Maratua Island in the Derawan Archipelago off the north coast of East Kalimantan, is a large tropical island partially encircling a massive lagoon on one end and fringed with sheer rocky walls and coral reefs along the other end.This giant upside down U-shaped island covers about 384 square kilometers of sandy white beaches and mangrove forests and 3,735 square kilometers of territorial waters which contain the third highest level of marine biodiversity in the world after Raja Ampat and the Solomon Islands.
One of the four most popular islands in the Derawan Archipelago, Maratua lies in the province of East Kalimantan. The Derawan Island chain includes the islands of Derawan, Sangalaki and Kakaban, and is home to one of the world’s only saltwater lakes as well as one of the largest green turtle nesting sites in Indonesia.
This paradise island is situated within the fabled Coral Triangle, with all the richness and beauty within itsexotic underwater landscapesthat one would expect from such a location. Over 20 dive spots across the island allow visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves amidst the bountiful treasures which lay tucked neatly beneath the sapphire waters.Maratua’s garden under the sea proudly exhibits an abundance of colorful coral reefs populated with a variety of species of fish, green turtles, manta rays and other marine life.
Unlike some of the other Derawan islands which are uninhabited, Maratua has a population of about 3,000 people and is divided into 4 villages, most of which come from the Bajo Tribes.The Bajo people, or Sea Gypsies as they have often been called, are a landless tribe that is sustained completely and exclusively by the ocean. But not only do they survive solely on marine resources—they actually live in the ocean as well. Entire villages are built on stilts and connected by wooden bridges over large expanses of coral reefs and rocks in the middle of the open sea. The Bajo tribes maintain an intimate knowledge of the maritime coastal ecosystems, as well as the seasons, winds, currents, tides, lunar cycle, stars and navigation. These mysterious sea people are also distinguished by their exceptional free-diving abilities, and through years of practice have acquired physical adaptations that enable them to see better and dive longer underwater.
As it is located within the Coral Triangle, snorkelling and diving should be on the top of your list of things to do when setting foot on the beautiful island of Maratua. There are several dive centres with available diving and snorkelling equipment for rent to assist you in your exploration of these underwater worlds.
A wide variety of marine life inhabits the waters surrounding Maratua, many of which are visible in just five feet of water. These include cuttlefish, lobsters, ghostpipe fish, blue-ring octopus, nudibranch, pigmy seahorses, ribbon eels and scorpion fish. 21 dive spots have been marked across the island, each offering a different experience, beauty and a varied biodiversity.
Turtle Traffic is one of the most popular dive spots, and true to its name, is filled with Green Sea Turtles. Hundreds of turtles frequent this portion of ocean, gliding gracefully about in search of food. The island is also a nesting ground where the Green Turtles return each year to lay their eggs, hence resulting in Maratua sometimes being referred to as the “Turtle Capital of Indonesia.”
Big Fish Country is located between the islands of Maratua and Nabucco, where the stronger currents bring the big fish in to play. Many pelagic creatures like Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, Tuna and Mackerel roam this channel together with schools of Barracuda, White Tip Sharks, and even the occasional Hammerhead. This dive spot has deep waters and strong currents, and is therefore reserved for advanced divers.
Other dive spots around Maratua include Maratua Reef, Fusilier Paradise, Mid Reef, Batfish Alley, Lumanlang, Divers Delight, Turtle Parade, Small Fish Country, Leo Point, Midnight Run Snapper, Sea Wall Garden, Sea Wall, Second Channel Shark City and more.
Once you’ve had your fill exploring the world beneath the waves, complete your Maratua experience with a stroll around solid part of the island. Pay a visit to any of the 4 Bajo villages and take the opportunity to learn about the lives of these mysterious sea people.
When all that is complete, sit back and relax on the beach and bask in the glow of the setting sun sinking beneath the horizon.