Kakaban Island: A Hidden Gem of Indonesia

Tucked away amidst the azure waters of the Derawan Archipelago in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, lies Kakaban Island—a destination that promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of nature’s wonders. Renowned for its unique saltwater lake brimming with non-stinging jellyfish, Kakaban Island offers travelers a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in an otherworldly aquatic experience unlike any other.

Non-stinging Jellyfish – photo by Jollence Lee

Getting There

Access to Kakaban Island typically begins with a flight to Tarakan, the largest city in the province of North Kalimantan. From Tarakan, travelers can embark on a scenic boat journey across the Sulawesi Sea to reach the Derawan Islands. The boat ride from Tarakan to Kakaban Island usually takes around four to five hours, offering plenty of opportunities to soak in the breathtaking coastal landscapes along the way.

The Enigmatic Saltwater Lake

At the heart of Kakaban Island lies its most intriguing attraction: a saltwater lake unlike any other in the world. Encircled by towering limestone cliffs, this ancient lake is a natural marvel formed over millennia. What sets it apart is its resident population of golden jellyfish, which have evolved over time to become non-stinging—a rare adaptation that allows visitors to swim among them without fear.

The Formation of the Lake

The salt lake within the island – photo by Jollence Lee

The formation of Kakaban’s saltwater lake can be traced back to geological processes that took place millions of years ago. As the Earth’s crust shifted and sea levels fluctuated, a series of submerged sinkholes, known as karsts, formed in the limestone bedrock of the island. Over time, one of these sinkholes became isolated from the surrounding sea, creating the tranquil oasis we see today.

Exploring the Island

Beyond the mesmerizing saltwater lake, Kakaban Island boasts a wealth of natural beauty waiting to be explored. Visitors can embark on snorkeling or diving expeditions to discover the vibrant coral reefs that fringe the island’s shores, home to an abundance of marine life including colorful reef fish, sea turtles, and majestic manta rays. The island’s dense mangrove forests also offer opportunities for eco-friendly kayaking adventures, providing a chance to glimpse the diverse flora and fauna that call this tropical paradise home.

Practical Information

  • Accommodation: While Kakaban Island itself is uninhabited, there are a variety of accommodation options available on nearby islands such as Derawan and Maratua. From rustic beach bungalows to luxurious resorts, travelers can find lodging to suit their preferences and budget.
  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Kakaban Island is during the dry season, which typically runs from April to October. During this time, the weather is generally sunny with calm seas, making it ideal for snorkeling, diving, and other outdoor activities.
  • Conservation Efforts: As a protected marine reserve, Kakaban Island is committed to preserving its fragile ecosystem. Visitors are encouraged to practice responsible tourism by following guidelines for reef-friendly behavior, such as avoiding stepping on coral and refraining from feeding or touching marine life.

Editor's Rating & Review


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About author


A travel photographer and editor for Borneo Geo. With a passion for travel, Jollence has embarked on numerous journeys to countries such as Uzbekistan, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Philippines, Nepal, and Dubai for a different kind of adventures
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