Derawan islands: a blissful aquatic life

Located in the Sulawesi Sea on the coastal shelf of East Kalimantan, these islands have powder-fine beaches, lush interiors and mysterious lagoons with stingless jellyfish. The Derawan islands in Indonesia offer spectacular diving, golden beaches and tranquility, but with ambitious plans for tourism they may not stay sleepy for long.

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Derawan islands are 3D painted pictures of a perfect beach – sandy white beach set alongside waving palm trees accompanied by the splendid sea that changes from blue to green throughout the day. Travellers who’ve heard of this far-flung island are also drawn to see the island’s most unique and well-protected species such as coconut crabs and Dugongs.

Derawan Islands is administratively a part of the Berau regency, East Kalimantan. Geographically speaking, the Derawan Islands consist of 31 islands, large and small, inhabited and uninhabited. The whole area itself covers around 1.27 hectares. Marine biologists say that the Derawan Islands are number 2 on the list of biodiversity abundance, just one spot behind Raja Ampat on West Papua.

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Even though there are many islands in this area, there are 4 that stand out the most, which are Derawan Island itself, Maratua Island, Kakaban Island, and Sangalaki Island. All of these islands are well known for their white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and astonishing underwater beauty.

Derawan is a fishing island about three hours by speedboat from Berau that has developed as a dive resort. Stilted guesthouses suspended over turquoise water, manta rays with seven-metre wingspans and friendly locals are all part of its charm: this is an island that time forgot.

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The pace of life here is bucolic and unhurried, and four days can easily turn into a week. Wander the tear-shaped island’s sandy streets and mix with the genuinely welcoming and curious locals over some ikan bakar (grilled fish), before stepping over a six-foot monitor lizard to watch the sky ignite with a spectacular sunset. Savvy divers head here from all corners of the world, lured by the extraordinarily rich marine life.

How to get there:

Singapore Air and  SilkAir flie from Singapore to Balikpapan; Garuda Indonesia flies from Balikpapan to Berau (Kalimarau airport) via Maratua airport.

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