Carte de Bornéo

Itinerary: from Kuala Lumpur to Derawan in one day

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

Derawan is a tiny island on the eastern coast of Borneo. I had been there already in 2009. But for this trip of 2013, I reviewed my itinerary.

Review Derawan

I wanted to see Derawan and its archipelago again, the islands of Kakaban, Maratua, Sangalaki ... Mission accomplished!

It was the first step of this July 2013 trip to Borneo.

I stayed a little over a week in Derawan, which has not changed much. There may be a few more guesthouses and small tourist shops than before, but the tiny village has remained rather peaceful.

Seen from the open sea, the island still has a small effect ... Coconut palms and cute white sand band.

Derawan Island. Bornéo, Indonésie. Juillet 2013.

Derawan Island. Bornéo, Indonésie. Juillet 2013.
Derawan Island. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2013.

Derawan, it's far away. To get there, several itineraries are possible ... I managed, during this last trip, to complete the journey Kuala Lumpur → Derawan in the same day. During my previous trip, the Tawau → Derawan trip took two days ...

I get a lot of e-mails asking for info on the route to get to Derawan. Here is an article "practical-practical" that will answer a lot of questions!

Routes and dilemmas

A bit of geography to begin with ... Besides, it's often the way I prepare my travels. Looking at maps Nothing more inspiring!

Carte de BornéoDerawan is an island located in the Indonesian part of Borneo, on the east coast.

As a reminder, three countries share the island of Borneo: Malaysia and Brunei North, Indonesia for three quarters south.

The two largest international airports closest to Derawan are Tawau (in the Malaysian state of Sabah) and Balikpapan (in the Indonesian state of Kalimantan).

We can see it on the map opposite, the route to reach Derawan depends on the side by which Borneo approaches: Malaysia or Indonesia.

Those who read this blog for several years may remember it. The itinerary, when I was planning my trip to Borneo from 2009, was already asking some dilemmas.

Then I inquired on possible routes to reach Derawan from Tawau.

Finally, once there, I had completed the journey Tawau-Tarakan (then Tarakan-Derawan) almost fingers in the nose. Not a little proud ...: lol:

A click here for all articles on this 2009 trip to Borneo

Four years have passed since, and new connections by plane make it possible to envisage other routes ... New dilemmas.

Itinerary of 2009: Tawau → Derawan

Here is a first possible route. The one I did in 2009.

I arrived by Tawau on the Malaysian side (Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur). I had chosen to go first to Sipadan / Mabul (Malaysia), then down to Derawan (Indonesia). After landing at Tawau, I went directly to Semporna, the port from which we embark for Mabul and Sipadan.

After my stay in Mabul / Sipadan, my itinerary to Derawan was as follows:

  • Semporna → Tawau (about 1 hour drive)
  • Indonesian visa at the consultation + overnight in Tawau
  • Tawau → Tarakan by ferry (about 4 hours)
  • Overnight in Tarakan
  • Tarakan → Derawan in speedboat chartered with other tourists (about 4 hours)

It took two days, even by direct Tarakan-Derawan by speed boat.

Carte des trajets possibles de Tawau à Derawan.
Map of possible routes from Tawau to Derawan.

Itinerary of 2013: Balikpapan → Derawan

This time, I opted for the opposite route: Derawan (Indonesia) as a first step, Sipadan / Mabul (Malaysia) next. I decided for several reasons:

  • firstly because it was possible for me to complete the full journey Kuala Lumpur → Derawan in the same day (I was able to investigate an Air Asia flight, then a Sriwijaya Air flight, via Balikpapan, see details below. below)
  • then because I wanted to escalate dive questions, and I knew that Sipadan would be a step up (I had already had some echoes of the Derawan Archipelago's degradation of underwater wildlife)
  • finally, because the continuation of the journey to Malaysia was announced easy, because now achievable by plane: the Kalstar makes the Berau↔Tarakan link, and MAS Wings opened a Tarakan↔Tawau link. Duration for each flight: approximately 40 minutes. (Easy, but not shorter: it took me two days, as in 2009 in the other direction, flight schedules do not allow correspondence ... See the details in the box at the bottom of the article.)

In short, my journey, for this first part of the trip to Derawan, was therefore the following, all in the same day, the day after my arrival in Kuala Lumpur:

  • Kuala Lumpur → Balikpapan sure Air Asia (about 2 hours flight) + Visa on arrival
  • Balikpapan → Berau sure Sriwijaya Air (about 1 hour flight)
  • Berau → Tanjung Batu by road (about 2 h 30 by car, pick-up by the resort)
  • Tanjung Batu → Derawan by speedboat (about 20 minutes, transfer by the resort)

I arrived at dusk in Derawan. Happy to spend the first night on an Indonesian island rather than a lousy concrete city like Tarakan ... And to attack the first dives the next day!

Good to know: Berau ↔ Tarakan ↔ Tawau by plane

Tarakan-Tawau avec MAS Wings.Thanks to the new MAS Wings Tarakan ↔ Tawau line, which I discovered while preparing for this July 2013 trip, the crossing of the Indo-Malaysian border through eastern Borneo has become much faster and easier.

The line has been open since July 2012 only and offers an alternative to the slow and overcrowded ferry that makes the connection in 4-5 hours.

MAS Wings is a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, a Malaysian national company, which has the advantage of not being blacklisted (unlike Kalstar for Berau↔Tarakan).

I do not know if I enjoyed a special promo period during this month of July 2013, but the rates were more than affordable. Berau-Tarakan on Kalstar was around 40 € the flight. Tarakan-Tawau on MAS Wings around 20 € the flight. So, I did not hesitate very long ...

Only concern: impossible to do Berau → Tarakan → Tawau in the same day. The schedules of Kalstar and MAS Wings did not allow flights to be connected. So I had to resign myself to spending a night in Tarakan. I did not check if the correspondence in the same day is possible in the other direction: Tawau → Tarakan → Berau.

The only feasible option to complete the Derawan → Tarakan → Tawau route in the same day is to depart early from Derawan (around 6-7am) with a speed boat for a direct trip by sea to Tarakan. It takes 4 to 5 hours of very tidy crossing, and also very expensive (from 1.5 to 2.5 million Indonesian rupees, or about 150-250 dollars, depending on the year, the renter, the head of the client , the boat, the price of diesel, etc. etc., the ideal being to find other tourists with whom to charter the boat). It will arrive in the late morning Tarakan and catch the flight MAS Wings 1:15 for Tawau.

If you want to know the schedules, prices, connections, etc., do not ask me, I do not know them by heart. I told you what I know above. And then all that can change very quickly, as often in Indonesia ... I recommend you to go see yourself on the sites of companies:

Kalstar: Be careful, the times listed online are not always up to date, and when I tested it was impossible to make a reservation on the site. You will need to ask someone in Indonesia to check and book for you. (If necessary, the contacts of the various offices are there.)

→ Malaysia Airlines is reliable and tickets are payable online with a French card.

Voyage en Indonésie et Malaisie : Bornéo - juillet 2013

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

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