Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
I confess. I don’t remember a lot of things about Derawan Island to describe it well. With thousands of island in Indonesia, it’s hard to remember one significantly different island especially when most of them are the same: blue sea, white sand, yellow sun, above rows of coconut trees.
Another thing is that Derawan Island is usually known as the hub to many other fun destinations other than itself, naming Kakaban Island, Sangalaki Island, Maratua Island, and the sandbars. However, I could list 5 things that I remember well about it. They are:
Derawan Island is where you are most likely to see and even swim with the turtles. There are about 5-6 (seemingly) adult turtles that like to float around the island in search of food and is easy to spot as they pop up once in a while for dose of O2. I had the chance to swim with them one sunny afternoon and it was so much fun to see them up close without them swimming into the oblivion. I guess this bunch have grown used to the presence of humans.
Sadly, I think they’re around because they’re used to people feeding them. BUT! That doesn’t mean you should touch them. Please, avoid touching them as much as you want to.
Surprisingly, Derawan Island has a few tricks up its sleeves when it comes to diving. Not far from the island (about 10 minutes boat ride) is where I first saw my first pygmy seahorse. Yes! That ridiculous 1-cm seahorse that camouflages well with sea fan, is part of the rich lively corals, amongst other many many other creatures. It made my dive pretty memorable. At night, just off the Danakan Homestay pier is where I did a night dive and found how rich the underwater is. From frogfishes the size of volleyballs to flying gunnards, the nightlife off the pier is a party.
You know you’re on an island when you have sand in everything, starting from your doorstep, the path to the bathroom, in the seams of your clothes, and even in your sheets. Derawan Island is surrounded by white sand all the way inland. It’s tempting to barefoot everywhere you go and feel the sand beneath your feet, not to mention in the folds of your skin. This is usually a thing that reminds me that I’m experiencing the island life. I love this feeling, up to a point that I want to take a freshwater, and not brackish-water, shower.
The people of Derawan Island are laid-back island people and are really friendly. I’ve learned so much from them through small talk like knowing that the people aren’t Dayak people, the authentic ethnicity of Borneo, they transport most of the goods from the main land since they can’t farm on the island, and most of them run their own hospitality business. Tourism is good. I also learned that the people on Derawan Island like to eat salted mini-stingrays. I learned this after seeing a stall of it and speaking to the nearby locals that were having a cup of coffee and loved their picture taken. Such nice people!
I enjoy the feeling of being able to control man-made machinery in my hands. There’s a sense of power and understanding of what people can do and what civilization has come to achieve. That’s why it was inevitable for me to take over the wheel of a speedboat during the trip between Tanjung Batu Port to Derawan Island. With a little seducing, I had the pleasure to feel the sensation of driving a speedboat. I don’t know if I could get away with it anywhere else. It was so much fun! It’s like driving but with no roads, unless you come to meet shallow corals. I loved it!
For those that haven’t been to Derawan Island, there’s no harm in knowing more about the island than just being the land you sleep on. It might be the hub to other destinations, but it has some of its own traits that are worth enjoying.
I’m a big fan of Danakan Homestay. It’s one of the oldest accommodations around and I think it’s the first to build its rooms above water. The rooms are clean, some are even equipped with AC. They have a special pier where you can enjoy a VIP view of the sunset and dive in to swim with the turtles. The breakfast is yummy, serving local cakes (try the fried bread or doughnust). It also hosts one of my favorite dive centers in Indonesia, Danakan Dive Center with Icuk as the awesome manager and DM, and Putu as the man to spot the pygmy seahorse. Rooms are IDR 250,000 / night.
Contact: Kasino +62 813 4725 1422
To get to Derawan Island, just click on this link.
And for those that have been there, what do you remember about the Derawan Island?
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