Mantabuan Island, off Semporna. Borneo, Malaysia. (July 2006)
Mantabuan Island, off Semporna. Borneo, Malaysia. (July 2006)

Expedition project in Derawan

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

I finally decided the stages for my Malaysian-Indonesian trip of July: Perhentian, Mabul (Sipadan), Derawan. Nothing but islands! These holidays will be insular and aquatic.

Distant archipelagos

These are the exceptional diving sites of these distant archipelagos that attract me. And the beauty of the islands.

Mantabuan Island, off Semporna. Borneo, Malaysia. (July 2006)
Mantabuan Island, off Semporna. Borneo, Malaysia. (July 2006)
Sipadan (Borneo, Malaysia). July 2006.
Sipadan (Borneo, Malaysia). July 2006.

I already dived in 2006 Perhentian and Sipadan, easy access and tourist destinations. On the other hand, Derawan will be a discovery, a little more off the beaten track.

It's far, Derawan ...

Crossing the border between Malaysia and Indonesia in Borneo

Even when I have crossed the thousands of miles separating Europe from Southeast Asia, it will be far, far away. Derawan is a tiny island on the east coast of Borneo, in the Indonesian state of Kalimantan.

I plan to travel to Derawan from Tawau, my entry point to Borneo. To get there, it's easy: there are several daily flights Kuala Lumpur-Tawau with Air Asia.

Itinerary Malaysia-Indonesia: the stages of my journey of July 2009.
Itinerary Malaysia-Indonesia: the stages of my journey of July 2009.

I will first dive to Sipadan and Mabul, Malaysian side. Then I will cross the border to go down to Derawan, Indonesian side.

I will have to spend a day in Tawau to get the Indonesian visa at the consulate. Yes, here, no "visa on arrival" at the border! Then the trip itself will take me at least two days ... I hate to plan everything in advance, I'm a little obliged, to anticipate my journey.

I made contact with Kadek Wirawan, an Indonesian dive-master who organizes dives around Derawan. For those of you interested in this itinerary, here are the practical details that he sent me by e-mail.

  • Journey Tawau-Tarakan. We leave Malaysia for Indonesia by boat ... There is a ferry every day, except Sunday. The crossing lasts 3-4 hours. The ferry is supposed to arrive at destination around 17h. We must spend the night in Tarakan.
  • Journey Tarakan-Derawan. After, there are two options, Kadek tells me: by taking the ferry then with a route that passes by Berau, or by finding a boat to Tarakan to make the trip directly by the sea ...
Map of possible routes from Tawau to Derawan.
Map of possible routes from Tawau to Derawan.

Option # 1: via Berau

Trip boat + route + boat, via Tanjung Selor, Berau and Tanjung Batu:

  • The first crossing is a connection by public boat between Tarakan Island and Tanjung Selor. It must last well 1 hour 30 if I believe the testimonys gleaned here and there on the web. Announced price: 80.000Rp (about 8USD).
  • Then, Kadek suggests to me to charter a vehicle, to go in one go to Tanjung Batu (the port from which one embarks for Derawan). Travel time announced: 4 hours. In my opinion, it may be much more ... I know from experience that the weather is very elastic in Indonesia, and the last stretch of road that leads to Tanjung Batu is apparently well rotten! If it ever rains, it is guaranteed jamming ... In addition, I have interest to find people to share the said route, because the price would be in 800.000Rp (or 80USD).
  • I guess we go through Berau (also called Tanjung Redep) to make this trip. The Lonely Planet indicates that there are buses to go from Tanjung Selor to Berau. It would allow me to make the trip for less (but obviously, it will be less comfortable). Once in Berau, to reach the small port of Tanjung Batu, there are kijangs (4 × 4 vehicles leaving when there are enough passengers, ie at least 5-6) for about 50.000Rp (5USD) per head of pipe.
  • Then, once in Tanjung Batu, one can reach Derawan in "speed boat" in about twenty minutes for 300.000Rp (30USD) according to Kadek. But I imagine that there is a way to find cheaper "slow boats" or to charter the speedboat.

Option n ° 2: Speedboat crossing

Direct trip by sea, while crossing Tarakan-Derawan:

  • Duration of the crossing: about 4 hours. But there, we must "charter" a speed boat for the tidy sum of ... 4.000.000Rp is in the 400USD! Other travelers tell me about a more reasonable rate of 1,000,000Rp only.
  • Conclusion: I will meet on the spot. If the fare is too expensive, and except to drop a group of ten Japanese ready to board the same day and share the costs with me, I should rather fall back on the first option.

Good. This is not the first time that I have been doing crazy driving on bad roads. That I sleep in "improbable" places as the other would say. Or that I happily embark on rusty Asian ferries ... It promises to be well folklo this expedition to Derawan!

See all articles on this trip:

→ Borneo [Malaysia + Indonesia]: July 2009

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

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