Diving In Borneo: The Derawan Islands And A Blissful Life Aquatic

Diving In Borneo: The Derawan Islands And A Blissful Life Aquatic

The steering wheel spins frantically, the engine graunches and the tiny speedboat slews side-on to the swell, centimetres from a large number of floating timber. Luckily our captain, a Bajo "sea gypsy" from the fishing individuals who first settled Borneo’s Derawan archipelago, is a master of the marine handbrake turn. He grins and guns the engine; the white sands, tall palms and stilt houses of Derawan island come into focus.

My teenage son and I've travelled through the coal mine-scarred landscape beyond Berau, a riverside town in Kalimantan on mainland Indonesian Borneo (and reached by way of two flights from Singapore), to take a boat out to spend per week exploring a few of the archipelago’s scores of islands. Only two are officially inhabited, although 30-odd others have names and some are dwelling to scientists and sea-dwelling boat people. By the end of this 12 months the islands will probably be better connected to the mainland, with the completion of a small airport on Maratua island, which will handle short-haul flights.

We’ll be spending the next couple of days at Derawan Dive Lodge, a cluster of stylish picket cabanas reached by jetty over limpid waters, where green turtles graze on sea grass and algae. At the very least 15,000 female turtles return to the archipelago yearly, typically swimming many 1000's of kilometres to put their eggs on the beaches where they had hatched. Now, so many turtles graze off Derawan island, a lot of them non-local breeders, that their meals sources have gotten scarce.

The highest tides, around the full moon and the new moon, are the most effective time to look at the females drag their heavy our bodies up the sand and wheeze and grunt via the ovulation process. "One laid her eggs under the restaurant a few weeks ago," says the lodge’s Indonesian manager. We’ve missed their hatching, sadly.

Tranquil, tiny Tour derawan island has acquired busier since we first visited four years ago. A handful of memento stalls, some cafes and a sign reading "tourist village" enliven the brushed-sand village streets. Two bungalow resorts clog what once was virgin beach – the final new lodging on the island, if policy holds. But the spirit remains the same. It takes forty minutes to walk around the island: fishermen greet us, schoolladies line us up for photos, the odd turtle pops a scaly head up from the wate, and kids play volleyball.

Derawan Dive Lodge is a cluster of cabanas reached by jetty over limpid waters, the place green turtles graze on sea grass
The following day, a refreshingly sturdy dive boat takes us to Kakaban, an uninhabited island ninety minutes away: dolphins shimmy and flying fish leap as we go. As soon as we’re there, rickety wooden steps lead through creeper-tangled trees to one of many world’s few jellyfish lakes, a Darwinian laboratory where animals have evolved in bizarre, and unique, ways. The jellyfish haven't any sting, so we take to the warm green waters with our snorkels. Clusters of golden brown jellies pulse within the sunlight, their bells agency and rubbery to touch; tiny, neon-filamented medusae relaxation in the palm of a hand; miniature goby fish hunt their prey in shoals.

The diving, too, is spectacular, although the sturdy currents that make the Derawans a scuba mecca should not for the faint-hearted. "You’ve never used a reef hook?" inquires one Indonesia veteran, referring to the glorified tent peg on a rope that divers use to safe themselves in currents which might in any other case wash them away. "You’ll need one."

And 30 metres below the graceful, fast-flowing waters, divers flap in the gale-force current like washing on a line, while sharks cruise effortlessly by and towers of barracuda hover, streamlined within the blue.