofish.
The quality of diving around Derawan is indeed what divers dream about I have been back four times and i will be back again, again and again.
How to Get from Pulau Derawan to Maratua
There are no public boats between Derawan and Maratua. To arrange budget travel within the islands, get a group together and negotiate with the owners of fishing boats called tok-tok: the trip from Derawan to Maratua shouldn’t cost more than 700,0000 for the boat.
Note that (relatively) rough seas around the monsoon – particularly in December and January – can make the journey impossible in anything but a bigger and more expensive boat, and possibly mean delays in getting to Derawan from Tanjung Batu.
Resort dive boats are faster, more expensive and much safer (never take a tok-tok in bad weather): if you’re transferring between dive resorts, they might be able to arrange a dive boat handover, as many boats dive the same sites.
Please be aware of safety when travelling by fishing boat: don’t expect life-jackets or a radio, though some crew might have a working mobile phone, and if the boat looks dodgy, for god’s sake don’t get on it.