Derawan Archipelago

Derawan Islands, one of my dream destination in Indonesia. It has second best dive site in Indonesia after Raja Ampat. I was lucky I got promotion flight from Jakarta-Balikpapan (Citilink) for only IDR 158,000 return flight 20 August-26 August. I bought this ticket on March, and still wondering what is the best way to reach Derawan.

Getting to Derawan Islands

As we know, there are two ways, first from Tarakan 3 hours by boat to reach Derawan and second one from Berau, 2 hours by car and 15-30 minutes by boat. I searched the ticket price Balikpapan-Tarakan and Balikpapan-Berau. The flight to Berau is more expensive than Tarakan.

My concern at that time was, if I went alone, it’s better to go through Berau, because there’s public transportation to Derawan. But if I went from Tarakan, means it’s better for me to join trip package.

Lots of offering comes to you if you start from Tarakan. I saw my schedule, matched all the time. In April, I got my tickets Balikpapan-Tarakan on 20 August 18.30 p.m. with fares price IDR 360,000 with Lion Air. And the return flight, on 24 August IDR 426,000 by Batavia.

This was the cheapest flight I could find. It was Hari Raya at that time, so the price was increasing. Even my JKT-BPP flight was way more cheaper.

I was worried for my first day flight, I got two flights from Jakarta-Balikpapan and Balikpapan-Tarakan in the same day. In the schedule, Citilink was supposed to arrive at Tarakan on 17.05 p.m. What if Citilink delayed and I missed my flight to Tarakan?

Well, I hoped it wouldn’t happen to me. Worst case was I wouldn’t go to Tarakan, I lost my money 786k, and I would travel around borneo for a week.

I started to look for trip agency who offers trip to Derawan. Found one, GPS adventure, but the trip was from 20-22 August. Then thanks God someone called Anita pm me in couchsurfing, ” I sell trip to Derawan. If you can find 12 people, you can join the trip for free.” So, I posted to all forum such as couchsurfing and backpackerindonesia, then finally I got 12 people !

Itinerary with Tour to Derawan Islands

Day 1: From Jakarta to Tarakan

I was kindda worrry because Anita told me there’s an accident happened. Before, we’re discussing about which boat will we used because we didn’t expect that there were more people who wanna join us.,the small one or big one.

Big boat can hold until 15 people, but then the participants was 17. Anita said we’re going to use big boat, and cancelled some of the participants, afraid the tide’s high and the boat’s overload.

But then she told me, one day before I went to bpp, there was an accident, and she’s at funeral. Of course I was scared. Means someone’s dead and I knew Anita had another trip before my trip, I was thinking some possibilities that might happened.

The tide’s high and the boat sunk and this person cant swim so he died? All thoughts come to my head. Let’s hear later from Anita.

Started from Bandung by Primajasa to Soekarno Hatta International Airport. Arrived there at 10.30. I thought I still needed to wait for a long time, because my flight was 2 p.m.

I had my lunch first. After I got my lunch, I looked at the schedule board, trying to find my flight at 2 p.m. Strange, there’s no citilink flight to Balikpapan at 2 p.m. Instead 2 p.m. there’s flight at 11 a.m. I looked at my watch it’s 11 a.m. now. Oh Shit !

I rushed into the Citilink counter and I found out my schedule was changed to 5 p.m. I started to panic, how could I chased that 18.30 p.m. flight when the flight from jkt-bpp takes around 2 hours.

I explained to them. But then the officer talked each other, and then went to check in counter with me. Thanks God the 11 a.m. plane was delayed until 12 p.m. I had my manual check in, and big thanks to God, I could have my flight, even earlier.

Almost left by this plane

Welcome to Sepinggan Airport. It was 3 p.m. central zone time. I still had plenty of time before my next flight. First thing I did was going to citilink counter to check if there’s any change on my return flight schedule. And yes, it’s changed to 8.30 p.m. Well. it’s good, means I could spent much more time in Borneo.

I waited for my next flight, thanks to Bang Kevin who was in bpp at that time and he came to airport and accompanied me while waiting. Next I got my flight with Lion, it took around 1 hour from bpp-tarakan.

After I reached Tarakan, I stayed in Anita’s house. Anita told me about the accident. It’s not the boat sunk or turned upside down, but this guy was swimming near the dock, and then he’s drowned.

The guy is a strong guy, but the day before, he had blood donors and maybe he felt he’s in good condition, but actually he’s not. Anita was not going to accompany us because she’s still trauma. Her brother in law will replaced her.

Day 2: From Tarakan to Derawan Islands

All the participants had gathered at sdf harbor. It took 3 hours to Derawan. It was low tide and the boat’s trapped onto the sand sometimes. We’re chit chatting on the boat, laughing together. It was fun.

Most of them is still young, so it’s fun talking with them. 4 p.m. we arrived in Derawan at 4 p.m. The water is soo clear until you can see what’s under beneath, like the one that I’ve seen during traveling to Ora Beach. First arrived, weather was a bit cloudy, but we were greeted by a very big turtle swimming under !

turtle in derawan islands

Turtle swimming near jetty

We had a walk and explored Derawan Island. The beach is not really beautiful I think, some of the coral were dead. We had our dinner, then we went to release baby turtle. We were lucky to see turtle lay eggs.Too bad there’s lil bit problem, we should slept in homestay in the first night because the cottage was full.

watching turtles in derawan

Baby turtles hatched in Derawan

turtles in derawan

Mommy turtle is laying eggs

Day 3: Visiting Maratua, Kakaban, and Sangalaki

I woke up in early morning to see sunrise. Only Jeffry and Kak Faza woke up. Others, slept very well. 6 a.m. sunrise showed up. Beautiful.

sunrise in derawan

Beautiful sunrise in the morning

We were ready to explore the islands ! First one, Maratua Island..Best island ever! It took an hour from Derawan to Maratua. What makes Maratua beautiful is the crystal water, white sand, and beautiful cottage above the water. It’s way better even then the best beaches in Bali. No need to go to Maldives. Indonesia has it!

There is one more beautiful island near Maratua called Nabucco. It’s owned by foreigner. We didnt go there because it’s not included in the package. From what I heard, to stay in the cottage, we need to spend 800k for Maratua and 1.2million for Nabucco, per person. Wow expensive.

Maratua Island Cottage

Crystal clear water

Maratua Island in Derawan


Not far from Maratua, about 15 minutes, we went to Kakaban. Tide was little bit high and scary. Kakaban is an ancient lake. What makes it special is the stingless jellyfish ! The jellyfish is no longer sting because the lake which used to be salty turned to freshwater. So the jellyfish lost their sting power. The jellyfishes were all cute !

kakaban island derawan islands

Kakaban Island

stingless jellyfish derawan islands

Stingless jellyfish in Derawan Islands

Last one, Sangalaki Island. I really hoped to see Manta Ray. But too bad, didnt find one. It seems that we took wrong spot. We didnt go to the island either because the guide said we’re too late, afraid of the high tide. But I thought we still got enough time.

Pretty annoying. We saw the coral, I’ve seen better one in Karimunjawa Islands. Wrong spot I think. I envy my friend who joined this trip with me but extended and joined another trip after me saw Mantas, and other better spot for snorkeling.

corals in sangalaki island

Corals in Sangalaki

Day 4: End of the trip, Back to Tarakan

Time to go back to Tarakan. So sad leaving this paradise. I got new friends and had fun. Gossiping about other annoying participant. Oops, no mention.

Next time I’ll go back to Derawan Islands again, after I got my diving license of course. My journey in Borneo has not ended yet.

Thanks all: Kak Faza, Iki, Maradona, Vivi, Meloni, Olivia, Harvi, Jeffry, Flo, Adi, Tyo, Ko Edi

Group Tour Derawan


Traveled in 20-26 August 2012