Diving with Stingless Jellyfish in kakaban island, Derawan Archipelago

Kakaban Island 4

Kakaban is one of the cluster of Derawan islands in Berau, East Borneo, which is nominated as Regional Marine Conservation Area. Kakaban is one of the World Heritage. For those who like nautical tourism, this area of 774.2 hectares has the most population and diversity of jellyfish in the world, namely four unique species of stingless jellyfish. Yes, that is what unique about the lake in Kakaban, full of stingless jellyfish. The other location in the world which has the resemblance is located in Palau, a country that is geographically a part of the islands of Micronesia in the southwestern edge of the Pacific Ocean.

When you land on a small pier at the foot of Kakaban cliff, there are wooden stairs uphill then downhill  about 300 meters away that leads you to the edge of the lake behind the hill. The stairs are made of ironwood, and on both sides of the stairs are grove of mangrove trees (Rhizophora sp) that interspersed with other tropical trees, towering and formed mangrove forests, among others are tanjang (Bruguiera sp), apiapi (Avicennia sp), and pidada (Sonneratia sp).

As an atoll having brackish water lagoon in it, Kakaban is quite unique since aside from being one of the two unique locations in the world that has a lake with stingless jellyfish, Kakaban apparently resembles the number “9”, which circular section on the north is an atoll or reef shaped like a ring. A lagoon that the locals called Lake Kakaban is formed inside.


Lake Kakaban contains brackish water inhabited by various marine biotas that have undergone evolution as they isolated in it, which turned their character and physical appearance different from the similar species in the ocean. One of them is the jellyfish which has a clear body resembling a glass plate (Aurelia aurita) and several other species that appear much smaller like the size of a tip of an index finger (Tripedalia cystophora). Those with the size of a fist, which appear like incandescent bulbs in brownish blue color (Mastigias papua) are more dominant in numbers among others. Together with the three types of jellyfish, there are also a species of jellyfish namely Cassiopeia ornata which is a trade mark of Kakaban. What distinguishes this endemic species with other jellyfish in the ocean is the loss of ability to sting, while the unique habit of Cassiopeia is swimming upside down, by exposing the “legs” or tentacles up.

The outer side of Kakaban Island is a high and steep cliff that goes straight into the ocean, with its gorgeous coral reefs, caves and alleys, which is a paradise for divers. Anyone who explore Lake Kakaban with diving/snorkel equipment or watch the underwater video documentation will understand why Kakaban should be a source of national and even international pride.

 Kakaban Island 2]

How to get there:

The closest airport to the Derawan Islands is the Juwutan International Airport, in the city of Tarakan, East Kalimantan. International flights to Tarakan are available on Malaysian Airlines from Kota Kinabalu and Tawau , both located in Sabah, Malaysia. Domestically, Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air fly from Jakarta to Tarakan.  From here take an internal flight south by either KalStar or Deraya Airlines (DAS) to Tanjung Redeb in the district of Berau. Boats will take you from here to Kakaban and other Derawan Islands.

Kakaban Island 3

Alternatively, SilkAir flies from Singapore and Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Sepinggan International Airport at Balikpapan, capital of East Kalimantan, then connect by internal flight to Tanjung Redeb.

Batavia Air and Sriwijaya Air fly domestically to Balikpapan from Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar.

Once in Berau you can hire a speedboat for the 2 hour ride to the Derawan islands. Speed boats generally have a seating capacity of 15 people, and can be rented to take you to several of the Derawan islands in one day.Boats can be chartered direct to Kakaban, but as there are no accommodations there, the usual routes go through its neighbouring islands of Sangalaki, Maratua or Derawan. Kakaban is about 20 minutes from Sangalaki, 30 minutes from Maratua and 45 minutes from Derawan.

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