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Green turtle

Scuba diving off Indonesian Kalimantan may not be well known but it is fantastic. Part of the island of Borneo, this area is home to one of the regions richest and most biodiverse marine environments, the Derawan Island chain.

Stretching along the coast opposite the Berau River delta, marine surveys have concluded this area had the world’s second highest hard coral diversity (after the Raja Ampat Islands) and was submitted to the World Heritage Organisation for consideration as a site of special interest.

The best known islands for scuba diving include Sangalaki, the largest Indonesian nesting site for green turtles and with a resident manta population; Derawan, known for a high level of critters; Kakaban, the world’s largest and most diverse jellyfish lake, with four unique stingless species and the largest island in the group, Maratua, which sees large populations of pelagic species like barracuda, turtles and thresher sharks.

Maratua dive photo gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life Turtles
Jellyfish Lake
Top dive site The Channel
Seasons All year
Visibility 10 – 40 metres
Water temperature 25 – 32º C
Deco chambers Manado, Bali
Flights to Balikpapan then 1 hour transfer flight to Berau, then 3+ hour boat transfer.
Dive operators and accommodation There is a resort on Derawan and three on Maratua. Sangalaki is currently closed. Liveaboards visit occasionally.

Flying into Balikpapan, the largest city on Kalimantan, is straightforward as Singapore Airlines subsidiary, Silk Air has a direct daily flight. However, from there to the offshore islands is a bit of a haul (see right).


All the islands are ringed by coral reefs with varying geographical features. There are steep walls on Maratua and Kakaban while Sangalaki has gentle slopes. The diving is year-round with typically tropical weather. Water temperatures when we visited were consistently higher than expected, often reaching over 28ºC. Visibility could be low due to run off from the Berau River. The further offshore you go, the better it gets. Maratua tends to have the best visibility. Currents can be strong.


Once diving on nearby Sipadan was restricted, the Derawan Islands started to get a bit more notice. Not far south of the Sipadan-Mabul-Kapalai triangle, we found the diving around Maratua-Sangalaki-Kakaban equally rewarding. The big animals seen at Sipadan's Barracuda Point are reflected by Maratua's The Channel, and so on.

If you like to explore new destinations and aren't looking for top level luxury, then this area is really worth it the trip. We stayed on Maratua and really enjoyed it, although from there you cannot dive on Derawan as the distance between islands is too far. We never saw the famed mantas at Sangalaki but we saw thresher sharks several times and more turtles than we have seen anywhere else.

Complete reports on this area are in
Diving Southeast Asia.

The digital edition is on iTunes.

Buy the print edition direct from SeaFocus here.

IMAGES on this page are available as prints. Take a note of the name then go to the photo order form.

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