All of Indonesia’s remote locations mean that dive sites are rarely crowded, marine life is abundant with an almost water tight guarantee of seeing something new each day. East Kalimantan offers that rare combination of big and small underwater life.
The Derawan Islands are in the province of East Kalimantan in Indonesia. They include Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban, Maratua, Panjang and Samama Island and submerged reefs and islets. They are located in the Sulawesi (Celebes) Sea, on the coastal shelf of East Kalimantan.
Located in a biodiversity hotspot, the Derawan Islands feature 872 species of reef fishes, 507 species of coral, and invertebrates including protected species such as giant clam, two different sea turtles and coconut crab. Some of the islands harbour the largest green turtle nesting sites in Indonesia. Travel between the months of September - November for increased likelihood of seeing larger species.
Jelly Fish without the ouch - Kakaban Island
Situated in the interior of Kakaban island and one of only two non-stinging jelly fish lakes in the world, this is a must dive, or snorkel if you prefer. The strange experience of diving in near motionless, brackish water with these strange medusa (not one, but 4 species!) remains a very unique experience in the diving world. The site is reached with a 15 minute walk inwards from shore (not in your dive kit).
The outer perimeter of Kakaban island, as you would expect, offers a handful of dive sites with great coral growth and pelagic sightings.
The Channel on Maratua Island
Barracuda abound in the right currents and thresher and grey reef sharks have been spotted, if you can take your eyes off the turtles and Eagle rays.
Get lucky on Sangalaki
A so far reliable spot for seeing manta rays, this island has ‘mobile’ feeding and cleaning stations shifting in line with the currents. If these marine giants are not cute enough for you, the island also runs a government managed turtle nursery where a visit may be organised locally for a small fee.
On your shore step - Derawan Island
Derawan Island itself offers a selection of fantastic sights within immediate reach of your accommodation, offering that wonderful mix of drift dives or muck dives! It benefits from a house reef, though dives must be guided.
Enjoy a refreshing swim and snorkel just a step from your door.
As this is Indonesia, it goes without saying that macro fanatics will not be disappointed. Some recent spots are satomi pygmy sea horses, a variety of ghost pipe fish, blue ring octopus and frog fish.
How do I get there?
Singapore Airlines, into Balikpapan via Singapore. On arrival in Balikpapan, a wait for a couple of hours may be necessary in the airport’s comfortable lounge, so that the connecting internal flight can meet all the arrivals.
Internal flight Balikpapan to Berau - 45 minutes. Here you are met and driven two hours through scenic Kalimantan countryside to the port at Tanjung Batu, for the 45 minute speedboat transfer to Derawan Island. Your feet will get wet on arrival!
Alternative flights via Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta may be available.
Tasik Divers, Derawan Dive Lodge
The experienced and reputable team of Tasik Divers, perhaps more familiar to some from their long standing operations in Bunaken, Manado, and Bali, welcome you to experience some of the best diving of your life.
Their purpose built dive boats with sun shade and toilet will ferry you to the dive sites. Diving is guided in very small groups, wherever possible.
All-inclusive Dive packages will include one day of Maratua (channel), Kakaban, Snagalaki, Panjang and Derawan on a rotation basis, a stop at the stingless Jellyfish Lake is guaranteed. Any repeats of Maratua, Kakaban or Snagalaki before the rotation ends will incur a fuel surcharge of US$50 per person.
Nitrox is available for a small extra charge.
Derawan's outstanding location offers the chance to see mantas, a lake of non-stinging jellyfish and schooling barracuda. Macro fans can enjoy pygmy seahorses, blue-ring octopus and frogfish.
Click here to view a map of Derawan dive sites
Dive Pack Prices
All our packages are quote on a ‘Diver’ package basis, which include up to 3 guided dive per day subject to the local schedule. Please discuss your requirements with the Regaldive team, who will prepare a quotation suited to your needs.
Please inform the sales team if you are planning on travelling with a non-diver or snorkeller, so we may apply to relevant non-diver discount. Spaces on the boat can be booked and paid for locally should a non-diver wish to join a trip.
Extras in Resort
Prices listed below are an indication only, and subject to change.
- Nitrox: $9 per fill, $20 for 3 fills or $100 per week
- Extra trip supplement to Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban: $50 per person, minimum 2 divers in addition to dive pack.
- Non-diver / Snorkeler on boat: $50 per trip
Equipment rental - per day in USD - Paid locally:
- Full kit - regulators, BCD, wetsuit, mask & fins): $35
- Regulators: $10
- BCD: $10
- Wetsuit: $6
- Mask & fins: $10
- Torch: $10 per dive
- Computer: $10
- Tanks are 12 litre with INT and DIN fittings
- 15l: Not available at present
Mid January - June are semi dry
July - August southerly wind, can be choppy
September, October and mid November are said to be the best months to travel
Mid November to Mid January rainy
East Kalimantan is GMT / BST +7 or +8 hours
Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Approximate rates:
£1 = 18,931 IDR
€1 = 16,750 IDR
$1 = 13,653 IDR
IDR, USD$ and Visa Master Card credit cards are accepted on Derawan.
If you are venturing any further, we recommend modest dress with loose fitting clothing. Natural fabrics are more comfortable.
Best flight option into Balikpapan is with Singapore Airlines
Balikpapan - Berau flights: 45 minutes
On arrival, there may be a wait in Balikpapan’s comfortable lounge. On departure, the earliest flight connection you can catch:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays: 11.00 Hrs
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays: 17.00 Hrs
Luggage on internal flight: 20kg hold, 7kg hand. Excess: IDR 12,000 per kg approx. (under £1)
Passports and Visas
Passengers travelling to Indonesia should have minimum six months valid on their passport from the date of return to the UK, plus one full page free. Hotel receptions may be required to take a photocopy of your passport for registration purposes.
British nationals travelling to Indonesia can enter the country without a visa for up to 30 days at certain airports' Immigration Check Points: Soekarno-Hatta Jakarta ( CGK ), Ngurah Rai - Bali (DPS), Kualanamu, Medan (KNO), Juanda - Surabaya (SUB), Hang Nadim - Batam (BTH).
You won’t be able to extend your stay beyond 30 days if you enter under this visa waiver scheme. Entry via Manado and certain other entry points is still subject to a visa on arrival at a cost of $35 (30 day visa) and $15 (7 day visa). Please note that visitors must purchase a visa if their ultimate destination is not one of those listed above e.g. guests going to Manado.
For further information about entry requirements, visit the website of the Indonesian Embassy in London or your nearest Indonesian embassy.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Indonesia, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and polio. Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure with your GP or local travel clinic. Advice on Malaria should be sought. Further information regarding vaccinations for travel to this country can be found at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and from your local healthcare provider.
Derawan Dive Lodge
Amazing Trip: 77 days, 3 island groups and 133 dives!
"As this was to be my first visit to Indonesia, I was a little unsure as to what to expect. I had read about how good the diving can be, but thought that I should keep an open mind and just enjoy the adventure. As it happens I enjoyed every single dive that I made (133). There was always something different to see, from mantas and fast drift diving at Derawan Island to wall diving at Manado, muck diving at Lembeh to unspoilt coral gardens and fish life at Cape Paperu resort on Saparua Island.
The transfers and ground arrangements were excellent, though at first I thought them to be rather ambitious; 77 days; 3 island groups; 3 overnight hotels; 4 resorts; 6 ground transfers; 4 water transfers and 11 flights, something was bound to go wrong. In the end, apart from a 20 minute wait for a vehicle at Berau Airport, all transfers and ground arrangements went according to plan.
The accommodation varied from fairly basic to luxury (In my eyes); every room that I stayed in had a ceiling fan and air-conditioning, which after a day’s diving, was really appreciated. For me, making the best of what was available at each of the resorts was all part of the ‘experience’.
Not being the sort of person who expects high cuisine, I found all of the meals that I was offered more than adequate, sheets and towels were all changed on a regular basis, and the rooms were clean and tidy.
I like diving; just being in the water is a pleasure for me, and I can always find something of interest to look at. Because of the amount of time I spent at each resort it was inevitable that I would visit a dive site more than once, which in some ways was good because I knew where to spend time looking for things of interest.
I found all of the dive centre staff, and in fact all of the Indonesian people that I met and talked to, to be very helpful, cheerful, and it was a pleasure to be amongst them.
I have so many wonderful memories of my trip, but a particular highlight was one of the first drift dives that I made while staying on Derawan Island. At the dive site, after hooking on to the reef and floating off the bottom in the current, I was slowly engulfed in a huge school of Barracuda, so close I could have reached out and touched them. I was completely surrounded by them on either side, below and above me. The school was so dense that it was as though the sun had gone in and clouds had darkened the sky.
I was extremely happy with Regaldive; you answered all of my queries promptly and were most helpful in every way. I will certainly book with you again."
Derawan Dive Lodge
Derawan - Superbly Organised!
"Our trip was superbly organised by Regal and everything went to plan (reassuring when you consider we had to have 3 flights, a 3 hour road trip and boat ride!) Although getting there took 2 days it's all part of the experience from flying over jungle, driving through to the stay in Balikpapan.
Let's start with the main reason for visiting - the diving. There are 4 main dive locations to visit.
1. Maratua - has the best dive in my opinion, Barracuda Point. A reef hook is required but the sheer number of Barracuda make this dive site with the hundreds (up to 2,000) of fish seen in the shoals on both our dives here
2. Kakaban - a good variety of wall dives and another location to see a shoal of Barracuda though not in the numbers of Maratua. The Jellyfish lake is worth the visit during a surface interval
3. Sangalaki - the place for Mantas and we were lucky enough to see a number on one dive but they are by no means guaranteed and we did not see any on the other 6 dives we did at this site, look elsewhere if Mantas are a must see.
4. Derawan - lots of interesting small stuff - frogfish, pygmy seahorses, sea dragons, blue ringed octopus - also seen on some of the other dive sites
Overall Derawan is a worthwhile dive location; added to the fact that not 1 other diver was seen while we were in the water on our dives. Other than the sheer number of Barracuda and Turtles there is not an abundance of any one fish life simply rather a huge variety of different things to see both large and small, even Dolphins from the dive boat.
All the 3 main islands are on average an hours boat ride from Derawan. Dive guides, boat operation, nitrox availability are all excellent. Some of the coral reefs and walls are simply stunning with very large soft and hard corals, unfortunately the effects of the previous local practice of dynamiting can be seen in places but the reef is recovering and should not deter you visiting.
The Dive lodge is located on the beach and is simple, it's all about the diving. The rooms are clean and functional, there is plenty of background noise from the local Mosque to the numerous roosters but a nights sleep is usually confirmed as the diving ensures you are tired!
Food - Lunch and Dinner very basic and consisting of rice / rice and more rice accompanied usually 3 dishes (chicken pieces / diced beef and fish) which though tasty after a few days does get very repetitive, the soup starters were excellent. Breakfast is sticky rice, rice (occasionally noodles) with tinned frankfurters and fried tomatoes but there was always toast available though the measly 2 slice toaster ensured a wait as nearly every guest wanted toast.
The lack of a kettle (just a hot water function on the water dispenser) is a downside as hot drinks were never quite hot enough. The cold drinks of beer, sprite and coke were reasonably priced though frustratingly they did run out now and then.
7 days was about right for the length of stay and if you have time a 2/3 day mainland bolt on side trip to experience the jungle, see the wildlife and orangutans would be prudent.
Overall highly recommended, it is a very cost effective location with a wide variety of underwater life and reefs to see. "