Diving in Kalimantan

* Derawan Island * Sangalaki

Diving in Kalimantan

Derawan Island

Located on the Northeast coast of Kalimantan, Indonesia, lays a small tropical island called Derawan, which has access to Mantas and turtles, as well as some excellent cave, wall and pier dives. Add to this a dive resort surrounded by white sand beaches with crystal clear water, and you have the recipe for a perfect dive holiday. The diving from Derawan is shared between three islands, Derawan, Sangalaki and Kakaban, and on occasions, when the conditions are suitable, Maratua Island is also visited. The Bajaou people, who are famous for their skill of swimming and fishing, inhabit these beautiful islands. People here also very concern about the marine life, especially the green turtle. They help government to protect this rare animal, and that make all turtles not afraid come ashore and play with the Bajou l s kid.

Derawan Island provides diverse types of diving, ranging from spectacular wall dives to wreck and shore dives. As well as an ever-dominant presence of turtles, cruise the reef edge in deeper water, there is an incredible diversity of small marine life in the shallows. One of the many Dive Sitess available at Derawan, a few really stands out in my mind.

Derawan Island Dive Sites


Derawan Island Dive Site

Derawan Island Dive Site


The Shipwreck is a favorite among many divers as it is only 220 yards from the resort and has a maximum depth of 88 feet. This is an enjoyable yet simple dive, as the wreck sits on a sandy bottom at the base of a beautiful coral slope. Being nothing more than a burntout hulk, the attraction is not so much the wreck, but the marine life around it. With scorpion fish, Giant Clams, cuttlefish and Ribbon Eels, the wreck is always full of surprises.   Back to top

The Ship Wreck


If wall diving is your forte, then Blue Trigger Point may be what you are after. The clear, deep blue, nutrient-rich waters provide an excellent base for the gorgonian fans, black coral trees and soft corals to spread out their feeding polyps, and give valuable shelter to myriad tiny animals. Ornate Ghost Pipefish, hawk fish, shrimps and crabs are all found here, as are scores of trevally, barracuda and vibrant fusiliers. On the reef top an abundance of Blue Triggerfish gives this site its name.   Back to top

Blue Triggerfish - Derawan

Blue Trigger Fish


Other popular Dive Sitess at Derawan are Lighthouse, Snapper Point and the Old Pier. You will find Snapper Point and Lighthouse similar to Blue Trigger in many ways and thought the Old Pier dive average. Of course, everywhere you dive around Derawan, you are bound to bump into a friendly turtle.   Back to top


Sangalaki is famous for large groups of mantas that come here to feed on the plankton. This little island was opened for diving in 1 993. It is a uninhabitant island and use by the WWF as the conservation area for green turtle. Sangalaki l s shallow reef system extends over 200 meters from the island, apart from some steep coral ridges in places, generally falls away gradually and most diving is undertaken in water up to a depth of 25 meters. Sangalaki and its surrounding reefs are protected as an Indonesian Marine Park. Without the destructive effects of explosives and cyanide fishing, Sangalaki has remained a pristine example of an untouched tropical marine ecosystem. The island itself is a breeding ground for green turtles. At night female turtles come ashore and lay their eggs and small baby turtles can be seen regularly as they hatch and desperately struggle their way to the sea whilst dodging hungry birds.

A superb dive spot where big numbers of manta rays frolic all year round is just over the border from Sabah and in fact in Indonesian Borneo is the island of Sangalaki. Many destinations claim that mantas are frequent visitors but few can truly lay claim to having resident mantas all year round, and so many of them! While other rays forage around for food under the sand together with the goatfish. The mantas can sometimes be seen cruising down these manta highways. Their wing tips break the surface at regular intervals as they circle around you. They prefer to swim close to the surface; so snorkeling or free diving is also a good way to interact with them. There might be as much 20 mantas hovering over the cleaning stations that you can see best when it's full moon.

Sangalaki Dive Sites



Manta Avenue starts just East of the lighthouse where the coral steps its way down to the first sandy tracks which is an ideal environment for the beautifully colored Fire Goby, Elegant Fire Goby and Dancing Goby together with the Jaw Fish and Ribbon Eels. There are also two small wooden boat wrecks here. Across the marine highways at Manta Avenue and Manta Parade, the coral reefs form into an intriguing set of ridges, appearing to rise and fall like hilltops. These isolated reefs form mini ecosystems abounding with life in all its complexity.   Back to top

Sangalaki Dive Site


As Manta Parade joins into Manta Run, the underwater terrain flattens out to reveal numerous coral outcrops and bommies of various shapes and sizes. Each is adorned with colorful soft corals and sponges, usually topped with an elaborate display of Feather Stars and Gorgonians. With their overhangs and crevices, these underwater tenement blocks provide the ideal environment for Leaf Fish arid Frogfish, which prey on unsuspecting Cardinal Fish. Sandy Ridge lays at the end of Manta Run and is home to the Garden Eels, Cuttlefish and some gloriously coloured Gobies and Nudibranchs. To the West of the island are the Dive Sitess at Coral Gardens and Turtle Town. Here turtles can be seen frolicking around and cavorting with one another. The turtle-mating season is generally all year round.   Back to top

Turtle in Sangalaki


This Island offers some thrilling big fish action. Kakaban Island is a 25-minute boat ride from Sangalaki Island, and this deep wall dive lives up to pretty much any expectation you may have of it. On the big fish front, common sights, which will greet you at this Sangalaki scuba diving site, are manta ray, hammerheads, barracudas, blue finned tuna, jacks, leopard sharks and grey reef sharks. Smaller reef life, which congregate along the corals on the wall come m the form of fusiliers, parrotfish, turtles, surgeonfish, gobies, butterfly fish and angelfish.   Back to top


Known as a biological paradise the like of which you can find only at one other place on earth, this lake hosts a huge colony of jellyfish. Four species of endemic jellyfish lives in this lagoon, including the upside down Cassiopeia ornate, Mastigias Papua, Aurelia Aunta and Tripedalia Cystophora. These jellyfish are quite special; unlike their sea living counterparts, they have been living in a lake, protected from their natural predators such as turtles and barracuda. Through time therefore, they have lost their ability to sting simply because they have had no need for them, Jellyfish Lake is actually a snorkeling site (you won't be allowed to dive here) comprising a lake in the middle of Kakaban Island, about 25 minutes from Sangalaki Island. You'll have to take a short trek through an untouched rainforest to the lake from the shore, after which you can snorkel to your hearts content.   Back to top


About 1 5 minutes by boat from Sangalaki is another Dive Sites, Samama that is good for macro. You are likely to see pygmy seahorses and a lot of nudibranchs. The island has a large area of mangrove and the Dive Sitess are all very shallow.   Back to top


Maratua (also written Merah Tua), about an hour from Sangalaki by boat, is a large island with a massive lagoon. The island only rims part of the lagoon; reefs fringe the rest with two small islands in the South. Maratua has several impressive drop-offs and you will have a good chance to sea large pelagic like sharks, tuna, eagle rays and schools of barracudas, trevally and mackerels. On the island there are several villages and some of the reefs are quite heavily fished.   Back to top