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Flight, ride and boat from Balikpapan to Derawan


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large_5550_14695040045476.jpgTakes 1h20 in a propeller plane but it takes 18 hours on a bus.
Leaving the hotel at 0645 and I got to the Balikpapan [Balikpapan-travel-guide-861133]’s flash airport in about twenty minutes. It helped being Saturday. I found Wings Air’s check-in desk which was closed. There was a note saying that the flight was delayed by 50 minutes. There were quite a few people seated nearby waiting for the counter to open.

Surprisingly, the counter opened 90 minutes before scheduled departure, sharp! After I checked-in, I asked about the delay. The man looked puzzled and said the flight was on time. I pointed to the sign which was on my side of the counter. He leant over and ripped it off, apologising and explaining it was for yesterday.

The ATR left about 10 minutes late.large_5550_1469504006968.jpgFrom Berau, it is a 2h drive to Tanjung Batu to catch a 25 minute speed boat ride to Derawan Island. Tell you more when I get thereThe scenery was a mix of jungle, oil palm and coal mines. We got to Berau on time but the Garuda Bombardier 1000 jet that left after us beat us there. I looked around for people at baggage claim that appeared to be divers. I struck it lucky second time and managed to get a car and boat ride with a Norwegian living in Balikpapan and his young son. They were off to the same hotel, so that the boy could learn to dive.

The car journey to Tanjung Batu took 2h on potholey sealed roads through remains of forests and oil palm plantations. Time went quickly as the man was very interesting having worked in many countries in the world, and even recently in Iraq.

Once at Tanjung Batu, it was a 25 minute ride in smooth conditions to the hotel’s private jetty (one of many jetties) on Derawan.

The kind Norwegian didn’t want to take any money for sharing the ride. The hotel had wanted to charge IDR2.2m roundtrip. So I gave IDR300K to the boy who was in the process of building his own super computer.

My room at the Derawan Dive Resort (as opposed to the posher place called Derawan Dive Lodge) was surprisingly well kept. The bathroom could have been better maintained though. The whole island needed an anti-littering campaign both on land and in the water. I’m sure some of the overwater hotel rooms discharge sewage into the sea.

I took a light and simple lunch of instant noodles and egg in “town” and returned for a rest. An alumni gathering from Berau was very noisy with music, announcements, etc. It was like a Miami beach party without alcohol and scanty swimwear.

When it was a little cooler, I explored the entire south side of the island which was more built up. I ran out of time before nightfall to explore the other side; high tide didn’t help as it made access difficult from the east end of the island.

During my evening walk, I ran in Simon & Karen. We ate together and priced some dives. We decided that we should try diving in Kakaban and also see the jellyfish at the same time. Except for the prices at dive resorts, the villager-operated dive centres had similar pricing. What did vary was the price of the boat; you do get what you pay for as some may hire larger boats than others. They typically have their own boat for around the island but hire one for going to the other islands; the prices vary for them too. We decided to meet back at 0900 in the morning to confirm the pricing at Danakan.

I called it a day around 2030 and fell asleep despite the noise outside.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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