Sangalaki: The Secret Dive Resort

How many times have you wished that you had the chance to visit a new dive destination before the rest of the world "Discovered" it. I have been to such a place, and want to share it with you. The Island is called Sangalaki, and it's located off the East coast of Borneo. Why do I call it the Secret Resort? Though it has been in operation for over a year now, very little has been done to publicize it's existence. Why would we build a brand new resort in a world class location, and not tell anyone about it? The biggest reason is regional politics. We also own a resort on Sipadan, which is claimed by both Malaysia and Indonesia. The dispute in in the World Court for a final decision, but until it is settled, we can't put information on our Malaysian Web site about it, and each government is a little touchy about advertising both Islands in dive magazines. But there's nothing to stop me from putting up my own personal Sangalaki Web site, and here you are. Even our own reservations department is a little gun shy if you try to book a visit there. You really have to be persistent to get a reservation. But this is GOOD for you. The resort is uncrowded, the diving is pristine, and exotic marine life that you've probably only seen in National Geographic is plentiful. You'll see Cuttlefish, Blue Ribbon Eels, Frogfish, DOZENS of Manta Rays, HUNDREDS of species of hard and soft corals, ZILLIONS of colorful reef fishes, and that's all just on your first dive.

About this Site

On this Web site, I hope to give you a brief overview of the delights that Sangalaki has to offer. Let me start by saying that though I work for Borneo Divers (On Sipadan) I have no direct association with Sangalaki. If you want to book a trip to Sangalaki, don't contact me. Try our reservations office or one of the agents listed elsewhere on this site. If you have a specific question about the Resort though, or are having trouble getting a response, I'll be glad to help.

If you click the Islands button at the bottom of any page, it will allow you to see more information about each of the Islands that you can dive from our home base on Sangalaki. The gallery will let you browse through a few images from my last trip down there. If you'd like more info, click the Feedback button and tell up what you'd like to learn more about.

General Info about the region

The best way to get to Sangalaki is to travel through Malaysia, pretty much the same way you would start a trip to Sipadan. From North America or Europe, you would usually go to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Manila. All have direct flights to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, but KL and Singapore are probably used the most. From KK you take a flight across Borneo to Tawau, which is the gateway to Sipadan. You enter the Indonesian portion of Borneo at Tarakan. It is a fairly small town about a 30 minute flight south of Tawau. It is located in Kalimantan which is Indonesia's half of Borneo.

The trip out to Sangalaki, which is 87 Nautical Miles from Tarakan, takes about 3 hours by fast boat. Sangalaki is in the middle of a cluster of Islands, each about 5 or 6 miles apart, which include: Derawan, Samama, Kakaban and Maratua.

Sangalaki and Samama are the smallest and have no villages. Sangalaki is about the same size as Sipadan, but it is surrounded by relatively shallow reef instead of a sheer drop-off. Our resort is the only one on Sangalaki. It's layout is similar to Sipadan, but a little more spread out. Samama is also surrounded by shallow reefs. Derawan has a village with quite a few people, and another dive resort.

Kakaban is fairly large, has no villages, and is surrounded by sheer walls similar to Sipadan instead of shallow reefs like the other neighboring islands. In the center of the Island is the worlds largest jellyfish lake. To get to the jellyfish lake, you hike through a narrow strip of jungle on a trail that climbs up over the edge of the Island and descends into the center where the lake is located. You could fit about 5 Islands the size of Sangalaki or Sipadan in the lake. Most of it is very shallow, the deepest spot is about 30 feet. It is full of 4 species of non stinging jellyfish. There are millions of them, in places they are so thick that you can't see through them. They are constantly bumping into you as the move around in random motion. Most guests snorkel here, but I took a small 50 cu ft. tank and dove it because it's easier for me to shoot video if I can stay underwater as long as necessary.

Maratua is the largest Island, and has five small fishing villages. It has a deep channel leading into it's lagoon that is good for large schools of Barracuda, Jacks, and Tuna. It also has lots of eagle rays, and sharks. You have to dive it on the incoming tide to see the really good action.

The Islands are relatively close to each other. Samama is about a 15 minute boat ride from Sangalaki. It's about a 20 minute ride to Kakaban. Maratua is the farthest away, about an hour by fast boat. It's well worth the day trip, but be advised that due to the traveling distance, there is an additional fee to make a trip over. It also must be dove at the right time of the tide to get current coming into the channel, so there are a few days a month that it just can't be done.

Use the buttons below to navigate around the site. There is a small section on each Island, and a few pictures from the region in the Gallery. I hope you enjoy it, and please do come down for a visit before the secret gets out.

Steve Fish (yes, my last name really is Fish)

Manager, Borneo Video and Photo Center


Return to Island Dreams' Sangalaki Home Page

Read Ken Knezick's Report from Sangalaki

Read Candid Comments from Recent Sangalaki Guests

For a selection of photographs from Sangalaki, visit Steve Fish's Sangalaki Photo Gallery

For lots more Sangalaki information, visit Steve Fish's Sangalaki Web Site

Or explore the diving opportunities at Borneo Divers' Sipadan Diving Lodge

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