Macro: diving on the islands of the archipelago of Derawan Islands sure Borneo has a nice variety of possibilities. I mainly went there to dive with the manta rays Sangalaki, but the harmless jellyfish lake of Kakaban also worth a visit, as well as dives in Maratua and Kakaban. The destination is not yet well known, so everything was not easy to organize my diving trip to Borneo, There is not a lot of diving clubs or hotels and very few on liveaboards proposed. Still a little complicated to access, at least when you are there, you are rather quiet, there are not many people diving spots !

Background: Derawan is part of my 3 month trip to Asia during which I wanted to do all the best diving spots. I stayed there for two weeks and did 8 dives.

# Overview
# Presentation 
# Derawan Islands
# Sangalaki (manta ray) # Kakaban (jellyfish lake) # Maratua
# Diving on the Derawan Islands
# Liveaboard diving cruise
# Seasons and conditions
# Diving club
# Accommodation
# How to get there
# My diving review

ile de maratua derawan borneo indoensie


derawan island-min

  • Best Derawan Diving Season : April to November.
  • Sangalaki : cleaning station with manta rays.
  • Kakaban : a lake full of harmless jellyfish.
  • Diving in Derawan : not great.
  • Diving in Sangalaki : apart from the mantas, the other dives are not worth it.
  • Diving in Kakaban : only barracuda point, the other dives are not worth it.
  • Diving in Maratua : the best island to dive. The Big fish country site is absolutely to do!
  • Common Marine Life : turtle, reef sharks, classic Indonesian fish.
  • Recommended level : Advanced / N2 but open water / N1 can go.
  • Access : land in Borneo, reach Berau (airport), take the boat to Tanjung Batu.
Logo-plongeur-baroudeurRecommendations by category of divers:

> New diver : good for a baptism or spend your open water.
> Confirmed : good, but you have sites just as good and more accessible.
> Experienced : nothing special, go to Sipadan if you are in Borneo.
#Overview #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #Bira #Center #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Where is Derawan?

  • "Derawan" is actually a Derawan archipelago and includes 31 islands.
  • It is located in the Celebes Sea off the coast of the Indonesian part of Borneo
  • The largest and most famous islands are: Derawan Islands (it is also the name of one of the islands), Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua.

Dive map of the derawan islands in Borneo

carte sites de plongee iles derawan borneo indonesie

#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Where is Derawan Island?

derawan vue dessus-min

  • The island of Derawan is the main island of the archipelago and closest to the coast.
  • It's here more developed.
  • It has the most accommodation and diving centers.

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Diving in Derawan reviews

  • I did a dive in Derawan and that was enough for me! Not terrible…
  • If you're experienced, I do not think it's worth diving into Derawan.

Diving sites in Derawan

carte sites de plongee derawan borneo indonesie

#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Where is the island of Sangalaki?

photo sangalaki-min

  • Sangalaki is a beautiful little island which has beautiful beaches and is surrounded by a beautiful lagoon.
  • It is particularly known for being a cleaning station at manta rays and a place where the turtles come to lay eggs.

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Sangalaki manta rays

6Black manta (Derawan)-min

  • Sangalaki is what is called a " cleaning station " at manta rays.
  • That is to say a place where manta rays gather to be "cleansed" by cleaning fish.
  • The latter rid them of their parasites, dead skin, damaged tissue ...

2Manta - side close (Derawan)-min

  • I did 2 dives and 2 snorkeling with the mantas rays of Sangalaki. I saw dozens of mantas each time!!
  • On a dive I had to see 30 !!!

The full article on dives with manta rays from Sangalaki

Sangalaki manta ray diving video

Sangalaki manta ray pictures

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Diving in Sangalaki reviews

  • In my opinion, apart from the manta rays it's not worth doing other dives in Sangalaki.
  • It is worth better dive in Maratua or Kakaban.

Sangalaki dive sites

carte sites de plongee sangalaki indonesie

The best dive sites in Sangalaki: Manta avenue and Manta parade

As their name suggests, these are two sites where you will have most likely to be on the passage of mantas rays.

Sangalaki is a turtle sanctuary

sangalaki turtle 1-min

  • Sangalaki is one of those islands where turtles are born and return to lay their turn. So you have (in addition to manta rays) turtles all around Sangalaki !
  • There is a turtle conservation program on the island.
  • They collect turtle eggs and protect predators.


#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Where is the island of Kakaban?

  • If you come to Derawan Islands, a day trip to Kakaban is mandatory.
  • Of course to dive, but especially to live a unique experience: snorkel with harmless jellyfish !

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A lake of harmless jellyfish in Kakaban

In the middle of the island of Kakaban is therefore a very particular lake, filled with harmless jellyfish. There is no that two places in the world proposing this particularitySo, Kakaban and Koror Island on Palau.

22Jellyfish (Derawan)-min

  • Origin of this phenomenon
    This lake was originally a lagoon surrounded by a coral atoll but a geological movement millions of years ago lifted the atoll, creating this lake cut off from the ocean and imprisoning all these marine inhabitants. In addition to jellyfish, there are other species like sea cucumbers, crustaceans, anemones, nudibranchs that have also adapted to this new ecosystem.
  • Why are Kakaban's jellyfish harmless?
    Jellyfish having more predators (turtles, tuna ...), they have little by little lost their natural system of defensethey do not sting anymore! So you can touch them nothing will happen!
    Do not hesitate to go far from the edge, the further you go, the more jellyfish.


  • Kakaban Jellyfish Lake Info
    • Number of jellyfish: thousands!
    • 4 different species of jellyfish are present.
    • Maximum depth: 17 m.
    • Size: 5 km2
    • Visibility: quite reduced (5-10m)
    • A mixture of seawater and rainwater.
    • Other species in the lake: sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, gobies…

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Diving in Kakaban reviews

  • On Kakaban, you have to dive in Barracuda point, it's the best site on the island.
  • The others are not very interesting for confirmed divers.

Kakaban dive sites

carte sites de plongee kakaban ile derawana indonesie

Best Kakaban dive site: Barracuda point

A site subject to the current, where the eagle rays frequently pass, reef sharks are always in the game and of course we meet barracudas !

#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Where is the island of Maratua?

  • The island is very large, U-shaped upside down and is extended by a submerged reef.
  • Less populated than Derawan, it is mainly inhabited by fishermen.
  • There are a few resorts there (the Maratua paradise resort for example).
  • It is possible to stay there, but the island is really very underdeveloped…

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Diving in Maratua reviews

  • Apart from the mantas of Sangalaki, the dives of Maratua are the best of the Derawan area.
  • The must-visit site is Big fish country (or the Channel), to do absolutely!

Maratua dive sites

carte sites de plongee maratua iles derawan indonesie

Best Maratua diving site: Big fish country or "the channel"

5barracuda - huge school (Derawan)-min

  • The site where there is the strongest current around Maratua.
  • For this dive you will arrive to the canal entrance and you "park" with a crocher and will only have admire the show in front of you!
  • There is a huge school of barracudas and resident jacks, eagle rays who can pass, reef sharks and gray sharks that crisscross, rifle benches, from rainbow runners ...
  • To do absolutely but only for confirmed! 

Other recommended sites by the locals: Small fish country (Passade of eagle rays), Shark point (sharks) and Turtle bay (Turtles).

#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Diving prices in Derawan and organization

So that's what was the hardest to handle for me : not many centers diving, not many other divers and access to the islands (Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua) which is quite expensive :

  • Price of a dive : 300,000 RP
  • Derawan to Sangalaki route (to share among the number of people): 1,5M RP
  • Derawan to Kakaban (to share among the number of people): 1.8M RP
  • Derawan to Maratua (to share among the number of people): 2,5M RP

Recommendation for diving in Derawan:

  • 1 or 2 days in Sangalaki : 1 day diving for example and a day snorkeling.
  • 1 day in Kakaban : this lake of harmless jellyfish is still very particular, it is a unique experience. In addition you pair it with 2 dives on Kakaban (you have to do absolutely Barracuda point).
  • 1 day in Maratua : do absolutely Big fish country, great site.
#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


All diving cruises for Borneo and Derawan here

  • TamboraAs written above, the boat trips from one island to another to go diving are
    • Independent of the price of the dive itself and can be quite expensive.
    • Depending on the number of people
  • There are some liveaboards that offer diving cruises at certain times (roughly from May to August), such as Tambora, theIllike or theAggressor.
  • In the end, when you add up all the costs, thee liveaboard is a good solution for experienced divers to take full advantage of all the islands around Derawan (Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua).
#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


The diving season in Derawan is considered to be from March to November.

18Manta - side close (Derawan)-min

When to dive in Derawan?

  • Avoid the rainy season in Derawan of December to February.
  • The best diving season with manta rays in Sangalaki is from March to November (see Sangalaki article here).

Diving conditions Derawan Islands :

  • Visibility in Derawan : 20 m.
  • Derawan water temperature : 26-28 °.
  • Current Derawan Islands : it depends on the sites, some may have strong currents.
#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


The best dive centers in Derawan Islands

So that's one of the problems in the Derawan area, not many dive centers.

  • The 2 biggest dive centers in Derawan are Derawan dive lodge and Derawan dive resortderawan dive lodge-min
  • Scuba junkie : Since my passage, Scuba Junkie has opened a center on Derawan (they also have centers to Sipadan and Komodo). I did not dive with them, but they did very good reputation.
  • Derawan ocean divers : I dipped with them, everything went well. It is rather a "local" center, they will surely not be at the level of service quality of the other 3 higher but nice and flexible.

French diving club in Derawan Islands

  • There are not to my knowledge of French-speaking diving club in Derawan.
  • I advise you send an email before to check those who may have French speaking staff.
#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Derawan diving hotel

derawan dive resort-min.jpg


Maratua diving hotel

Hotel diving Sangalaki and Kakaban

There are no hotels or other accommodation in Sangalaki or Kakaban.

#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


Arrive in Borneo and join Berau

  • You will first have to arrive on the island of Borneo
  • With all the airports of the island on the Indonesia or Malaysia side, there are several possibilities to get to Derawan: Balikpapan, Kota Kinabalu or Berau directly.
  • The objective is to join Berau, who is the nearest airport to Derawan.

carte comment aller aux iles derawan borneo indonesie

Berau to Tanjung Batu

The easiest way is to take a taxi (around 2-3h / 500,000 RP).

Tanjung Batu to Derawan journey by boat

  • Once in Tanjung Batu, you will have to take a boat to go to Derawan (or Maratua).
  • So, it is not organized like in other destinations in Indonesiathere is no no public boat. It will take take a private speedboat.
  • You will probably have to negotiate surely negotiate and be patient (Speed boats leave when they are full).
  • A reasonable price seems to be 200,000 RP, but they will surely announce 350 000 RP at the beginning ...

I advise to book your accommodation before and  organize transportation from Berau to Derawan with your own (taxi + boat).

#Overview #Presentation #Derawan Islands #Sangalaki #Kakaban #Maratua #Diving with #Liveaboards #seasons #Dive centers #Accommodation #Get to #My diving review


I am not disappointed with my visit to Derawan, dive with manta rays from Sangalaki will remain unforgettable and the jellyfish lake was of course a unique experience. Then, purely diving side, apart from Big fish country on Maratua, which is a great site and Barracuda point on Kakaban, the site quality is far from what I have seen elsewhere in Indonesia (Raja Ampat, Komodo…). In addition, theto go to dive sites has not always been very easy. Je therefore will not recommend Derawan to everyone.

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