East Borneo SCUBA Dive Sites

Category: IndonesiaEast Borneo
Not far from the disputed area between Malaysia and Indonesia in the eastern part of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), in fact not far from the once disputed Sipadan island which is also famed for its diving, there is a group of islands with top notch diving. Not as famous as its neighbour in the north, the islands offer – according to some – better variety in both the diving itself and the marine life. This group of islands is located off Kabupaten Berau in East Kalimantan, off the mouth of the big Berau river. There are several islands usually visited for diving, among them are Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban, Maratua, Nabucco and Samama. Among these, Kakaban is probably the most unique. This island hosts a unique landlocked saltwater lake, similar to the one found in Palau. Once part of the sea, the lagoon fringed by atoll was uplifted by tectonic forces and separated from the sea thousands of years ago. The lake hosts thousands of jellyfish, which after thousands of years of freedom from predators have evolved into a stingless form. Diving around Kakaban is also superb, offering different marine creatures, from schools of barracuda to tiny pigmy sea horse. Sangalaki's specialty is in manta rays, and Derawan's are turtles. Apart from its impressive wall diving, the island of Maratua can offer an adrenaline rush type of dive. This island is the emerged part of the fringing reef surrounding a lagoon. There's an underwater channel cutting the northeastern part of the fringing reef, connecting the lagoon with the sea. Dive when the tide is going in, starting from the mouth of the channel in the sea, and you'll be in for a jet coaster ride. The water would rush in forcefully, creating a very strong current that will literally throw us to the middle of the lagoon. Diving during the time when the tide is going out is very dangerous, however, because strong down current is created at the mouth of the channel as water pours out of the lagoon into the sea.
Reef type: Slope, wall
Access: An hour flight from Balikpapan to Tanjung Redeb, followed by 2.5 hours of boat ride along Berau River and to the islands.
Visibility: 15-30m
Current: Mild to very strong
Coral condition: Generally healthy, with some evidence of bomb and cyanide fishing in a few areas
Marine life: Manta Ray, eagle ray, turtles, barracuda, pigmy sea horse, and stingless jellyfish in Kakaban Lake
Highlights: Kakaban Saltwater lake with the stingless jellyfish, Manta Ray in Sangalaki, drift dive in Maratua channel
Accomodation: Budget to expensive dive resorts in Derawan, a good dive resort in Sangalaki and a top notch dive resort in Nabucco island
Difficulty: Easy to difficult