A remote location to get to but an overnight stay in Balikpapan helped to break the jet lag; followed by the usual internal flight to Berau, 2.5 hour car ride and half hour speedboat. The internal flight over Kalimantan and the road trip through the edge of the jungle are well worth for the visuals alone.
Let's start with the main reason for visiting - the diving. There are 4 main dive locations to visit.
1. Maratua - has the best dive in my opinion, Barracuda Point. A reef hook is required but the sheer number of Barracuda make this dive site with the hundreds of fish seen in the shoals on both our dives here
2. Kakaban - a good variety of wall dives and another location to see a shoal of Barracuda though not in the numbers of Maratua. The Jellyfish lake is worth the visit during a surface interval
3. Sangalaki - the place for Mantas and we were lucky enough to see a number on one dive but they are by no means guaranteed and we did not see any on the other 6 dives we did at this site, look elsewhere if Mantas are a must see.
4. Derawan - lots of interesting small stuff - frogfish, pygmy seahorses, sea dragons, blue ringed octopus - also seen on some of the other dive sites
Overall Derawan is a worthwhile dive location, other than the sheer number of Barracuda and Turtles there is not an abundance of any one fish life simply rather a huge variety of different things to see both large and small, even Dolphins from the dive boat.
All the 3 main islands are on average an hours boat ride from Derawan. Dive guides, boat operation, nitrox availability are all excellent.
Some of the coral reefs and walls are simply stunning with very large soft and hard corals, unfortunately the effects of the previous local practice of dynamiting can be seen in places but the reef is recovering and should not deter you visiting.
The Dive lodge is located on the beach and is simple, it's all about the diving. The rooms are clean and functional, there is plenty of background noise from the local Mosque to the numerous roosters but a nights sleep is usually confirmed as the diving ensures you are tired!
Food - Lunch and Dinner very basic and consisting of rice / rice and more rice accompanied usually 3 dishes (chicken pieces / diced beef and fish) which though tasty after a few days does get very repetitive,the soup starters were excellent. Breakfast is sticky rice, rice (occasionally noodles) with tinned frankfurters and fried tomatoes but there was always toast available though the measly 2 slice toaster ensured a wait as nearly every guest wanted toast.
The lack of a kettle (just a hot water function on the water dispenser) is a downside as hot drinks were never quite hot enough.
The cold drinks of beer, sprite and coke were reasonably priced though frustratingly they did run out now and then
7 days was about right for the length of stay and if you have time a 2/3 mainland bolt on side trip to experience the jungle, see the wildlife and orangutans would be prudent.
Overall highly recommended, it is a very cost effective location with a wide variety of underwater life and reefs to see.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A unique dive destination for big fish, stingless jellyfish lake, Mantas, turtles and muck diving. Enjoy an adventure of a lifetime with Tasik Divers and stay with Derawan Dive Lodge. 10 room property with a good standard management. We offers PADI/NAUI and NITROX ... more less