Kakaban Jellyfish

Kakaban, the island of jellyfish

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

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

It is a desert island. In her mangrove necklace, she holds the water jade of a huge lake, filled with jellyfish ... which do not sting! Short walk in video and photos ...

Welcome to Kakaban

There are only a few places in the world like this one. The most famous jellyfish island is Palau, Micronesia. There are others in the Raja Ampat archipelago, in West Papua, Indonesia, which are less accessible.

And then there is Kakaban, also in Indonesia, on the eastern coast of Borneo. I'll take you there!

Welcome to Kakaban. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.

Kakaban. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.

Kakaban Lake is slightly above sea level and its depth is about 17 meters.

A movement of the earth's crust elevated the island more than 10,000 years ago, trapping jellyfish, algae and various other small marine creatures. Finding themselves without predators, the jellyfish have lost, over time, their urticating power.

The jellyfish lake of Kakaban. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.

Videos: swimming with jellyfish

It's one thing to know that jellyfish do not sting. It is another to slip into this warm, greenish and brackish water, and to check for yourself that the famous jellyfish are harmless ...

Immerse yourself in the mood, with the video below:

There would be three to four different species of jellyfish in the lake. We only found two. The small brunettes, the most numerous, we see in the video, and some others a little larger, white and translucent.

After the initial apprehension, where one only dares to tap with the tip of the finger these funny jellyfish, one finally dares to touch them for good, then to catch them with full hand, to look at them more closely.

Under the surface of the Kakaban Jellyfish Lake. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.

Under the surface of the Kakaban Jellyfish Lake. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.

Under the surface of the Kakaban Jellyfish Lake. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.
Under the surface of the Kakaban Jellyfish Lake. (Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

The further you get from the pontoon, the more there is. It's incredible !

It looks like small translucent hearts beating, mini-planets immersed in a cosmic soup.

Indifferent to our blows of palms, to our awkward fiddling, they spin in all directions, swimming stubbornly, mostly sideways or upside down. Because of the sun, the heat? Mystery.

In any case, my subwoofer does not support the heat of the rays in the murky water. After a few pictures, the interior is covered with steam ...

Update : I went back to Kakaban in 2013four years after the little expedition I'm talking about here. The island is much more crowded than before. From now on, it is forbidden to wear fins, so as not to hurt jellyfish.

I did a little video in 2013 (with my SLR, the Canon Eos 7D, acquired in 2010, the rendering is of much better quality than with my small compact). I made a montage a bit similar, for the nod with my first excursion. I let you discover it below:

→ See the 2013 article: Snorkeling in the Kakaban Jellyfish Lake

Access to the lake

The access to the lake itself is relatively easy, contrary to what I was afraid of the stories of those who preceded me here a few years ago, as Yann and Marie Ange.

The place has probably been converted since. There is now a long wooden footbridge that crosses the little jungle and mangrove jetty separating the sea from the lake. In five minutes, we are there!

Kakaban Mangrove, sea side. Borneo, Indonesia. July 2009.

A wooden footbridge crosses the Kakaban mangrove and leads to the lake. Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009.

The trickiest part of the trip is actually to reach the island from the boat, or back. We were a small group of eight, not all equipped with boots or sandals to walk without cutting on the dead coral beach.

Becky, the young English girl, only had flip-flops and her flippers (which are worn barefoot). But his chance is to have a real gentleman for boyfriend: Paul carried her on his back to cross the dangerous strike!

We arrived at a very low tide, and even when properly fitted, it is not easy to advance in the shallow water, trying not to spoil the living coral branches, without stumbling on dead debris. roll under the sole.

Kakaban beach, at low tide. Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009.

Fortunately, no sore to regret this time ... And this strange and fascinating lake deserves some effort. With the mantas of Sangalakiit was the other "curiosity" in the area that I absolutely wanted to see.

However, as I arrived at the end of my stay, and had to spend two dry days in Derawan, because of my stingray stingI almost missed Kakaban ... we planned to go there the day before, actually. But a big storm, with driving rain and rough sea, forced us to postpone our small expedition.

I watched the next dawn anxiously ... Fortunately, the sky was still beautiful! And we were able to embark as planned, in an old wooden tub with a choppy engine.

After the lunch break on the pontoon and the amazing jellyfish tour, we went back to the boat for our second dive on Kakaban Reef ... But I will come back to tell you in detail my dives in the Derawan archipelago, here a few days.


  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

  1. Medusa jellyfish ....

    it would almost make me want to go ... but I think I would have a hard time getting rid of a flight reflex against so many of these creatures! I remember as if it was yesterday a launch in the middle of a multitude of jellyfish on the side of Muscat where we had to cross a "barrier" of 3 meters deep of these pretty little pink balls ... Brrr ... 🙁

  2. @Malene: However, in this lake, it is done, in the presence of jellyfish and their funny aquatic ballet. Nothing scary or disgusting. Since they do not sting, it's just magic!

  3. Happy that you took this bath of jellyfish in Kakaban, it is one of the most original dives that I could do in the world!

    As you point out in your story above, I was there in September 2006, and apparently they have repaired the wooden footbridge across the mangrove from the unspoilt beach to the jellyfish lake. I had slobbered on my side, and the whole team too: it had taken us well over 5 minutes to reach the lake, crossing over insulated planks or rickety beams, while carrying all our equipment. Scabrous ...

    By cons we had the chance to dive with bottles, which allowed us to go deeper and see more jellyfish. Finally, this atmosphere + water that was very unclear became quite disturbing, see slightly stressful. Millions of jellyfish, a real bath of jellyfish ... (some with stinging filaments all the same!).

    And to bring water to your mill (dare I say!), I do not know if you had time to explore the shores of the mangrove? I had discovered a strange world with a flora and fauna that I had of course never seen elsewhere, including fish less than ten centimeters long nose trumpet-like (and no, it's not were not at all fish trumpet). And to illustrate, see the very first photo I published on this article last year: we see pink sponges attached to mangrove branches, but we do not see these tiny nudibranchs that I was trying to observe ...:

    It seems that we find an identical lake on Palau, which is not so far from Kakaban ...


  4. Beautiful report Corinne! I was very moved when I saw your jellyfish video ... I think it's wonderful. I hope to be able to spend a day there. Of course, it is a very long area to visit ... 🙂

  5. @A World Elsewhere: Yes, I remember, you told me all your difficulties in Kakaban, at the time when you had offered me a photo of the filming there to illustrate the article I was preparing for Ouest-France ...
    Our small group just snorkeled in the lake (but I would have liked to do a "real" dive), and we could not stay long, because we had to go back on the boat for dive on the reef. So I did not have the opportunity to explore the approaches to the mangrove or to see these fish trumpet-like ...
    This lake is almost unique, as I said at the beginning of the article, there are indeed only two places in the world like this one, with Palau in Micronesia. Would you be insidiously pushing me to push that far?

    @Anthony: I am very happy to have succeeded in restoring some of the emotion that this strange and fascinating bathing has given me. There is something magical in the ballet of these jellyfishes. It's really a show that does not leave you indifferent. Indonesia is an archipelago with many surprises ...

    @Alimata: You're right, it's completely overrated, the mantas ... From now on, I would only be interested in jellyfish. 😆
    A little higher up, I say that the lake water is "hot, greenish and brackish". It has a salty taste, but it mixes with rainwater, so its salt content must be less than seawater (definition of "brackish").

  6. Corinne, I discover your blog via a tweet from Marie-Julie and ... thank you Marie-Julie! This post is dreaming, I share with our readers on our blog, thank you!

  7. @ Marie-Julie: When I was swimming in the lake, I already had the music in my head (I love this soundtrack, I fell in love with it when I saw the movie), and I already knew it was this piece -which would correspond best to accompany my images of this strange and yet graceful aquatic ballet.

    @ Chloe: Welcome to Little Bubbles Elsewhere! And a thousand thanks for this wink on the TripAdvisor blog.

    @A Parisian woman: Oh, well it makes me really happy, that ... I'm getting excited more and more for the subtleties of editing, precisely.

  8. Did you see this evening in Ushuaia the report on the Lake of the island of Palau that you mention in your article? They mentioned everything that you describe there and I read your article two or three days ago ...

  9. @Thomas: No, I was out tonight, so I missed that, shame! I would have liked to see the images of Palau, to compare with Kakaban ... But here you have now become very sharp on the subject of non-irritating jellyfish !!!

  10. Hi Corinne,

    It's pretty amazing to see that some amenities have emerged on Kakaban ... I even find it a shame, it removes some charm somewhere ... .but it is true that all places change at great speed.

    Delighted with your trip, I see ... 😉

  11. @Yann: Yes, I had re-read your story before leaving, and I was rather surprised to discover this perfectly passable wooden path. That said, I admit that I am not a fan of junglesque trips, and that I enjoyed being able to gain effortlessly the edge of the lake. But for sure, as soon as the places are "domesticated" for the comfort of the tourist, it is not quite the same ...

  12. Hello,

    in the pond of Berre we also find jellyfish that do not sting, white, diameter 5 to 8 cm. I have never seen this species at sea.

    1. @Pierre: that then, I totally ignored. It's exciting, those jellyfish stories that do not live in the sea ... I'm going to look more into the subject. Thank you for the information !

  13. Hello,

    and thank you for this discovery that gave us very very want to go with our children (6 and 11) this summer 2013. We immediately took our Lonely but he does not speak of this famous lake Kakaban.
    can you tell us how to get there? thank you so much

    1. @Val: I'm not sure that the Derawan archipelago (of which Kakaban is a part), on the east coast of Borneo, on the Indonesian side, is really an ideal destination for children (6 years, it seems to me a little young), unless they are used to barouder ...

      You can go to Kakaban by renting a boat from people in the village of Derawan Island. I made this trip in July 2009. You will find my articles, concerning the different stages of my journey of the time, at the end of this link:

      After that, I'm sure that by searching a little on Google, with the words "Derawan" "Borneo" "Kakaban" and "jellyfish lake" you should find additional information.


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