Each and every travel destination in the tropical island of Borneo, Indonesia, has its own attraction: the amazing orang-utans in Central Kalimantan, the ever-popular river floating market in South Kalimantan, culinary specialities with aloe vera in West Kalimantan, the Virgin Forest of North Borneo. The travel destination par excellence of East Kalimantan is Maratua Island, which boasts a captivating underwater world.
Maratua Island is a small island inhabited by the Bajau tribe, which is famous for their diving expertise and for the valuable skill of accurately sensing changes in the wind speed and direction. The Bajau have been a nomadic, seafaring people for most of their history (they are in fact commonly known as sea gypsies), they are very dependent on the sea and they cannot cope with living on coastal areas. The Bajau have very simple words to explain this: “If there is no sea, we cannot live”.
Maratua Island is definitely a popular tourist destinations which attracts a high number of visitors thanks to its several attractions: an abundant sea life, turtles and dancing fish that chose Maratua as their favorite place to lay eggs, beautiful scenery spots that will spoil your eyes, and a peaceful nature and slow pace of life. If you are lucky, you can even encounter dolphins, whale sharks and stingrays in Maratua!
If you plan to visit Maratua Island, ensure a tour to nearby islands like Kakaban, Charitable, Nunukan and Derawan. On Kakaban Island, you can swim with thousands of jellyfish in the mangrove-fringed lake in the center of the island. Charitable Island is a turtle conservation area, with stingrays often sighted around it. Nunukan Island has amazing sceneries and is home to a luxury resort. Derawan Island is located in an area between the river mouth and the sea and it is cheaper to stay there thanks to its vicinity to the coast. It is in Derawan where the bulk of tourists tend to stay.
Maratua Island is rarely visited by tourists because of the high cost of getting there in the fist place. There are no ATMs on the island and cash is the king there. The key to Maratua Island is having a travel agent taking you through all necessary steps for a visit to paradise. Yes, because once all is organized and you arrive on the island, you can forget about money and just enjoy the stunning beauty of Maratua. Remember, there is no need to dive to watch sea-life: a mask and a snorkel is all you need there!
Central Borneo Guide can help sort out transportation and accommodation into a complete package. Check them out at www.centralborneoguide.com – they are local people and can offer you different kind of special tours off the beaten track.
You will not regret a visit to Maratua Island, the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia after Bali, Gili and Raja Ampat.
Plane: Jakarta – Balikpapan – Berau (1 night stay in Balikpapan or Berau), or Surabaya – Balikpapan- Berau (1 night stay in Balikpapan or Berau). Vice versa for the return trip.
Boat: Berau to Maratua is about 3 hours of navigation. Speedboat leave between 9 am to 2 pm. The weather on this island is erratic and unpredictable after 3pm, so 2pm is really the last available time to travel there by boat.
Central Borneo Guide wishes to thank David Metcalf, a professional photographer from New Zealand, who helped them to start and keeps supporting the cause. All photos on this article are by him. Follow David on http://davidmetcalfphotography.com or read about his charity project and documentary Long Sa’an – the journey back