Derawan Island

Blessed with more than 15,000 islands across the archipelago, Indonesia consists of diverse landscapes. Ranging from mountains that dotting the country to beaches that surrounds the majority of this maritime country. Among the popular beaches in Indonesia alongside Bali, Raja Ampat, or Bunaken, lies hidden paradise or paradises in East Kalimantan, Derawan Islands. Located in Berau District, Derawan Islands are made of 31 small islands on the Indonesian side of Borneo. 

derawan islands
derawan islands, east kalimantan

There are 4 major islands that are popular among tourists, Derawan, Maratua, Sanglaki, and Kakaban, with Derawan as the most popular. Derawan is known for its beauty of the tropical island, as if straight out of a movie, Derawan is secluded, has crystal blue water with a white sandy beach and palm trees providing shade. Not only that, the marine life of Derawan is another hidden jewel. Derawan is the perfect place for those who love the underwater world and marine life. The diversity of underwater life is comprised of more than a million-hectare area of marine and coastal ecosystem. There are more than 400 kinds of coral covering the area, coral reefs, mangrove forest, and seagrass beds. 

derawan islands
Image by Arhnue Tan from Pixabay 

Still not enough? Derawan is also home for the largest nesting site of rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles in Southeast Asia. Other species inhabit this island are scale turtle, whales, dolphins, giant clams, and even barracuda! The experts also found that there are more than 800 species of fish here including pygmy seahorse and giant manta rays. The utmost beauty of this marine ecosystem is protected in the conservancy region and was once nominated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. 

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Although Derawan is the smallest of 4 main islands, Derawan is the most developed and completed with facilities for tourists. Once you’re in this small island, you can’t just miss out the chance to scuba diving and snorkeling in one of the 28 diving spots! Be prepared to swim with turtles, manta rays, stingless jellyfish and much more!

If you plan to visit Derawan Islands, don’t miss out the other islands, Kakaban and Maratua. Once you’ve done exploring Derawan, hopping to Maratua and Kakaban is usually on your itinerary. Kakaban is an uninhabited island only 90 minutes away. On the boat ride, you can see dolphins and flying fish jump out of the water as if greeting you. When you arrive at Kakaban, there’s a jellyfish lake where the jellyfish have no sting as a result of unique evolution. There are only a few places like this on earth and one of them is in Derawan archipelago. 

sea derawan islands
Photo by Azis Pradana on Unsplash

Maratua Island is also known as Paradise Island by tourists due to its strategic location and tranquility. The island is small and long, it has some kind of horseshoe bay and spans for just 30 kilometers. This island is home to lovely private island resorts that expands in boardwalk over coral. You can spend your time in Maratua swimming, diving, and snorkeling. The view from this area is unbeatable, corals, turtles, and fishes can be found swimming here freely as if you’re in an aquarium of crystal-clear water.

turtles in derawan islands
Photo by Isabella Jusková on Unsplash

Another island worth your visit is Sanglaki Island. Covering more than 15 hectares of area, Sanglaki is turtles haven. You can find various turtles ranging from hawksbill to green turtles in this conservation island. This island is the place where turtles lay eggs, therefore don’t be surprised if you find turtles coming to the island during the night and laying egg there. Another major feature of this island is the manta rays. You can easily sea giant manta measured up to 5 meters (maybe more!) gliding under shallow water. 

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dive with fish in derawan islands
Photo by Michal Mrozek on Unsplash

How to Get to Derawan Islands

Getting to Derawan might be taking a while, but it’s definitely worth the trip. If you are flying from Singapore, you can land in Balikpapan. Or you can now reserve a direct flight to Balikpapan from Jakarta or Surabaya. Once you arrive in Balikpapan, you need to take a connecting flight to Berau. Then rent a car to Tanjung Batu via Tanjung Redeb (Berau’s capital city) that will take approximately 2 hours. Once you’re in Tanjung Batu, you can rent a boat to Derawan for only 30 minutes. In order to open access more to tourist, Maratua Airport will be open soon.