Scuba Diving Kalimantan

Derawan Archipelago is one of the world’s richest areas in bio-diversity.  Some of the islands harbour the largest green turtle nesting sites in Indonesia.

Kalimantan Map

The Indonesian territory of Kalimantan makes up 2/3 of Borneo island. Well known for its tropical forests, rich natural resources, and exotic flora and fauna, Kalimantan offers a unique, unexplored world of its own. Originally inhabited by the Dayak, it is now home to 10 million inhabitants with a variety of culture. The indigenous Dayaks, or the Orang Gunung (Mountain People), traditionally live in longhouses called Lamin or Umaq Daru that can house as many as 50 people. Once known as headhunters, the tribe consists of many sub-tribes such as Iban, Punan and Banuaq. The arrival of newcomers has given this land a rich cultural mixture of Dayak, Malay, Chinese, Javanese plus religious influence of Islamic teachings and Hinduism.

SCUBA DIVING DERAWAN ARCHIPELAGO

Located just away from the mainland of East Kalimantan in the district of Berau, the Derawan archipelago comprises 31 islands, most well known among these are the islands of Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban. Here is Indonesia’s largest nesting site of the rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles, where one can daily watch turtles lay their eggs in the sand or swim to sea with the turtles. The entire marine conservancy region covers a total area of no less than 1.27 million hectares.

Here, you can find 460 different species of corals, ranking this area second only to the Raja Ampat Islands in West Papua. The Nature Conservancy and a team of international experts also found more than 870 species of fish here, ranging from tiny pygmy seahorses to giant manta rays. On some days, groups of up to 50 manta rays have been seen feeding together in Derawan’s waters, says the Conservancy.

Derawan archipelago have a large number of unique and protected species, among which are the coconut crabs, whales, dolphins and dugongs. The coconut crabs are found near the islands of Kakaban and Maratua, while whales and dolphins in particular months can be seen around Semama, Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua. Dugongs swim around Pulau Panjang and Semama, and manta rays are found around Sangalaki with pygmy seahorses around Semama and Derawan. Other protected species are the barracuda.

Dive sites around Derawan Archipelago
Baby Turtle at Palau Derawan
Jelly fish lake - Palau Kakaban Photo credit Jonathan Lin
Manta Ray at Sangalaki Photo credit - White Manta

HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS

Right in the middle of the world’s greatest marine biodiversity, Indonesia boasts more amazing diving destinations than anywhere else on earth.  Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) has five islands that are known for great diving:

Derawan Island  –  Derawan is a small oval shaped island, closet to the mainland of Kalimantan. Muck diving is very popular. There are excellent wall, cavern diving as well. The sea turtle, particularly the green turtle, is the star of the islands. You can easily spot a sea turtle swimming in the clear water in daylight. If you jump into the water, the chances are you will be swimming with several of them. The Derawan islands have served as a nesting and feeding area for an abundance of sea turtles, particularly green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Erethmochelys imbricata).

Maratua Island – Partially encircling a massive lagoon on one end and fringed with sheer rocky walls and coral reefs along the other end.This giant upside down U-shaped island covers about 384 square kilometers of sandy white beaches and mangrove forests. Turtles galore, schools of barracuda, sharks with the occasional thresher shark.

Sangalaki Island – Sangalaki‘s underwater scenery facinates everyone who sees it. Sighting Manta Alfredi (Pari Hantu) is very common in Sangalaki. It is also known as an island where turtles lay eggs. You could see this unique process during breeding season close-up

Kakaban island – You can find the world’s largest and most diverse jellyfish lake, including four unique species of stingless jellyfish one of which can swim upside down. It is for this reason that Kakaban is considered for UNESCO nomination as a World Heritage Site.

Samama Island – The island is surrounded with shallow reefs providing excellent opportunity for macro photographers. Myraid nudibranches, ribbon eels, sponges, flatworms, pipefish and pygmy seahorse are some of the often photographed objects.

Palau Derawan
Palau Sangalaki
Palau Kakaban
Palau Maratua

HIGHLIGHT DIVE SITES

Derawan Archipelago offers you the chance to see mantas, a lake of non-stinging jellyfish and schooling barracuda. Macro fans can enjoy the skills of well trained guides who will do their best to find pygmy seahorses, blue-ring octopus and frogfish.

More information on Dive Sites

DIVE INFORMATION

DIVE SEASON: Year-round. Best diving season is April – October.

VISIBILITY: Visibility here can be as low as 3m/9ft and averages about 20m/66ft with a maximum of 30m/98ft,

WATER TEMPERATURE: 28C/82F year round

WEATHER:  Sunny weather is quite commonplace on Kalimantan, although the area is noticeably drier between June and October, when precipitation levels are at their lowest.

SKILL LEVEL: Dives for all diver skill levels are readily available.

MARINE LIFE: The dive sites are famous for the large gatherings of manta rays at Sangalagi, a jellyfish lake on Kakaban, and frequent sharks and baracuda at Maratua. But the reefs in the Derawan archipelago also hold a lot of very interesting critters, beautiful nudibranchs, hidden crabs and shrimps and unusual fish such as ghost pipe fish, scorpion fish.

DIVE INFORMATION

DIVE SEASON: Year-round. Best diving season is April – October.

VISIBILITY: Visibility here can be as low as 3m/9ft and averages about 20m/66ft with a maximum of 30m/98ft,

WATER TEMPERATURE: 28C/82F year round

WEATHER:  Sunny weather is quite commonplace on Kalimantan, although the area is noticeably drier between June and October, when precipitation levels are at their lowest.

SKILL LEVEL: Dives for all diver skill levels are readily available.

MARINE LIFE: The dive sites are famous for the large gatherings of manta rays at Sangalagi, a jellyfish lake on Kakaban, and frequent sharks and baracuda at Maratua. But the reefs in the Derawan archipelago also hold a lot of very interesting critters, beautiful nudibranchs, hidden crabs and shrimps and unusual fish such as ghost pipe fish, scorpion fish.

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLIMATE: Tropical monsoon; wet (November to March) and dry (April to October)

TIME ZONE: Indonesia has three time zones—Western Indonesia Time which is GMT +7 (covering Sumatra, Java, Madura, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan), Central Indonesia Time which is GMT +8 (covering East and South Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali, Nusa Tenggara) and the last is Eastern Indonesia Time which is GMT +9 (covering Maluku and Irian Jaya). The capital Jakarta is GMT + 7 or 16 hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time.

LANGUAGE: Bahasa Indonesia is the national and official language in the entire country.

ELECTRICITY: Electric power supply is 220 volts in all regions. So be careful with your 110-volt electronic equipment. The sockets will only fit with with two pins rounded-tip plugs (technically known as Type C, E, and F) or use adaptors.

CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The Indonesia Rupiah (Rp) is also called IDR. IDR and US$ are the most acceptable currencies. Most tourism resorts have money changer facilities. When you are traveling to remote areas it is advisable to exchange your money and clear your check. Credit cards are only acceptable in big hotels, restaurants, shops and traveling agencies.

GRATUITIES: Most hotels add a 10% service charge to the bill on top of the 10% tax. In restaurants where service charge is not added, a tip of 5 to 10% on the bill will be appropriate depending on the service and type of establishment.

PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Country code +62. Most hotels and many restaurants in large cities provide internet connections or free WiFi.

VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS:  All travelers to Indonesia must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival, and have proof (tickets) of onward or return passage. Visa upon arrival is $35 Payable by USD cash only. Please check with your country if you are eligible for visa upon arrival. Visa-on-Arrival are valid for 30 days and are extendable with another 30 days to be applied at Immigration offices in Indonesia.

CUSTOMS:   Maximum items allowed by customs when you visit Indonesia, 1 liter of alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes OR 50 cigars OR 100 grams of tobacco, Reasonable amount of perfume per adult, meaning if you arrive drenched in perfume the customs probably will not mind you carrying loads of bottles, Cameras, video cameras, portable radios, cassette recorders, binoculars and sport equipments are admitted provided they are taken out on departure. They must be declared to Customs.

DEPARTURE TAX: An airport tax of IDR150,000 – IDR200,000 is levied by airports on departing passengers on international flights and IDR30,000-IDR75,000 for those on domestic routes. Airport tax must be paid in Rupiah cash.

GETTING THERE: The international airport in Kalimantan is Balikpapan (BPN).  The domestic flight to Berau Airport for car and boat transfer to Derawan archipelago.

Kalimantan International airport: Sultan Aji Muhamad Sulaiman Airport (BPN) in Balikpapan

USEFUL INFORMATION

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