Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
“Seems like we’ll be staying in Balikpapan for a night. Are you still willing to go?” as Garuda Indonesia officer asked me of my availability and willingness to visit the Derawan Island, East Kalimantan. “But that means I’m gonna be in Derawan Island in less than 24 hours long?!” I started to twist my brain and schedule back and forth so I can extend my stay, but it wasn’t possible. However, it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer either.
“Yeah! I’ll do it.” I’ll do Derawan Island in less than 24 hours, even though the trip to get there was a 2-days-1-night journey. Was it worth it? Hell yeah!
Trust Indonesia to redefine everything you know. We take holidays to the crater mouth of active volcanoes, we drive like crazy people and usually without seat belts, and we use magic in our daily lives, like to stop the rain and find missing objects. We are magical creatures.
One of those things is swimming with jellyfishes. Yes! You read right. You might shiver with the sound of ‘jellyfishes’, so the idea of swimming with them might be preposterous. But it’s true. There are only 2 countries in the world where people can swim with sting-less jellyfish: Indonesia and Palau in the Pacific Ocean.The most known place in Indonesia is Kakaban Lake on Kakaban Island, an hour speedboat ride from the Derawan . There are few other places but aren’t as established as Kakaban Lake.
I visited this lake for the second time and I’m still in love with these brainless creatures. I say brainless cause they seem to crash themselves into anything, including me. They’re so cute and cuddly and gooey. Without touching them, you’ll still get to feel them once they bump in to you; such adorable little creatures to evoke such sensation. On every visit, I can feel the joy of Spongebob chasing jellyfishes with his butterfly net, but without the sting.
Also in accordance to the trip, Derawan was celebrating its ongoing Derawan Festival 2013. During our mere stop at Tanjung Batu, I had a peek at the junior sailing and wind surfing races. It was awesome to see kids dodge left and right, avoiding their swirling sails with their game faces on. I had small talks with a coach and a few elder athletes about sailing and seems like there are very little Indonesian provinces participating in the event. Sadly, another sport is lacking support from the local government. It wasn’t news, but still heart breaking as usual. Praise be with you, Indonesian athletes.
I took the time to do a night dive with the Danakan Dive Club. I’ve heard so much about just diving at the house drop off, I just couldn’t resist the temptation. True enough, the dive was sensational.
Not only does Derawan Island have such weird creatures, Icuk the dive master, had the eyes to find them. From a frogfish as big as a volleyball, pygmy seahorse stuck under a rock between soft corals, to creatures that seem to refuse evolution, all was easily spotted by him. I had a blasting 79 minutes! If I had another night, I’d do it again.
After a night’s dive, the only appropriate dinner would be fish. Fish are food, not friends. Well, except large predators like sharks. So my travel mates had a preordered barbeque on the beach, which they opted to cook themselves. With a food writer on board, you can pretty much guess which of us was forced volunteered to cook. A successful dinner and a warm fun-loving event!
I could have enjoyed Derawan to the fullest by going snorkeling in the morning (who knows I might meet the resident green turtles), but I decided to sleep in. I spent a full day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. the day before and sleeping in seems worthy, don’t you think?
Although I didn’t enjoy everything that Derawan – Kakaban – Sangalaki – Maratua had to offer, but I can say I’m really satisfied with my 22 hours. I love Derawan and I don’t think I’ll ever refuse the chance to come back. I came home a happy girl.
This trip was totally possible for a day. The first cities that you can fly through Tarakan or Balikpapan. This trip we flew through Balikpapan, which also connects to many other Indonesian travel destinations such as Manado, Makassar, and Bali. What’s more delicious is that there are direct flights Garuda Indonesia flights between Singapore and Balikpapan. Yummy, right?!
For those that fly in through Balikpapan, there are 2 Garuda Indonesia Balikpapan-Berau flights a day.
– Balikpapan – Berau: 7 a.m and 2 p.m local time.
– Berau – Balikpapan: 8.40 a.m and 3.35 p.m. local time
The CRJ-1000 or the Bombarier serves this route. To be honest, it’s a pretty stylish little plane, totally looked like a private jet. Classy! It’s pretty narrow and short, as in the cabin isn’t very high, mind you. So for those that are tall, well, you might want to watch your head. Since I didn’t know how much the ticket prices were, I checked it out on their website www.garuda-indonesia.com. Ticket prices start from about IDR 850,000 / pax for return tickets for Balikpapan-Berau. All tickets can be booked online. Oh, how we have it easy with technology!
From Berau, you can opt to rent a speedboat straight to Derawan Island or travel on land for about 2 hours to Tanjung Batu for about IDR 400,000 one way, and then rent a speedboat for about 30 minutes for IDR 300,000 – 600,000 depending on size. Pssstt… if you’re nice to the speedboat captain and the sea isn’t too rough, he might just let you drive the boat. Awe to the some!
*Garuda Indonesia and Berau Coal provided this trip, but the opinions are my own.
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