Introducing Derawan Dive Lodge0
Best Trips 2014
National Geographic Traveler presents the New Year’s must-see places. From Argentina to Oz, the final lineup reflects what’s authentic, culturally rich, sustainably minded—and, of course, superlative in the world of travel today.
Readers’ Choice Winner: Derawan Islands, Indonesia
This year for the first time we invited our well-traveled online readers and followers to participate in creating our Best Trips list. We asked them via Twitter, Facebook, and our Intelligent Travel blog to nominate one place using the same criteria we use—sustainable, culturally minded, authentic, superlative, and timely. Among the 66 nominations we received, Traveler staff chose the following winning entry, which captures the thrill of discovering a remote destination. —Amy Alipio
Derawan Islands, Indonesia
Every traveler dreams about getting lost and finding the perfect spot somewhere off the beaten track. Even though the Derawan Islands are pretty well known, they are hard to get to and being there still feels like a discovery. I have traveled to hundreds of places around the world but there is no other place like Derawan. A small community lives in a tiny, immaculately clean village and welcomes travelers with open arms. After you get up and watch sunrise from your stilt-house balcony, you jump into tranquil and crystal-clean turquoise water to hang out with as many turtles as you can imagine and then snorkel around breathtaking reefs. Then you can stretch out on the empty beach, listen to the sound of palm trees moved by wind, and wait for an extraordinary sunset over the ocean while the sounds of evening prayers from the mosque soothe your thoughts and worries. If the reef and turtles start to bore you, visit the nearby manta ray spot or swim with stingless jelly fish in the atoll at Kakaban Island. Recently an airport opened at Maratua Island, which will make access to Derawan much easier. Get there before Derawan village is covered with hotels. —Beata Ulman, Redhill, Surrey, UK
When to Go: May to October is dry season, which typically is the best time to visit, particularly if you want to volunteer to help with World Wildlife Federation sea turtle conservation efforts.
How to Get Around: Getting to the remote Derawan Islands (Derawan, Maratua, Kakaban, and Sangalaki) begins with three flights: first to Singapore, Jakarta, or Kuala Lampur; second to Balikpapan, Indonesia; and third to Kalimantan Province’s new Berau international terminal (opened in 2012). From Berau, hire a driver (resorts typically arrange airport transfers for guests) or shared taxi for the 2- to 2.5-hour ride to coastal Tanjung Batu. Book a speedboat (chartered, shared, or resort transport) in advance for the ride (about 30 minutes) to Derawan Island.
Where to Stay: The ten rooms at Derawan Dive Lodge are in elevated, Balinese-style wooden villas clustered along the resort’s private white-sand beach (where it’s easy to spot giant green sea turtles). Mosquito netting cloaks the bamboo beds. Ask for Room 10 if you enjoy being lulled to sleep by the waves that break under the room at high tide. Don’t worry about sleeping in. Chickens hang out under the cottages and are known to provide natural wake-up calls.
Where to Eat or Drink: Derawan Dive Lodge serves Indonesian specialties such as barbecued meats, stew with a soy sauce base, satay squid, and dried fish with red chili peppers. Sashimi, served with soy sauce, chili peppers, and peanuts, is prepared with fish caught daily by local fishermen.r Room 10 if you enjoy being lulled to sleep by the waves that break under the room at high tide. Don’t worry about sleeping in. Chickens hang out under the cottages and are known to provide natural wake-up calls.
What to Buy: At the small, family-owned warungs (cafés/shops) and souvenir stores in Derawan’s stilt house fishing village, shop for salted fish and local Dayak handcrafts, such as beadwork, basketry, mandaus (ceremonial knives), and carvings. Do not purchase bracelets and other accessories made from the shells of hawksbill and green turtles. While officially protected in Indonesia, sea turtles remain under threat, and turtle products (including shellacked whole turtles) can still be found in stores and marketplaces.
Cultural Tip: The local population is predominantly Muslim, so resorts typically do not serve alcohol or pork products.
What to Read or Watch Before You Go: The Derawan Islands are off the coast of eastern Borneo, setting of Joseph Conrad’s first novel, the 1895 classic Almayer’s Folly: A Story of an Eastern River (Dover Publications, 2003).
Fun Fact: Kakaban Island’s land-locked Jellyfish Lake is a warm, brackish mixture of sea, rain, and ground water. The resulting habitat has caused the resident jellyfish to evolve. All are stingless. The spotted jellyfish lost its spots, and the Cassiopeia swims upside down.
Source: National Geographic
Helpful Link: Indonesia Tourism
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