End of 2013, my friends and I agreed that we’ll go on a holiday together in 2014. After several rescheduling due to everyone’s business, we finally agreed on the dates of our trip. The destination this year is Derawan (we’ll explore more area later next years). With recommendation of a colleague, I chose WisataKita (web here), a small local travel agent based in Solo. In the end, we went there in a group of 9. 🙂
Our trip started early morning from Jakarta to Tarakan (4 hours direct flight, but most flights transit in Balikpapan). From the airport, we were picked up and driven to the Tarakan port. After settling down the remaining of our payment, we continued to Derawan Island by speedboat (2.5-3 hours, depending on the sea waves).
Instead of taking the regular package of staying at the villager’s houses, we upgraded to Derawan Fisheries (pretend-to-be fishermen’s houses which face the dock) and 2 of us stayed at Derawan Dive Resort (the more elite upgrade, a resort which has its own beach where you can even start snorkeling and diving from). I can say that I like the upgrade (I stayed at Derawan Fisheries), it was pretty cheap (additional 125k/pax if you’re sharing with 2 people and 225k/pax if you’re sharing with only 1 other person) and we can spend the morning sitting on the dock, enjoying the view of the sea.
Day 2, we started early in the morning, at 8 AM. Our first destination was Maratua Island, 2 hours by speedboat. We were supposed to snorkel there, but due to the high waves, the snorkeling was cancelled and we only played at the beach and took some pictures. Off from Maratua, we continued to the beautiful lagoon in Kakaban Island, 1 hour by speedboat (and a long 1 hour struggle for some people having sea nausea). After taking some pictures, we had lunch there. After lunch, we went to the other side of Kakaban Island and snorkeled in the stingless jellyfish lake (there are only 2 places of stingless jellyfish lake in the world: Kakaban and Palau, Micronesia – source: www.stinglessjellyfish.com). We then moved on to Sangalaki Island, 1 hour from Kakaban, where if you’re lucky, you will be able to find mantas. The local guide told us that the last time he took tourists there, they were only able to see 1 manta. We were very lucky because when we were there, we saw the manta.. not only one, but many of them. Some of us (because the sea area is quite deep, only some strong swimmers were brave enough to see the mantas directly) went snorkeling with the mantas. In Sangalaki, there is a green sea turtle captivity, the biggest one in Indonesia. Unfortunately, the waves were very high that we didn’t get a chance to land there.
Bonus from day 2: even though we didn’t get a chance to see baby turtles in the captivity, we were lucky enough to see not only one, but two sea turtles spawned in Derawan Island.
Day 3, the schedule was more relaxed. We started at 10 AM to snorkel around Derawan Island area. We didn’t get to see many things, though, due to the high waves and unclear visibility of the sea water. After snorkeling, we had lunch at the Fisheries and took a nap. The trip continued at 2 PM, where we went to Pulau Gusung (it was too small to be called an island), a beautiful land composed of sand. What’s unique about this land is the structured sand: some areas have bigger, rougher sand, while the other areas have smaller, softer sand. We spent 1 hour at the land to take a lot of pictures before going on to snorkel at sniper, an area around Derawan Island where the corals are so big that you can even step on some of them. Satisfied with the beautiful corals and fish, we went back to Dive Resort to play banana boat. Banana boat is the end of day 3.
On the last day, we left Derawan at 8.30 AM. Arrived in Tarakan port at 11.30, we went straight to the town to have lunch. After lunch, we moved to mangrove forest to see bekantan (a breed of monkey with long nose), bought souvenirs, and took some rest at Rumah Adat (traditional house) before going back to the airport, to reality.
Overall, I would recommend all of you who are interested in coming to Derawan to actually go. The beach and islands are very pretty, regardless the high waves that might cause you sea nausea (it is recommended to go in April-May when the waves are normally not too bad). The crews of WisataKita are also very friendly and helpful, making us feel like a big family. The trip from Jakarta to Derawan is a long one but it was worth the time. 🙂
P.S.: Not recommended for older people since the activities mostly require strong physic.