Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Derawan : The Ultimate Gem from East Borneo, Indonesia

Gongozole Island, Derawan

What is firstly come into your mind seeing the picture above?? I’m sure that most people will think about ‘beautiful-pretty-idyllic-landscape scenery’ that looks like heaven! *exaggerated J LoL*. But, yap! Actually the beach is quite moreeeee beautiful than you’ve seen above. The sun was shining so bright, the seashore, sea water and the blue sky ~ all blended in a beautiful ambience, bring us the piece, recharging and indulgent our mind and soul.
It’s Gongozole Island on the picture above, the land which arrised when the tide is low, this still a part of Derawan Islands. Three hours by speedboat from Tarakan, East Borneo, Indonesia, Derawan is a tiny island holds an abundant of charm both its landscape view and the underwater scenery. Small community inhabits this island and forming a very strong kinship and welcomes travelers with open arms, they are called The Bajau ~ the native tribe from East Kalimantan or known as “The Gypsies from Borneo”. The majority of Bajau people of Maritime Southeast Asia can also be found in the Philippines and surrounding islands of Malaysia. The Bajau, who live on houses on stilts or house boats, have almost completely severed their ties with the land. They even measure the passage of time by the rhythm of the tides rather than conventional minutes and hours. Visiting the land very rarely, every member of this unique community has a close relationship with the ocean instead, that is what I have found in Derawan.

The view at our lodge, Derawan

Bike Rent Location at Derawan, only Rp 20,000/2 hours (US$9)

Enjoying sunset at Derawan

I took an open trip with friends, staying in the simply stilt-lodge for a few days. You can jump into the tranquil and crystal clear water from the balcony and enjoy snorkeling or swimming with the turtle when you get up, quite interesting! Now, almost all the lodges are equipped with air-cond and comfy-bed, if you want to enjoy the real temperature of the beach, there still lodge with fan. Derawan, although there built with limited infrastructure, this island has been developed well as the tourist destination. If you ever been to Gili Trawangan, you could also see the same ambience here..there was no cars available, only bike or motorbike passing along the way, people are going anywhere on foot- they usually greet each other as the relecftion of strong kinship. Bike rent also available for tourist with price IDR 20,000 or US$ 2/2 hours.

The view at the entrance lane to Labuan Cermin

On the second day, we went for island hopping, leaving Derawan on 8 am by speedboat and head to ‘Labuan Cermin’ or known as “a lake with 2 different taste” which took about 3,5 hours to get here. ‘Labuan Cermin’ is the lake with consist of 2 layers of water, the freshwater on the upper layer and the salty water at the bottom. The perfect time to visit the lake is from 10 am to 2 pm. Local villager said that it used to have a very beautiful reef but unfortunately it was destroyed. The surrounding island (Kaniungan besar and Kaniungan kecil) is also attractive, perfect placing to peace our soul; we can do some sport activity like snorkeling and diving. Local said there are also whale shark’s seen at certain times at the entrance lane to the lake.

Enjoy swimming at Labuan Cermin

Snorkeling at one of the spot 

Witnessing the landscape around Labuan Cermin, was also indulgent our eyes. We were offered by the scene of fisherman’s daily life which moves along the river lane. Done strolling around at Labuan Cermin, we continue our journey to Kakaban Island- the main destination of our trip, It took about 1 hour by speedboat to get to Kakaban Island. We were welcomed by the low tide when arrived at the harbor at Kakaban, so we have to swim about 50m to the reach the land. I reflexively switch on my pocket camera, didn’t want to miss the scene of idyllic landscape at the beach, and one by one of the team arrived at the beach and pose! Kakaban surrounded by high cliffs that are steep, so a landing had to achieve from flat and open areas. After going through the wooden stairs then the visitor will find one of the world's heritages, the home of "Stingless Jellyfish". Ornate Cassiopeia or known as Stingless Jellyfish living in close environment make the jellyfish do not have threat from vertebrate. Therefore this type of jellyfish does not need stings to protect themselves. Furthermore, these jellyfish will also issue a colorful light when it was getting dark. This jellyfish swim upside down with tentacles facing upwards. This is because a closed environment, so that food in the water becomes limited. Therefore, the jellyfish do symbioses mutualism with algae. Algae need sunlight to produce food. In the world, there are only a few places which is the origin habitat of Stingless Jellyfish, here in Kakaban Lake, the other one is in Palau, Chelbachev Filipina, It’s also can be found in Togean, South Sulawesi and Weh Island, Aceh.

Swimming and walk to reach the beach at Kakaban Island

Playing with the Stingless Jellyfish at Kakaban Lake

There were 4 types of Jellyfish inhabited here, the usual jellyfish you seen in the picture (above), the jellyfish which moves inversely, the transparent jellyfish and the needle jellyfish-which has the smallest shape and only can be found at the bottom level among the seaweed. Since I’ve been snorkeling a lot, off course this’s not my first time seeing this creature, but because it’s stingless which is enable us to touch it, this was new for me and ya..they were so cute, touching them is like holding the jello J, feels like I want bring it into my mouth and chew :D . Since the jellyfish is a sensitive creature, we’re not allowed to use fin here, because the moves of our feet with fin will harm them.
Done playing with the jellyfish, we moved to the outside of Kakaban Island to snorkeling around the trenches. I might say this’d the best spot for snorkeling or diving we ever experienced. The trenches decorated by beautiful corals and kinds of colorful fish and other marine creatures like the endangered green turtles, lion fish, kite fish and other fishes. The water around was sometime feels cold and sometimes feels warm, it triggered by the diverse temperature of seawater. The beautiful trenches with pretty coral reefs stretch along Kakaban Island, local said it has 300 m depth and inhabited by various fantastic marine celebrities more than we’ve seen on the surface.

Underwater view 
 We continue our journey to another spots for swimming or snorkeling and stopped by at Semama Island which has a loooot of coconut tree at the beach. The guide forbid us to swim, because there were a lot of Stingray, so we were just strolling around at the beach and took photos, one of our guide climb and plucked some of coconuts for us. Seeing a guy climbing the coconut trees was an unusual view, it became a very interesting spectacle and amazed us, knowing that we’re coming from the town where we tend to see people in a rush to catch up the public transport or lift instead of climbing the tree.

Strolling around at Semama Island, looking for the perfect coconut tree ;)

Dani, one of our tourguide. He climbed the tree and serve the coconut for us. Dani has a fantastic story of his life as a fisherman, he is a Dayak - the origin tribe of Borneo. His experience over the ocean amazed us!

The beach at Semama Island
The sun began to sink and the waves move faster, we took the anchor and sailing away from Semama Island to return to our lodge at Derawan. That day will never be forgotten, we also got bonus a dolphin show – live from their habitat, the flock of dolphins caught up playing around us in certain spots, nice…!
Besides of its wonderful sceneries, Borneo also famous for its gem stones. I took myself walked around the village after finish my dine and seeking for souvenir shop which could be found at anywhere. It’s not that pricey, you could purchase the gems with range price between Rp 100,000 – 500,000 (US$9 – US$48).

The sunset near our lodge at Derawan
On the last day, I accidentally woke up earlier in the morning to walk around the village and capture some local activities. It’s breathtaking seeing the village was so clean and pretty neatly arranged, passing the old man sitting at the front of his stilt-house enjoying his coffee and cigarette, meeting with the mother feeding her child who would go to school, and greet some people-having short chit-chat. They asked me why I went there to Derawan besides Bali which has a lot more attractive places. I said it’s quite different, meanwhile Bali has been crowded by tourists and infrastructure, Derawan offered a wonderful and quite atmosphere, far from the bustle of holiday.

Going Home ;(

Let's follow us to find another paradise :)
Picture taken at Gongozole Island

How to get to Derawan :
Take flight with Garuda, Lion Air or Sriwijaya from Jakarta to Tarakan, then take the boat to Derawan Island, or you could stay at prestigious lodge like 'Maratua Paradise' Lodge which cost US$99/person/night. Rent a car from the airport to the Harbour- it takes about 30-40 minutes to get to the harbour, or you could stop by at Tarakan Mangroove Center before get to Derawan. There's the abundant of seafood anywhere cost about 40-70/person/package, but you have to wait about 30 - 60 minutes to get the food, they still have not gotten used to provide food in a lot of portion, so it took quite long for them to serve the food.
I recommend my tourguide, you could contact Pak Ruslan - +6281257776426 or Pak Taher - +6281350172006 to arrange your trip.
Time to go : during April - August 

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