Diving in Derawan/ Maratua (1 Jun to 9 Jun 19)

Finally going on a dive trip after an almost 9 month break since the last Romblon trip. Decided on Maratua after learning about the place at Adex.

My initial discussion was with one of the business owners at Green Nirvana, Vincent. Really nice guy. I bargained .. discussed.. for like a week.. and he even went to the extend of checking air tickets and talking to airlines to see if we can keep our luggage overnight at the Balikpapan airport so that we didn’t have to drag it around when we do the overnight transit to berau. And guess what .. we were introduced to Derawan Dive lodge by some friends and ended up swaying our decision due mainly to the price difference. When I informed Vincent.. he was quite cool about it.

Then came the drama.. we took a day flight from sg to Jakarta to Balikpapan and to berau… And… Somewhat I had expected.. the luggage sure wouldn’t be able to get to our final destination without glitches. And true enough.. we arrived .. our luggage.. one was left on Jakarta and one in Balikpapan. We ended up with nothing on us and had to stay a night in berau so that we can pick up our luggage the next day from the airport instead of going straight to the dive lodge.

DDL is by the seafront.. big nice lodge room but not well maintained. My dive buddy injured her leg coz dropped through the floor board. Zzz..

Then we started diving.. check out dive. Nothing much at all. Was a little disappointed.. but wellz checkout dive are supposed to be uneventful.

Oh yes.. we changed our resort half way through. Ha (Reasons below).

Day 1: Fusilier Point. Turtle traffic. Channel. (Maratua).

Fuiliser point was good. Caught sight of a leopard shark (that got scared away by the DM who was overly excited.. zz yes.) And quite a reasonably big school of barracudas. Turtle point.. as the name implies.. we saw a lot of turtles. And as for channel.. due to the crazy current, we had to abort the dive. It was impossible to get down! 4kg weight.

Day 2: mantas parade. Mantas cleaning station. And a in between the 2 places dive (Sangalaki)

It was all about mantas. We were supposedly lucky as we caught sight of about 6 to 8 mantas as we heard there were hardly any mantas for the last 2 months. But the experience was quite different from Komodo where the creatures really swam up to you. This one.. we had to chase around. Hah.

Day 3: cafee point, Danuka point (Derawan) and thresher point (Maratua)

We did 2 muck diving in Derawan as we were planning to move resort from DDL to GN. Muck diving was really good. Saw lotsa stuff like ghost pipe, nudi, slug.. was using my modified GoPro 4… Really works well for macro now. Check out the macro video. Totally unedited.

The day ended off with a really Great dive to hunt thresher shark (apparently this spot was found by Green Nirvana Kuhita dive center and no other dive centers do this site!) Of coz, it was great because we caught sight of the elusive thresher shark really up close! I got a great video of it. Heheh. It was a deep 3rd dive so we didn’t have time to wait for the shark to swim back after the first sighting.

Day 4: tuna point. Malalungan. Channel.

Tuna point was to hunt for hammerheads . But we didn’t see them. Deep dive. Second dive is also a green nirvana exclusive site… Muck diving and we saw plenty of pygme seahorses. It was really families of them on 1 fan and not to say .. there were like 3 fans with many of them that all the divers literally had their own fan to get the perfect pic. The dive was at 16m. So just imagine. Luxurious rite.

For the 3rd dive.. we successfully went down to dive channel. Wellz.. no luck. We saw like 30 barracudas. Supposed to be a tornado!

Day 5: barracudas point (kakabun), mantas parade (sangalaki), house reef (GN)

Barrcudas point lived up to its name and expectations. We saw a big school of barracudas.. with a big school of jacks and trailed by a school of 7 reef sharks. The current was really strong though..videos didn’t turn out well. The “live” view was spectacular. Caught sight of a small baby nurse shark just before ending the dive.

Went to mantas paradise again.. but this time no luck.

For the sunset dive, we went down into the house reef just 5m from the dive platform at our resort at around 545pm. And yep.. plenty of mandarin fish. Really many of them. But not too sure how to video with red light and to remove it subsequently.

Day 6: kakaban jetty. Jelly fish lake.

The captain was late again. We waited from 730 to 830.. zzz. Luckily the jetty dive was a really beautiful wall dive. And we saw quite a few Denise the seahorse. :D. Can really take our time to take pic and video. Then went to the jelly fish lake to snorkel. Interesting… There are even transparent jellyfish!

For this trip.. haha.. I brought 2 gopros! My old hero 4 modified for macro (YouTube GoPro hacks) and the hero 6 that I won at the Ocbc malaysia lucky draw. It’s really a cool combi.. especially when u start to finally be able to video macro. Ah.. I also have a new weefine dive light. Good light. And for some strange reasons.. the nudi and slug and crabs seem to love coming towards the light (I even had a video of a slug climbing up my GoPro!).

Video of macro in maratua

It’s also a paradise for big stuff!

Since I stayed in 2 resorts this trip, thought I will do a comparison so that in case I forget the reasons:

I stayed in Derawan dive lodge (DDL) at the start of the dive trip (from 2 June to 5 June) and moved to Green Nirvana (GN) thereafter. a few reasons for the move:

1. DDL is good if the plan is to dive only around derawan. Anywhere else .. it’s a boat ride of at least an hour to 1.5 hrs.

2. Dive starts late at around 8am.. by the time we get to a specific dive site.. it would be around 930am. But many of the shark sightings are early morning dives.

3. Food at DDL.. was not good. We had a fried wrasse (btw I didn’t even know it can be eaten) on one day.. and the ultimatum was.. we were given leftover recooked beef rendang for lunch (we recognised it from the dinner night before). It’s terrible. Why would anyone wanna eat leftover food on a vacation especially when we paid good money?

4. Well, I picked DDL at the start because they were cheaper, and I thought the maratua resorts don’t dive derawan (known for macro) ..

5. To be fair.. the one good upside of ddl was that the room given to us was really huge and nice facing the sea (but it won’t help if you are a light sleeper).

6. As for GN.. the service was impeccable. They were very prompt to address most concerns.. and interesting dive spots that they discovered that were not visited by any other dive centers. Plus, the sunset view was incredible.

Really nice. As for rooms, since we went for the lowest tier.. it couldn’t compare with what we stayed in ddl. Hah. Else it would really been a perfect decision to move!

7. But guess what.. after my whole bargaining episode and ended up choosing somewhere else to stay.. the GN biz owner was still absolutely nice and accomodating when we asked if there were rooms for us to move and arranged the pick up from DDL etc.. trying to fix our timing of muck diving before we leave derawan. Haha. It’s amazing. I think if it was me.. I would have ignored myself and rolled my eyes at the msg.

8. The downside of GN was that.. there were just too many mosquitoes. It’s terrible. We got bites all over us despite putting on mosquito patches.. oops.. (update .. it’s bed bugs..I now even have to solve the issue at home as I realized we have bites even at home now!) U do the sum.

The one thing you need to know if you are one of those that love a drink after dives.. besides beer …there are really nothing else available for sale on the islands. Bring your own!

Especially to go with these wonderful dinner plans..