Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text:
Back to Derawan... under the surface. The reef of the island, even if it is not the most spectacular site of the area, deserves a few dives. The small creatures I love abound there.
Muck-dive near the pontoon
I regret not having been able to enjoy the site more during my little stay there in July. Because of this damn stingray stingI had to spend three days in the dry to heal properly... No more diving! Very annoying.
However, I would have managed to accumulate three dives in Derawan itself (in addition to the dives in Sangalaki and Kakaban). Contrary to what one might think when looking at the blue sea from the pontoons, the underwater visibility is rather poor around the island, because of the sediments carried by the Berau river basin, on Borneo. The archipelago is not so far from the mouth.
While diving, we evolve a few meters away from the pontoons of the village. The atmosphere is rather "muck-dive". Personally, I love it. For the uninitiated, the "muck-dive" (literally "diving in the mud", understand: in a not clear water at the level of the substratum) it means very often... that you can't see much ! It's like fog in the water. The interest of diving lies in all the little things that are hidden in the sand, the coral, under the pillars of the pontoons...
If you just scan the whole area with your eyes, you are inevitably disappointed: you have the impression that there is nothing special to see. But if you move slowly, taking the time to look at the bottom, you will discover wonders. Gobies, nudibranchs, shrimps, crocodile-fish, cuttle-fish, octopus... I enjoyed tracking all this little world with my lens...
Watch out for the current!
The dives here delighted me. Especially since one can almost certainly meet one or more turtles underwater. They are everywhere and even come to swim under the pontoons, where the islanders put banana leaves to attract them.
Be careful though. Depending on the time of the day, the current can become quite strong and surprising... The tides, on these shoals, are important and powerful.
Even for those who are satisfied with snorkeling, up to the area where there is a nice coral garden close to the surface, beware: during our stay, two very good swimmers of our small group of tourists, at the Danakan losmen, had a hard time to come back to the pontoons.
During my very first dive in Derawan, I was with a couple of Spanish divers, very good beginners. The current rose suddenly.
They were trained and our guide Oslan had a good run behind them to catch up, they remained a few moments separated from him, without seeing him anymore, which gave them long minutes of stress. Fortunately, we were at the end of the dive and already in the 5-6 meters zone for a while ...
Near the island, the bottom is about 20 meters deep, which makes the exploration rather comfortable. But be careful not to get caught up in the time: busy as we are with the little beasts, we reach the no-decompression limits without even realizing it... Better watch your dive computer! Finally, visibility being what it is, I cannot recommend enough to stay close to your buddy. An incident can happen so quickly.
Come on, I tell you ...
During a dive there, my partner of the day, a Frenchman, Guilhem, had a problem with his rental regulator. Fortunately, we were very close to each other.
Absorbed as I was by a nudibranch that I was trying to immortalize, I didn't see anything. It was only when a cloud of sand rose up in front of my camera that I looked up. At first, I complained inwardly... you get the idea: "But it's not true, he screwed up the picture for me!"
Because he actually rushed at me to grab my backup regulator!!!
He snatches it up, puts it in his mouth and signals to me, eyes wide behind his mask, that he wants to go back up. 😯
Okay, okay, not so fast. Easy, easy, easy, easy. Look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me. Just breathe. How are you breathing right now? How are you doing? You okay? I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay. He's responding okay to my sign. Whew.
Unlike the Spaniards, he is a good diver. He controls himself quickly and his panic subsides, now that he has some air. I let him suck in a few bars.
Then we begin the ascent, face to face. I control the ascent. I see, in his eyes, that all is well now. He confirms it to me several times by sign. We resurface well as it is necessary, at the good speed.
I have to say, in retrospect, that I am very, very, very glad I took those damn Rescue a few months earlier! And to have repeated, dozens of times, this kind of rise...
We had been in the water for only 8 minutes. We were at 20 meters. Oslan, our guide, had disappeared, caught by the underwater "fog". He was not far, however. While starting the ascent, we heard him knocking on his block, I answered him on mine, but we were already a few meters higher, out of sight, he could not spot us anymore. So we waited for him on the surface. The boat, moored at the nearby pontoon, took a little time to come and get us.
Guilhem explained to me that he had a problem with his rental regulator which made him swallow water instead of air... In the panic of the moment, he didn't even think about his own spare regulator (the octopus, hanging on the side) and so he rushed to mine underwater.
Back at the pontoon, not discouraged, Guilhem simply changed his regulator. Then, we went back to the water, he didn't want to stay there.
We then made a very nice dive. I took a lot of nice pictures. But there, I guarantee you that we remained all stuck together, this time, to admire the nudis.
Finally, even if I enjoyed my dives with the small "center" of the Danakan losmen, I would have some reservations about its organization. It is better to be autonomous and able to take care of oneself when diving, I would not recommend this place to beginners who need to be supervised... The boss was not there during my stay. This may explain this.
The other option on the island is the Derawan Dive Resort at the other end of the beach, which seems to be more serious and better equipped (with boats, equipment in good condition). But during my stay, no "walk-in" was possible. They only work with packages, much more expensive (accommodation + diving), to be booked on their website or via tour operators (with the inevitable "single" supplement).
To find all my articles on this 2009 trip to Borneo, click on the link below :
After this stay in July 2009, I returned to Derawan in July 2013. This time I dived with a new structure, which had just opened, the Derawan Dive Lodge (created by the Tasik Divers Center of Manado).
They have trained guides who are used to driving hoist boats, modern and fast boats, with engines that go well. In short, much better conditions, question of safety, to dive around Derawan, Sangalaki and Kakaban... You can find my articles for this 2013 trip at the end of the link below: