27 September 2013

Scuba Diving Indonesian Borneo: Derawan Maratua Sangalaki

For better or worse: it's impossible for me to find a scuba diving destination where someone I know hasn't already been there done that. So when I stumbled upon the islands of Derawan, Sangalaki and Maratua in Indonesian Borneo and my co-workers said, where?!? I knew I had a winner.

I'll be honest with you. When I say the words Indonesian Borneo in my head, my mind adds ...where she contracted a rare, flesh-eating virus. I don't know if it's because my mom worked for the Health Department, the inflamed STD pictures they showed us in high school, or too many zombie movies. Still, I had to go. As the plane took off I wondered if my last words (with friends) would be: PLOW and POOD. Read more about my Indonesian air travel adventures (earlier post).

Since joining the scuba diver tribe ten years ago, I've become a reverse-travel-snob of sorts. If someone recommends a destination where I'll deplane using an actual jetway - forget it. If I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars, I expect to walk across the tarmac and find myself in an airport terminal with one gate and one luggage carousel.

The one thing I have to get over is trying to find places where US corporations don't have a presence. At the Suribaya airport there was a guy who would shrink wrap your cardboard box so it could be used as luggage....and a Starbucks. D'oh!

So why Indonesian Borneo? Well, there are three things I wanted: muck diving, coral gardens and large pelagics. This is a surprisingly tough combo to find, and we got all three.

Derawan had quasi-muck diving. For those of  you who don't scuba dive, muck diving describes the sediment where you find interesting little critters. Sangalaki is where we saw Mantas, and Maratua is where we saw some lovely coral gardens and also a barracuda tornado and an seven foot leopard shark. Oh yeah, and I saw my first hammerhead!

We also visited a village on one of the islands - you can see it in the video below. The little kids all shouted Hallo! Hallo! Later the next evening we went to another island where we saw a turtle laying eggs on the beach. When she was through she gave a long sigh of exhaustion that sounded very human...or perhaps sometimes we humans sound like exhausted turtles.

Riding back to the dive boat that night on the dinghy there were an impossible number of stars overhead. Looking up was almost as cool as looking down at the bio-luminescent water that was as equally twinkly as the sky.

Moments like this that make me feel like I'm a real adventurer. At the same time, I recognize how lucky I am to travel thousands of miles of ocean in an airplane instead of a boat. To think I crossed the Pacific Ocean in about ten hours and it took my ancestors weeks! Makes me wonder what world travel will be like when I'm an old fart.

minimal? visits Indonesia

Check out the scuba diving highlights in the three-and-a-half minute video below. In addition to the barracuda tornado, there's a shot of a black manta and a turtle scratching its butt. Not shown: a mantis shrimp that was a bit camera shy.

1 comment:

Rice King said...

Totally agree on the travel Dealio...if it doesn't involve at least two flights, stepping foot on the runway (grass ones are the best) upon arrival - a terminal with one gate AND preferably a bus and boat ride following...it's not a great experience :-)
The more unique and difficult to get to, the better.