Diving in Sangalaki and Irian Jaya, Indonesia

Diving in Sangalaki and Irian Jaya, Indonesia


Type of reefs – walls, dumps; accessibility – one hour from Derawan by speedboat;
visibility – seasonal, average 15 meters; flow – moderate;
corals – in very good condition;
fish – in very large numbers, extremely diverse;
the main advantages are manta rays, jellyfish lake and Kakaban island.

According to Growtheology, Sangalaki Island is located off the east coast of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. The main local attraction is black manti. They rarely reach the maximum size for mantas – 6 meters, stopping at about three and a half meters, but the lack of impressive size is more than compensated for by their numbers. On a clear, sunny day between April and October, about a hundred of these majestic creatures can be seen in one dive. Sangalaki was opened for diving in 1993, since then there has not been a single visitor who has not met manta rays underwater, with the exception of a small group that arrived on the island in early January.

Every dive in Sangalaki brings something new and interesting. Variegated invertebrates, titanium triggers, barracudas, groupers, rare pink leaffish, cuttlefish, lots of scorpion fish. Let’s be honest, compared to some regions of Indonesia, there is not too much fish here – it is, but not in such gigantic quantities as in other places. But the corals are in very good condition, there are green sea turtles. Sangalaki is warm, sunny and humid throughout the year.

The temperature is kept around + 21-32C. Manta rays and turtles are found all year round, but the best season for diving is from April to October. Since the island is located near the mouth of the Berau River, visibility can drop to 5 meters after heavy rains.

The small tropical island of Derawan is located about an hour by speedboat from Sangalaki, off the northeast coast of Kalimantan. A little over a thousand people live on an area of ​​2.5 km. The first settlers appeared here in the 19th century – they were pirates hiding from the law. Today they have been replaced by divers. Caves, walls, manta rays, turtles and a cozy hotel in the most picturesque corner of the island – what else do you need for a memorable vacation? This place cannot be classified as a must-see, but if you are on Sangalaki, it still makes sense to visit Deravan at least for a day.

An hour’s speed boat ride from Derawan is an uninhabited coral island – Kakaban. It became famous mainly due to the vertical, cave-eaten walls. The currents are moderate, the depth is about 100 meters. There are whitetip and gray reef sharks and five-meter hammerhead sharks, a lot of fish, beautiful healthy soft corals.

But in addition to all of the above, Kakaban also keeps another unique, rare pearl – a prehistoric jellyfish lake, formed about 20 thousand years ago as a result of geological processes. Its area is 5 square kilometers, it is surrounded by a fifty-meter limestone ridge. The only similar body of water can be found in Palau.

The lake occupies a significant part of the island and is slightly above sea level, the concentration of salt in its waters is two-thirds of the ocean value. The lake, surrounded by mangroves, is home to a wide variety of marine creatures, many of which were previously unknown to science. Four species of jellyfish that have lost their stinging abilities due to the lack of natural enemies, crabs, sea snakes, tube worms and many other animals – the lake is literally seething with life. The depth of the lake is 11 meters, visibility is 10-12 meters.

Irian Jaya

Type of reefs – vertical walls, channels between lagoons, caves, reefs;
availability – by speedboat or safari boat;
visibility – from 25 to 45 meters;
current – moderate, ideal for drift diving;
corals – in very good condition, varied;
fish – in very large numbers, extremely diverse;
the main advantages are dolphins, whitetip sharks, unexplored wrecks.

Irian Jaya is the western part of New Guinea. To date, Irian Jaya is considered one of the most remote and isolated corners of the planet from the progressive world, most of which is still shrouded in mystery.

Even the maps used by the pilots contain huge empty areas marked “Insufficient information about the area.” Mangrove swamps make large sections of the coast impassable, and dense jungles and high mountains completely isolate separate areas of the island from each other. The rivers are so winding that a trip along them doubles or even triples the length of the road inland, and treacherous currents that change the water level in open reservoirs even at a distance of 100 kilometers from the coast still hinder serious exploration of the island to this day.

In Senderawazih Bay, or Birds of Paradise Bay, and off the islands of the western coast of Irian Jaya lie stunning, unexplored coral reefs. The list of more or less explored places is supplemented by the western islands of Raja Ampat, Cape Manokwari, Sorong Peninsula and Biak Island. All of them are incomparable and deserve the highest praise.

Beautiful coral reefs, vertical deep walls, clear water, sharks and manta rays and other large underwater inhabitants, caves – everything is here, and the number of dive sites is so great that it is almost impossible to list even the best of them. As strange as it may seem, Irian Jaya also has many World War II shipwrecks that can satisfy even the most sophisticated wreck divers. Currently, 65 shipwrecks, mostly Japanese military vessels, and 35 aircraft, mostly American P-47 Thunderbolts and P38 Lightnings, have been found in coastal waters.

Recommended dive sites in Irian Jaya:
The Cross Wreck (a World War II patrol ship blown up by a mine, a lot of coral and fish, a perfectly preserved wheelhouse with a telegraph, machine guns, torpedo launchers).

Shinwa Maru (a 120-meter Japanese ship sunk in 1943 as a result of an air raid, on board are cables, telegraph installations, gas masks, diving helmets, underwater hoses, underwater cable laying devices, building materials, strange round objects, quite large in diameter – possibly mines).

Irian Jaya, Indonesia