Dancing Jellyfish in East Kalimantan

On August 8, 2015 by Novita Karana

swimming with jellyfish - kakabanIf someone ask you to visit East Kalimantan – Indonesia, just say yes.
Trust me.
I promise you won’t regret your decision.

On August 2015, i made a sudden decision trip to East Kalimantan to visit Derawan Island, Samama Island, Gusung Sanggalau Sand Island, Kakaban Island, Sangalaki Island, and Maratua Island.
We are 10 persons and joined on the spot with 2 doctors and 1 family. So it’s 17 persons of us.
The participants of the trip also very unique. 2 dentist, 2 doctors, 1 grand mother 81 years old, and teenager 17 years old.
Thank you for made the summer trip awesome Shiril, Sugeng, Ii, Ema, Randy, Lica, Dede Indah, Shinta, Devy, Bu dokter Lia, Oom Agus, Oryza dan keluarga :D

There are 2 alternative routes to reach Derawan Island, from Berau City or from Tarakan City. I suggest you to choose from Berau City. What’s the difference?

If you have no problem with sea sick, and you like to have yourself sailing for 3 hours and enjoy the tide that can reach 3 – 4 meters high (sometime), you should choose Tarakan Arrival.
If you like to have yourself driving for 3 hours with scenery, you should choose Berau Arrival.

Derawan-Map-and-JourneyMe? I chose Berau Arrival for sure. From Jakarta, you need 2 flights, 3 hours driving, and 2o minutes sailing with speed boat to reach these hidden gems.

You can see the ilustration for Tarakan Arrival here:
– First, fly from Jakarta to Balikpapan (2 hours and 5 minutes)
– Second, fly from Balikpapan to Tarakan (1 hour)
– Third, driving from Tarakan to Harbour (3o minutes)
– Fourth, sailing with speed boat from Harbour to Derawan Island (3 hours, and sometime followed by 3-4meters tide)

You can see the ilustration for Berau Arrival here:
– First, fly from Jakarta to Balikpapan (2 hours and 5 minutes)
– Second, fly from Balikpapan to Berau (5o minutes)
– Third, driving from Berau to Tanjung Batu Harbour (2,5 – 3 hours)
– Fourth, sailing with speed boat from Tanjung Batu Harbour to Derawan Island. (20 minutes)

For this route, I suggest you to choose this flight:
Jakarta to Balikpapan by Garuda Indonesia 05:30AM-08:50AM
(Sometime it feel sucks, but yes,  you have to wake up early to start a holiday)
Balikpapan to Berau by Garuda Indonesia 10:00AM – 10:50AM
(Choose the connecting flight, so you don’t have to collect your luggage at Balikpapan)
Berau to Bslikpapan by Garuda Indonesia 14:55PM – 15:50PM
Balikpapan to Jakarta by Garuda Indonesia 17:55PM – 19:00PM

For window seat lovers, i do recommend you to do web check in and choose right side seat. You will reward with view. The left one is view from Jakarta to Balikpapan, and the right one is view from Balikpapan to Berau.
morning view flight from jakarta to berau

On Day 01, upon arrival at Berau, we were looking for proper restaurant for lunch. And most of the restaurants are closed since we visit at Iedul Fitri Holiday. And we stranded at Amethyst Restaurant with purple colour paint exterior. We recommend Amethyst Restaurant for lunch after you arrive at Berau. For your note their operational hours are:
Open morning and afternoon: They open from 09:00AM – 03:00PM
Afternoon break: They closed for 2 hours from 03:00PM to 05:00PM
Afternoon and evening: They open again from 05:00PM – 10:00PM.
Everything are delicious. We ordered cap cay (recommend, don’t judge the taste from the standard serving), calamary, crab, chicken with butter sauce, fresh orange juice. Happy tummy happy purse. Grandmother also raised two thumbs up for the food, and directly said to the chefs. Thank you ii Lo Yu Yun for the treats.

recommended restaurant in Berau
And this is Tanjung Batu Harbour and our speed boat to Derawan Island:
tanjung mata harbour and speed boat

Day 01: Derawan Arrival. On first day, you will spent most of your day to reach Derawan. Enjoy  your first sunset before you have dinner at local restaurant.
Day 02: Snorkeling 2 spots at Samama Island – Relax at Gusung Sanggalau Island – Snorkelling at Sea Turtle Point – Back to Derawan Island. (Note: If you choose 3 Days 2 Night Package, you will not do this itinerary)
If you want to visit Nabucco, the additional is Rp. 400.000/pax.
Day 03: Maratua Island – Kakaban Island – Sangalaki Island – Back to Derawan Island
Day 04: Departure. You have option for banana boat ride or doughnut boat ride in the morning (on your own expense) before you transfer to airport.

For internet and data connection, i will tell you based on my and my friends’ experience:
XL : I use XL. XL has pretty good signal in Derawan. But sometimes XL losed the signal for 30 minutes in night.
Telkomsel Simpati :  Also pretty good like XL. We can update and posting around Derawan Island.
Indosat :  Indosat is not good as XL and Telkomsel.

Note to Remember: After you sailing or do island hoping, the internet signal will down to zero. Yes, TO ZERO.
So you will enjoy your holiday without the signal and internet connection.

1) Buy the good sim card (XL or Telkomsel) before your flight and activate your package.
2) After depart from Derawan to do island hoping, set your device to airplane mode to save the battery energy.
Derawan provides shops that sell sim card and internet package.

There are money changer in Derawan and ATM Bank Kaltim (the one and only)

For breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served by Warung Nur. Warung Nur has local home made food, and i love their sweet sour kakap fish cooked. You know? Farah Queen was here! You can find her picture on the wall. If you love seafood, you will love their kakap fish and chips. Warung Nur always use sign close Tutup (Closed), that’s why because Warung Nur usually served tour and all the tables already booked. If you want to add some food, you can order directly. Warung Nur is ready for foreigner, you can see the menu comes in English :)

warung nur derawan

On day 2 and 3, the lunch will be served in box, completed with banana, chips, and mineral cup. The guide will bring you a box of mineral cup, so you will have enough water supply.

sample meal box

For snacking, don’t worry, you won’t get hungry. At the back of your water villa, the locals sells cigarette, instant noodle, instan noodle cup (pop mie), coffee, grilled corn, french fries with seasoning powder (you can choose the flavour), grilled fish, and etc. All foods are sold with normal price. Like mineral water bottle for Rp. 5000/bottle.

I love to buy local souvenirs at the destination that i visit. It helps the local and also you will have memories of the place. Most of souvernirs come with green sea turtle thematic.
The price of souvenirs when i visit: tshirt with good quality Rp. 100.000. Ring Rp. 5.000. Refrigerator Magnet with sea turtle shape for Rp. 10.000. Bracelet around Rp. 15.000 – Rp. 20.000. Necklace around Rp. 20.000 – Rp. 40.000.
hand made souvenirs

I stayed at Derawan Island. Basically most of the tourists stay in Derawan Island.
Derawan means Perawan (in Indonesia language), means the Virgin Woman
Sangalaki (in Indonesia language), means Man, and
Maratua (in Indonesia language), means Parents in Law.

This is the Derawan village looks like:
Derawan Village

There are 2 inhabited islands in this area: Derawan (44,6 hectare with 1259 people) and Maratua (2375 hectare with 2704 people). Derawan Island has 2 types of accomodation. Water villa and homestay (not water villa).
Behind the water villa there’s a bridge that connected the water villa to the local village and homestay.
The picture below is our accomodation in Derawan. There’re lot of water villas in there, choose the one with wooden balcony facing the sea, it will make your afternoon perfect with coffee, tea and friends.
The water villa exterior view :
water villa exterior view

The morning view when you open your door. The left one is from the 3 rooms at the left of the villa. The right one is from the right side of villa:
water villa morning view

And this is from wooden balcony view. The speed boat will park righ in front of your villa to pick you up.
from the balcony

The water villa interior view. The water villa has 6 rooms with toilet inside which are all twin rooms with 1 extra bed/ room.

Water villa interior view

The water villa facilities are:
– Twin bed Room with 1 blanket/bed and 1 pillow/bed
– Air Conditioner that running well. I shut the AC off around 3AM because it already cold outside
– 1 Towel
– 1 extra bed in every room
– Toilet inside the room with shower (cold water), seat toilet, jetwasher, tissue paper.
– 2 coffee cup , black coffee, sugar, tea.
– Thermos with hot water

Suggested Things to Bring:
– 1 small towel for snorkeling
– Cable extention with at least 4 sockets, because the room only have 1 electricity socket
– Plastic bag for wet clothes
– Toiletries: Shampoo, Hair Contioner, Body Soap, Face Soap, Tooth Brush, Tooth Paste
– Sun block (but DON’T WEAR sunblock on the day that you swim with jellyfish. i heard sunblock can poisoned the jellies)
– Sunglasses
– Your favourite coffee sachet (if any)
– Cotton bud
– Dry tisue and wet tissue
– Aloe Vera Gel for sun burnt or veseline petroleum gel

The view after sunset around the water villa, don’t be surprise when you look upstairs and found the milky way :)
after sunset

Gusung Sanggalau is a sand island that will appear when the water receding.
After step yourself to the white sandy beach, i guarantee, you will get yourself tan with lot of poses and photographs.
Get ready to empty your memory card because this island will drowned your memory card.
I did the same, 45 minutes activity is for photographs and group photo.

gusung sanggalau kapanlibur


hot day in gusung sanggalauKAKABAN ISLAND
Kakaban Island is a home for 4 types stingless jellyfish. You will be welcomed with a long wooden bridge that bring you into Kakaban Gate. To reach the gate, you will climb 1 meter wooden stairs from your speed boat. We had our lunch box here before do a short trek to the lake.
Before swim to Kakaban Lake, please take a note to:
1) Go to toilet first. After enter the gate, there are 2 toilets, one for man and one for woman,
2) Remember NOT TO USE sunblock. The guide said sunblock can made the jellyfish poisoned. Imagine how many persons will jump into the lake in one day.
3) And please don’t wear fin. Fin can make jellyfish cut into pieces. So let’s save the stingless jellyfish with wear no sunblock and no fin.

Kakaban Gate and Trek

Do a short fun trekking for 10 minutes, and you will arrive at Kakaban Lake. The magical lake will make you forget the time and enter the turqouise dream of dancing jellyfish. The trek is really good, there’s wooden stairs with typical Borneo trees surround you with some birds’ chirp will accompany your journey.  Jump into the lake and swimming until you reach in the middle of the lake. The middle of the lake is a good spot to swim with jellyfish and do lots of photo with good lighting. My photo at the side of the lake has not good enough sun light and sometime the water is not clear as the water in the middle. You can see the jellyfish were swimming near the surface surround me :)the Kakaban Lake

My tips to enjoy the lake:
1) Swimming at one spot first, and wait there until 3-4 minutes. The jellyfish will come and dancing surround you. After that you can swim again to see another spots.
2) Try to find 4 types of jellyfish
3) Take a picture in the middle of the lake, where sun light are good enough for underwater photo. Below is the picture with some composition of dancing jellyfish in some spots. You can see the different of the turquise color background.
4) Ask your friend or guide to make a picture of you. My best picture is when taken from my friend. You will get a wide angle than just selfie. Selfie is important, i know. But you have to get your picture taken by your friend/guide also.
5) Set your underwater camera to mutishot if they can do it.

some composition of jellyfish

The formation of jellyfish will surprise you. And there’s a baby jellyfish too :)composition of jellyfish

East Borneo has another surprise for you: Sangalaki Island. After end the turquise dream with jellyfish, you will continue the journey by manta ray hunting. If you’re lucky, you will meet the friendly manta near Sangalaki Island.
Me and my friends were lucky enough. We were sailing with 4 manta swimming at surface surronding our speed boat. I think they don’t afraid of speed boat.

The guide and the boat crew will find the best spot to stop the speed boat. I bet you want to jump directly into the sea when you see the manta family swimming very near to you. But we have to be patient, we have to wait the speed boat to stop, since the tide is pretty big at the moment. The guide will jump into the sea to check the tide first. After everything safe, they will let you jump into the sea.

swimming with manta ray

After swimming with manta around 45 minutes, we are heading to Sangalaki Island to meet baby sea turtles. Usually the baby sea turtles will keep at the conservation for 1 day to 2 days. After cuddling session with sea turtles, you can explore the island, or have a cup of coffee at the cafe by the beach. The price here is pretty expensive. YouC for Rp. 25.000,- and ABC Susu Coffee for Rp. 20.000,- :))

Near Derawan, there’s a small island named Samama Island. Our first snorkeling experience is Samama. The underwater is so so and find the Green Carpet (Karpet Cendol) down there.  Most of fish is the little one and they were swimming in group :)) My underwater camera can do zoom mode (The beautiful fish keep running away when i swim towards them :)), if you want to see more colourful fish, you can drop at my friends facebook or instagram : @shirilpa.
snorkeling samama island

Another snorkeling spot. Not so many fishes that caught with gopro. But we really have fun down there :))

snorkeling spot2

Near Derawan Island, we stop the boat and do snorkeling for see the green sea turtles. Some old sea turtles were laying on the bottom, maybe sleeping or daydreaming. Our guide did a wake up and the sea turtle start swimming and we’re follow behind the sea turtle.

sea turtle snorkeling point

We were waiting to enter the Kakaban Gate. The crew are really concerned about how many persons that jump into the lake. Once they feel the person is too much, we have to wait for 30 minutes. We killed the time by checking underwater in fornt of the island.

If you love to have your morning a little bit different, wake up early around 7AM, and do the banana boat for 15 minutes. The price for banana boat is Rp. 150.000 for 15 minutes for 6 persons. Pretty cheap and will make your morning alive. We did banana boat before take a bath and breakfast.

Banana Boat at Derawan

Sepinggan New Airport made me surprised.  The interior decoration make me remember the super trees in Singapore.
And if you want to smoke, you have to spend at least Rp. 40.000 at the mini market. Yes, Rp. 40.000/person. After that, you can enter the smoking room. Sepinggan Airport also has tshirt vending machine. How cool! and we got meet the owner in person. He will open the tshirt vending machine in Ngurah Rai, Denpasar Bali.

If you don’t have time to go outside the airport, Sepinggan offers Dandito Crab Airport that you can taste at departure area. Choose the Dandito Special sauce. If you have enough time, i suggest you to go outside if you want to try Dandito Crab. The crab in the airport is frozen one not alive.
Sepinggan New Airport


If you looking for Borneo souvenirs, you can find the one with good quality at Berau Airport.
When arrive at the airport, get your boarding pass and enter the departure area as soon as you can be.
There’s I coffee shop with good coffee and Simonelli machine. Beside the coffee shop, there’s one souvenir shop.
The price is expensive but the quality is very good. I got colourful bracelet for Rp. 50.000 each
Refrigerator magnet for Rp. 45.000 each.
Necklace for Rp. 180.000-Rp.200.000 each

Berau Airport



So, let’s do this again, guys! Derawan Full Team,let'sdo this again!



2 Responses to “Dancing Jellyfish in East Kalimantan”

  • wonderful piece of virtual tour. You have covered almost everything. I liked villa’s pictures and of course grilled fish and stingless jellyfish. lol
    My favourite would be view from the villa at the time of dawn and dusk with a hot cup of coffee and my camera.
    How many maximum number of persons can be managed here.
    Tanveer Sadiq

    • Yes, Derawan Island and some island in East Kalimantan is very beautiful.
      Come and visit Indonesia, Mr. Tanveer.

      The standard villa that i used has 6 rooms. 1 room fits for 12 persons.
      There are premium villas can fits for 30 – 40 persons with different type of rooms.

      Yes, my favourite also the view from the balcony when dawn and dusk, waiting the sun rise and also the moon to come.

      Let me know if you want to make a trip there :)

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