Derawan, an environmental paradise
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Sting-free waters: Kakaban Lake is home to special species of jellyfish that do not sting. JP/Arief Suhardiman
Pristine aqua-blue waters caressing the unspoiled sand of the cleanest shores; this can only be the view from the shade provided by towering palm trees on the beaches of the island of Derawan.
Derawan Island, a few hours east of the city of Berau, East Kalimantan, is one of only a few destinations where tourists can witness the almost translucent ocean that moves underneath them as they relax on the jetty. But the blissful adventure does not stop there.
Harmless fun: A tourist holds up a stingless jellyfish in Kakaban Lake. JP/Arief SuhardimanSeveral other islands have become accompanying attractions — the more popular ones include Sangalaki, Maratua, and Kakaban. For scuba divers, these islands are an underwater nirvana. Flourishing with vivid coral reef life and an abundance of green turtles, every dive becomes an undersea voyage of discovery.
Occasionally, enormous manta rays pass through as they migrate, and even thresher sharks have been seen in this area. Though the island itself is not officially protected, the local government is taking great steps to conserve the wildlife.
Look what I found: Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu holds up an unexpected catch — garbage — during her dive off Derawan Island, East Kalimantan. JP/Arya HarsonoAmong their efforts is a green-turtle hatchery and protection program, which protects the turtles from poachers when they lay their eggs. After mating, pregnant female turtles will wash up on shore and crawl their way across the beach to find a sanctuary where they will potentially lay thousands of eggs.
In this area, most turtles lay their eggs on Sangalaki, with some creating nests on Derawan. When those eggs hatch, the program staff and volunteers go the extra mile in ensuring that the newborn green turtles are safe from predators by monitoring their dangerous path into the deep blue ocean.
Beauty awaits: A diver enjoys the beautiful scenery underwater near Maratua Island in Derawan, East Kalimantan. JP/Arief Suhardiman
Approximately one out of every thousand hatchlings survives long enough to be able to reproduce. This is because of the large amount of predators that feed on the defenseless baby turtles such as crabs, seabirds and larger fish.
With local fishermen and poachers lurking in unpatrolled waters, the turtles are at risk of facing extinction and, thus, these hatchery and protection programs are crucial for maintaining and perhaps even increasing the turtle population on these islands.
Master of disguise: A crocodile fish seamlessly camouflages itself in Small Fish Country, Maratua. JP/Arief Suhardiman
Another extraordinary attraction in this part of Indonesia is Kakaban, a large coral atoll that harbors a brackish lake overflowing with four species of non-stinging jellyfish. Since there are only two such lakes in the world, the other being Palau, the lake has been designated a Marine Protected Area, and there are plans to make it a World Heritage Site.