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Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Location: Tarakan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Derawan Island

beach on Derawan
beach on Derawan

Actually we are in Tarakan again but it doesn't make a difference. In fact Tarakan was the only place in all our Indonesian travels where we could find Internet - and yes, in Long Bawan where it had been running for 5 days already when we arrived. This is hard to believe from Europe. I am personally happy that there are still hidden places like this on earth, and especially that we could find it.

We spent the past days in another amazing place, amazing for a different reason. We soon managed to get out of the heart of Borneo with the help of an American Cessna pilot. This was the most beautiful flight in my life. Long Bawan is situated above 1000 metres, surrounded by mountains fully covered by intact rainforests. The flight took an hour, mostly above continuous forest which is only interrupted by rivers and a few villages. I was stuck to the window of the small Cessna that flew only a few hundred metres above the forest. Seeing it made me feel so good. By the way we call this uninterrupted tropical canopy broccoli because that's what it's like from above.

the Kalimantan rainforest from above
the Kalimantan rainforest from above

We were sad to leave this beauty and we were very happy that we could get as close to it as it is possible in the 21st century. It wasn't cheap but worth all cents. Borneo is one of the last lungs of the World, but unfortunately loggers have also realized it, and apparently half of the tropical wood production of the World comes from the single island of Borneo today. If logging continues at this rate, in 20 years nothing will remain of these forests, nobody will ever wake for the sound of gibbons.

After leaving the forest we travelled to another gem of nature, Derawan Island, by a combination of speedboat and minibus.

fisherman with a lobster
fisherman with a lobster

Derawan and some 30 more islands lie an hour away by speedboat off the eastern coast of Kalimantan in the Celebes Sea, in the middle of the Coral Triangle. It's incredible here. On Derawan there is a sleepy village populated by the Bajau people who are originally traders from the Philippines. And that's all the island, just a small village, we could walk it around in less than an hour in the first evening.

The island is surrounded by a coral reef full of sea turtles. We met a lot of them and people there live in such a peace with them that you can even see them swim among the huts built above the water. We also lived in a hut like this. In the mornings we just walked to the end of the pier to watch the turtles. We also collected big seashells at low tide. In the village you can see huge piles of coral and seashells.

sea turtle
sea turtle

Yesterday on our evening walk we saw strange trails in the sand and we followed them with our torch. Finally we got it, it was a turtle that came out of the water to lay eggs in a hole. I didn't take any photos so as not to disturb her, but we watched her for at least an hour.

We also visited two nearby islands on the Celebes Sea, Kakaban and Sangalaki. On Kakaban there is a lake full of jellyfish that lost their singes, so you can easily swim among them. On Sangalaki there is a turtle reserve where newborn turtles are helped to reach the sea. Both islands are surrounded by beautiful coral and plenty of fish. Unfortunately we didn't see the famous mantas at Sangalaki.

baby turtle
baby turtle

The tourists? Not too many come here, most go to neighbouring Malaysia and Bali. We only saw 5 Westerners in 4 days - and it would have been hard to hide from us on the small island :) Anyway, this was already five times as much as we'd seen in all of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) before. Maybe because it is difficult to get here? Well, it will take us 5 days to get back to Budapest...

Well this beauty is hard to leave indeed. If only we could be sure that these treasures will remain the same until we come back some time...

Now, almost at the end of our journey, we are sitting in a net cafe in Tarakan, which once seemed a distant advanturous town in a hidden corner of Indonesia. Tarakan still has a surprise to offer: there is a mangrove park 200 metres from the centre where proboscis monkeys roam, that are endemic to Borneo. It is as if in the city park of Budapest you could still see deer. We took a nice room here for 2 nights and then we'll go back to Malaysia.

There are still a few exotic towns waiting for us on our way home: Tawau, which I called Malaysia's most rear gate, Kota Kinabalu where we had our first tropical impressions on the island of Manukan, and Hong Kong. In fact it's still unsure if we get home, as we couldn't get a reassuring answer whether there's a ferry to Tawau on Thursday. All we know is "maybe"...

Kakaban island
Kakaban Island

1 comment:

  1. Wow very awesome pictures!! ^.^ nice site! its fun to read about your adventures! thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete