Magical Derawan

Life has been serendipitous enough to bring me to some wonderful places – the kind of places that make me nod and think, “I could spend more time here.”

Of those, there are a few that have moved me more deeply.  For these, I nod and think, “I will be spending more time here.”

Derawan is the newest and perhaps most magical on that list. I spent a charmed 6 nights on this enchanting archipelago off the coast of Kalimantan Timur (SE Borneo).

Snapshots of what made it so amazing:

Warm hospitality from Pak Kasino and Mama Rina at Danakan Losmen, who took me in and treated me like a dear friend (thanks to Danielle – they are good friends – for calling them for me!).

Soul-tickling vistas of gorgeous, crystalline waters and brilliant green islands and stunningly white sand.  Flocks of frigatebirds gliding overhead.

Wandering along sand banks at low tide, marveling at the ridiculous shades of the limpid sea – blue to turquoise to pale green to white.

Diving and drifting along rainbow coral reefs.  Swimming among sea turtles, thousands upon thousands of stingless jellyfish in a marine lake (otherworldly), and 15+ manta rays.  And frogfish, scorpionfish, stonefish, lionfish, crocodile fish, blue-spotted rays, eels, bumphead parrotfish, octopuses, nudibranchs…

Kind & friendly locals of Derawan, including the girls who did a song-and-dance routine when I told them I didn’t really know Indonesian music.

Listening to Bahasa Indonesia on tape in my mosquito net hammock on the beach at sunset.

Witnessing the festivities of Idul Fitri, the major holiday marking the end of Ramadhan.  Fireworks, friends and family all dressed in finery as they visited house to house, hordes of Indonesian tourists frolicking on the beach and banana boats and generally having a good time.

Strolling through the sandy, dusty streets of the sleepy village (well, sleepy before the crowds arrived for Idul Fitri), sharing languid smiles and greetings with the people I passed.

Strolling along the jetties and beaches, thinking deep thoughts.

Sitting on the beach alone at night, thinking more deep thoughts.

Working and reading and writing on the peaceful Danakan Losmen jetty at night, under the warm golden light bulb and the Milky Way.

Meeting inspirational, friendly, like-minded tourists.  Those who I spent the most time with, my “Derawan vacation friends” were all living in the country, learning the language and culture, and truly appreciative of the experience.  Three fun, chatty English teachers based in Surabaya. A couple who had given up their burdens back home in Europe and were spending months experiencing Indonesia, who devoted much time and attention to exploring the bewildering array of marine life dwelling just below the Danakan Losmen jetty.  A lovely, warm group from GIZ (German organization that works on conservation and development projects) working on community-based forest management nearby in Kalimantan, who were fascinating and entertaining to talk with, both while nerding out about environmental management and talking about less serious issues.

Even got some karaoke in with the one of the GIZ folks.  Surrounded by bright red and green laser party lights, my tremulous renditions of “House of the Rising Sun” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby” accompanied by the solid baritone of a geographer from Germany and cheering from our Indonesian karaoke buddies, is not what I’d envisioned as part of my “Derawan island paradise” experience.  But, it felt like a perfect part of my last evening there.  And it was a lot of fun.

And now, revived, I shall prepare for fieldwork on the river.  Some photos below, though the complete photo album will come once that fieldwork is finished, because…I took over 1000 photos.  Have some whittling down to do.


I will be spending more time here.