Indonesia is an archipelago nation. There are many islands in Indonesia. In fact, various sources have different estimate on the number of islands in Indonesia. The number range from 17,508 to 18,306. From all these islands, only 8,844 has been named. Estimating the number of islands is quite difficult as some islands are only appear in the low tide, including what is termed as tidal islands, sandy cays as well as rocky reefs. These islands usually are submerged during the high tide.
One of the facts that not many people know is that Indonesian archipelago not only consist of five main islands and the bigger archipelago like the Nusa Tenggara and the Maluku. There are many smaller and lesser known archipelago that is part of Indonesia. In fact, there are sixty smaller archipelagos.
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Derawan Islands East Kalimantan is one of such beautiful Indonesia archipelagos. The Derawan Islands is a group of islands that administratively is part of Berau Regency in Indonesian province of East Kalimantan. Here on this island you can find many tourist objects with one of its highlights is the marine park, which attracts many divers and marine enthusiasts from around Indonesia and overseas alike.
Geographically located on the northern peninsula of Berau regency, this archipelago consisted of four main islands, namely: Derawan Island, Maratua Island, Sangalaki Island and Kakaban Island, where you can see the rare green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles. The largest among these islands is Maratua Island.
Derawan Island Indonesia and its coastal ecosystems are very important for the coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. In addition, Derawan is also home to many protected species such as the green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, whales, dolphins, giant clams, coconut crabs, dugongs, barracudas and a few other species.
Derawan Island Indonesia is being actively promoted by Berau Regency, as well as East Kalimantan Province as one of the mainstay tourist attractions. Foreign and local tourists who come to visit these islands are increasing in numbers. Aside from diving, here you can also see the nesting turtles, enjoy the clean and beautiful beach. If you walk along the beach, you can see how clean it is.
Resorts and Lodges in Derawan Islands are scattered on the beach, at a much cheaper rate compared to other tourist attractions in Indonesia for example in Bali and Lombok. Derawan Islands have been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Derawan archipelago East Kalimantan consisted of 31 islands along with some sandbars and atolls. Most of the land area in Derawan islands are in the form of mangrove forest and shrubs with some coconut plantation located on Maratua Island
The coral reef is spread all over the Derawan Islands as well as the sandbar and atolls. The well-known sandbars in this archipelago are namely Panjang Island Sandbar, Masimbung Sandbar, Buliulin Sandbar, Pinaka Sandbar, Tababinga Sandbar and Muaras Sandbar.
The coral reef in Derawan archipelago consisted of various types, namely fringing reefs and barrier reefs, as well as atolls. Atolls are coral reef that has become an island with the center of the island become a lagoon. This surely reminds us of Maldives. It is true and rightful that some people even named Derawan as Maldives of Indonesia.
The number of coral species in Derawan Island is quite amazing as it shows about 460 to 470 species of corals is living here. This suggests that Derawan Islands is second only to the Raja Ampat Islands in terms of biodiversity. There are also about 870 species of fish that call this islands home. It is no wonder that with such great variety of marine life, Derawan Islands become one of the favorite dive spots for world class divers as you can find more than 28 dive spots.
As mentioned before, Derawan Islands consisted of 31 islands that mostly are formed from coral reefs. Among the islands, there are several that you will definitely not want to miss out during your visit. Here we highlight some of the islands:
1. Derawan Island
Derawan has a flat coastal plain topography. The island has a long white sand beach which has a slope of about 7 to 11 degree. The beach here has a width of 13.5 at its narrowest point to 20 meters at its widest point. A study from Manta Tow Survey shows that the coral reefs in Derawan Island have an average coral cover of 17.41% hard corals and 27.78% of living coral.
The waters surrounding the island are renowned as a marine park and a popular diving spot with a depth of about five meters. Here you can find a wide variety of marine life, including squid, cuttlefish, lobster, ghost pipefish, blue ring octopus, sea horses, ribbon eels and several species of scorpionfishes. Diving here will certainly present you with an amazing landscape as you will be also amazed at the mind-boggling number of coral reefs that decorate the bottom of the sea around the island.
If you dive deeper, at a depth of ten meters, you will find a rock formation which is nicknamed as “Trigger Blue Wall” because of a coral formation with a length of about 18 meters has a lot red-toothed triggerfish hanging around.
Derawan is also the island where you can find many hotels and resorts. The largest hotel in Derawan Islands is Derawan Dive Resort. This hotel is managed by PT. BMI, however other hotels here are managed by locals.
2. Maratua Island
Maratua Island is one of the outermost islands of Indonesia. This Island has a land area of 2375.7 hectares, making it the largest island among the 31 islands in Derawan Islands. The island is located in the Celebes Sea and borders with Malaysia. This small island is long and sharply arched in shape. On this island, you will find 2 small lakes, called Haji Mangku Lake and Tanah Bamban Lake. Like all other islands in Derawan Islands, Maratua is well known for the underwater beauty and the marine diversity. The sea around Maratua is also frequently visited by whales and dolphins during certain time of the year
The attractions in Maratua Island is not limited to only diving. Since the interior of the island has many caves, here you can also adventurously visit the caves, see the nests of swallows, scour the forests by trekking or climb Mount Putih to enjoy the beauty of the sunrise from the cliff height.
Additionally, you can also visit Lake Haji Mangku, which is a secluded lake on Maratua. It is quite hidden away from the crowd, making the beauty of Lake Haji Mangku quite untouched compared to other tourist attractions in Indonesia. To Access the lake, you =can travel along a relatively easy path along the flat terrain. Maratua is also the natural habitat of the coconut crabs aside from Kakaban Island.
3. Kakaban Island
This island has many unique attractions for foreign tourists. One of the uniqueness of this island is the lake on the island, named Lake Kakaban. The lakes is filled by a mixture of rainwater and seawater that seeps through from the soil pores and create an endemic habitat that different than almost all other lakes in the world.
Aside from Lake Kakaban, there is only one other lake with brackish water. This lake is located in Palau Island, Micronesia. On Lake Kakaban, you can find four species of jellyfish that do not have any sting.
Here you can safely swim among the jellyfish and even embrace and cuddle them if you wish. It was predicted that thousands of years ago the ancestors of these jellyfish were trapped and through later evolution, they become able to photosynthesize. This ability is not found in any other animals. Two species of the four species of jellyfish in the Lake Kakaban that can be commonly found are Golden Jellyfish and Moon Jellyfish. Besides the jellyfish, there are also 8 species of fish that is endemic only to Lake Kakaban.
Another attraction on the island of Kakaban is Kehe Daeng, which in local language means “fish hole”.At the time when the tide is low a narrow, cave which was initially submerged would appear on the surface so that the colorful reefs and sea stars can be easily seen. Kakaban is an island reserved for conservation of jellyfish, so you will not find any human settlement on this island, except for some guards and researchers.
Kakaban Island is also home to the coconut crab as well as two rare species of sea turtles, namely the green sea turtles and the hawksbill turtles. In the waters around Kakaban Island, you can find dolphins and whales during a certain time of the year.
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4. Sangalaki Island
The white sand beach on this island has a width of 12 meters at the narrowest point and 15 meters at its widest point. The beach has gradients of between 6 -11 degree. The material that makes up the coast is dominated by coral fragments and the sand grains are coarse in size. The island also has quite a large population of coconut crab.
As with other islands in the same group of islands, the sea around Sangalaki is well known as an excellent diving area. The most famous sea creature you will be able to spot on Sangalaki Island is the manta rays. Dolphins are also a common sight in the waters around Sangalaki. In certain seasons, you can also see whales.
The manta rays usually can be seen in big groups, sometimes up to 20 manta rays can be spotted at the same time. The sight of these large rays gathering is quite usual, especially during the full moon.
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5. Semut Island
The sea around the island has plenty of sand shells at a depth of 1 to 3 meters. The locals livelihoods largely depend on these sand shells. Semut Island is used as a burial place for the locals.
The island only has a land area of 6.9 hectares. Semut in the Indonesian language means ant. That is why some people jokingly said that the island is so small that it is named as “Ant Island”.
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6. Semama Island
Semama island has a flat topography and it has a white sand beach which slope has a gradient of about 5 -10 degree. The width of the beach width is 8.5 meters at its narrowest point to 10 meters at its widest point.
Like Sangalaki Island, the beach here is made up of materials from coral fragments and the size of sand grains are very coarse.
Semama Island has an area of 91.1 hectares. It is designated as a wildlife reserves area. This island has its attractions in its white sand beach and vast mangrove area, as well as coral reefs.
Semama island also is a haven for migratory birds from Australian continent, on their way to mainland Asia. Semama Island is also one of the islands in Derawan Islands where you can find the habitat of coconut crab. However, the coconut crab population in Semama Island is significantly less than in the Sangalaki Island. Other animal species that can be seen in the waters around Semama island are dolphins and dugongs as well as pygmy seahorses.
The unique phenomenon in the Semama Island is the tidal wave. At low tide conditions on the island is practically very extreme. The ebb condition normally occurred around 11 A.M. The receding sea water on the island is will cause the exposure of several hundred meters of sand that created an immense sized beach
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7. Panjang Island
The ground of the island has formed solum that reached a thickness of 2.5 meters and has partly weathered. As a result, the soils provide rich mineral resources necessary to support the growth and development of mangrove forest on the island. Hence, in the mangrove forest, you can find many species of fish as well as a pleasant place to chill out.
In Derawan Islands, Panjang Island is also a habitat of dugong aside from Semama Island. According to Manta Tow Survey of 2003, an average cover of coral reefs in Pulau Panjang was 24.25% for hard coral and 34.88% for living coral.
8. Pahaban Island
This island is where you will find the Nabucco Dive Resort which is foreign run and charge in US dollar. Pabahanan Island and nearby Bulingisan Island in certain seasons is a haven kind for a kind of pigeons which the locals aptly named Potean which means white birds.
These birds can number by the thousands, making the island looks white from a distance. Indeed, Pahaban Island is part of Derawan Island that have such a beautiful view. It’s the best for sightseeing, sunbathing, swimming, taking pictures, or just laying on the shore.
9. Nunukan Island
Not to be confused with another island called Nunukan, which is also off the coast of mainland Kalimantan Island. That Nunukan Island is bigger in size and located closer to the border with the Malaysian state of Sabah.
This island is part of Derawan Island and has a land area of 4.8 hectares only. The main attraction here is diving and snorkeling, especially on the famous Nunukan’s house reef which slopes down gently to around 40 meters. Here you can see the phenomenal number of fish swimming in the pristine water.
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Tips for Traveling to Derawan Island East Kalimantan
- Aside from Derawan Island itself, the other islands that you must visit are Maratua Island, Sangalaki Island and Kakaban Island
- Bring your own snorkeling gear
- Don’t forget to bring cash as there is no ATM on any of the island in Derawan Islands. The closest ATM is in Tanjung Batu and that means you have to cross the sea on a speedboat.
- The sun can be quite intense, so do not forget to bring sun block to avoid sunburn.
- Enjoy the sensation of swimming with cute and cuddly jellyfish that do not sting in Lake Kakaban. Please do not use any fins to avoid from hurting the jellyfish.
- Island hopping between Derawan Islands means you have to charter a speedboat. The charter cost of a speedboat is around IDR 1.5 million for a speedboat with 4 passengers capacity. Bigger speedboats will cost more.
- Traveling time from Derawan Island to Kakaban Island is about 2 hours. From Kakaban to Sangalaki will take about 30 minutes.
- Most of the hotels you will find in Derawan Island are homestays run by the locals. The cost is about IDR 125,000 per day.
- If you want a more comfortable option, you can stay in Bumi Menore Interbuana Resort. The price here is IDR 385,000 for a room that fits 2 adults.
- If you decide to stay in Maratua Island, you definitely have to stay in Nabucco Island Resort, which is a floating cottage with a marvelous view of Maratua island.
- If you are planning to come here for diving, get your diving gears by renting them in Derawan Island
- Don’t forget to bring a camera, especially an underwater camera so you can take pictures when you are diving or snorkeling. Especially important is to take picture of you swimming with the jellyfish in Lake Kakaban.
- Bring comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Don’t forget to bring water and snack. Some islands in Derawan Islands like Kakaban Island and Sangalaki Island does not have any human population, so it will be impossible for you to find any food vendors here.
- You need to always remember not to litter. Please keep the beauty of nature by not disposing of any of the rubbish neglectfully.
So now you have known about this piece of paradise on earth. Derawan is truly a jewel that is not yet known by many and therefore you will find a peaceful and tranquil environment that you can enjoy to your heart content. Come to Derawan Islands and have a great holiday!
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