Wonderland Kakaban

If Lewis Carroll were a snorkeler, his favorite destination would surely be Kakaban. A bizarre testament to nature’s sense of humor and fantasy, Kakaban will thrill even the most jaded travelers with a series of surprises that seem perfectly suited for Alice’s underwater adventures.

The tiny, jungle-covered island features a large brackish water lake filled with fascinating discoveries. The most obvious of these is the millions of fluttering jellyfish which crowd the lake from shore to shore. As in the world-famous jellyfish lake in Pulau, Kakaban’s jellyfish, which are cut off from the open ocean, have lost their sting, so visitors can swim and frolic with the undulating creatures to their heart’s content. The experience is a major blast. But there’s more.

Most visitors visit Kakaban as a quick stop on their way to Sangalaki to see the mantas. In their rush to Sangalaki, many visitors jump in with the jellyfish for a few minutes and then rush back to their boat hoping to maximize their time at Sangalaki. Derawan guides often fail to point out another major attraction at Kakaban which is equally if not more impressive than the spectacular jellyfish.

The jellyfish lake is lined with patches of mangrove forest. As you approach the mangrove, the floor of the lake is covered with dense green growth. Bizarrely overgrown jellyfish appear to tip upside down and sink to the bottom too overweight to move. The blanket of green covered with flailing jellyfish is a very curious site, but keep moving into the mangrove.

Beyond the quirky jellyfish graveyard, within the dark tangle of roots, the trees are decorated with an extravagant assortment of neon sponges unlike anything I have seen in other locations. As your eyes adjust to the shaded root system, bright pinks, yellows, purples and oranges reveal an otherworldly scene which defies description. It’s so weird and wonderful, it didn’t even occur to me to worry about snakes or other creepy crawlies. Luckily, that didn’t prove to be a problem.

Even the slightest kick of water caused the sponge menagerie to bob and convulse like bouncing Jello. Strange fish sat motionless in the water hoping that I couldn’t see them. When I got too close, they shot forward ten inches and, again, sat motionless. Dwarfed muscles hung from roots and underwater vines. Close inspection of the rubbery bulbs and gelatinous spheres dangling down around me revealed surreal striped flatworms inching through the colorful sponges. It was truly one of the most spectacularly weird locations I have ever seen. Nature’s fantasy leaves Lewis Carroll’s twisted mind in the dust.

For those who manage to climb out of this fantastical lake before your boat captain pulls you out, there is also some great snorkeling on the reef near the boat jetty.

Honestly, turtles, mantas, stingless jellyfish, neon sponge menageries, could Derawan possibly offer up anything more? Yes it can, so stay tuned.

3 responses to “Wonderland Kakaban”

  1. Looks like something out of my dreams. Such a strange fresh-water ecosystem! Why is the water so clear? Nutrient poor? Is it a layer of fresh on top of salty? It appears that you were comfortably warm . . . karst landscape? Inquiring minds want to know more.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Actually, I just changed the text above to “brackish water lake”. I had meant to check online to see if Kakaban was classified as fresh water or brackish, but I forgot to do that before it posted. It didn’t really taste salty, but then again I was at the surface most of the time.

      And Laurelle, although the water looks pretty clear in the pictures, there was actually quite a bit of silt in it. If you look at the shadows on Thomas’ shirt in the first picture, you can see discolorations caused by light distortions from the silt. Strangely, closer to the shore the water was actually quite clear until we accidentally kicked up silt swimming by.

      And yes, the water is very warm. Pretty much all the water around Borneo is warm, which makes swimming here very enjoyable.

      It’s probably pretty clear from the posts, but I’m really in love with the area around Derawan.

  2. avatar carrieannmarco says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing! A wonderful surprise- I love it.

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