Situated in the Sulawesi Sea, this small archipelago is Kalimantan`s vacation hub and a popular diving location with well-developed tourism. For sitting at the heart of the Coral Triangle, that contains some of the richest marine ecosystems on Earth, scuba divers and water sports enthusiasts will surely find here a great satisfaction.
Besides, the islands teem with exotic fauna and flora, such as iguanas, parrots, and reptiles. The most visited islands are Derawan, Kakaban, Sangalaki, Maratura, Panjang and Samama where you will find stunning resorts and dive centres.
WHAT TO DO ON DERAWAN ISLANDS
TO GET THERE
1.fly from Balikpapan or from Tarakan (there is also a speedboat from Tarakan (3-4 hrs).
2.fly to Berau or take a bus/minivan from Balikpapan/Samarinda to Berau (10-12 hrs) where you can catch a long-boat from Tanjung Redep to the Derawan Island (3 hrs) or a speedboat (30 min)
If travelling overland, stop by at the splendid Labuan Cermin Lake in the village of Labuan Kelambu (Biduk Biduk) before hopping on the boat to the Derawan Islands. The crystal-clear lake is a mix of both saltwater and freshwater which results in surreal hues of jade and blue (access from Tanjung Redep).
Situated right at the border with Sabah, Nunukan is the main transit point to the Malaysian town of Tawau. It is a developed island with good road infrastructure and holiday resorts.
Diving and snorkelling are the major tourist activities. There are beautiful sandy beaches to have a stroll along, including Lampang, Firdaus, Sadadap or Mentarang Beaches and if you head out to the countryside, you will find numerous jungle walks and waterfalls, e.g. the Binusan Waterfall.
TRAVEL TIP Hire a scooter to explore the island in a day. Nunukan is a good stop-over spot for those heading to the Malaysian Sabah.
TO GET THERE
1. Pelni Ships depart regularly from Java, Sulawesi, Bali and other towns in Kalimantan at the Tunon Taka Port (typically very long, multiple day journeys used by the residents). There are daily ships to Tawau/Malaysian Sabah as well.
2.fly from Balikpapan/Samarinda to the Nanukan domestic airport.
It is just a small spread of low hills off the coast of Tanjung Selor, yet Tarakan Island floats above extensive oil reserves. Only a stone`s throw from Pulau Nunukan and the open border with Malaysia the island is the main transit hub for those who prefer ferry rather than an airplane to get to Malaysia.
The island is defined by swampy coastline and mangroves, and it is mostly known for the Battle of Tarakan in 1945, between Japan and Indonesia.
Tarakan is definitely one of the least trodden paths of the entire Borneo with barely any tourism infrastructure. However, it is not impossible to travel here. In fact, it offers an unforgettable authentic Bornean adventure.
WHAT TO DO ON TARAKAN ISLAND
TRAVEL TIP If travelling on your own make sure you learn some basic Indonesian phrases as here no one speaks English!
TO GET THERE
1.fly from Balikpapan or take a speedboat from the Derawan Islands (3-4 hrs)
2.if travelling to Sabah/Malaysia you will need to get to the Mulundung Harbour to catch an Indomaya Express to Tawau (3 hrs) or fly directly to Tawau
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) is generally recommended to visit between June and October, during the dry season. Especially, wildlife spotting and eco-tourism are dependent on good weather. In fact, many reserves and protected areas are only accessible outside of the rainy season.
HOW TO GET HERE
Fly to Balikpapan (flights from Java/Bali)
For all domestic flights check out the Indonesian flight companies Wings Air, Susi Air, Kartika Airlines, Lion Air, Silk Air, Sriwijaya Air and Garuda Indonesia.
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