The Story from Maratua: Me, Myself and The Sea

Everybody in this boat is ready to jump. Can’t wait to do snorkelling. The story about how beautiful the coral garden in Sangalaki really boost their adrenalin. They don’t even care the fact that sun is shining so brightly now. Few minutes later, they start to jump. Only me, a couple of parents who never have any intention to do snorkelling, and the captain left in this boat. “Let’s go, it’s okay, I will hold your hand”. Ricardo said. He’s one of the boat crews who also our guides. My life vest and snorkel mask are set, but still..I don’t have enough courage to jump.

Have you ever facing a near to death experience? The scariest moment that can give a flashback of your life? I had once.

Flores, April 2010

Everybody is busy with their diving equipment. It will only 3 people to do snorkelling. Suddenly, the boat stopped in the middle of the sea, in the middle of nowhere. I thought snorkelling spot will be different with diving spot. But unfortunately, it’s the same. Here we are…in the middle of Flores’ sea, with a dark blue water in front of my eyes. I feel so nervous and then looking for a life vest. There are only few life vests in the boat, in a very pathetic condition. Seems that safety is not their main concern. All divers have jumped into the sea. Continued with snorkelers. I was the last person to jump. The sea was so calm at that time. The boat crews told us that we can meet with the turtle or manta in this spot, if we are lucky. We barely can’t see the coral, maybe it’s because they are lying deep down under the seabed. For me, who using minus 4 and cylinder 2 glasses, this non-prescription snorkel mask definitely will not help to see the coral, maybe the turtle as well, if they swim so deep. Luckily, I met one turtle, so cute. Suddenly, my life vest is not in my body anymore and I feel my leg dragged by the current. I don’t know what to do. I just realized that this might be the time. I will die. I was trying to scream, asking for help. The salt water fill in my mouth so I can’t scream. For a second, I saw the boat crew jump from the boat to save me. I can’t do anything. I can only pray..God, please don’t let me die now, I haven’t fulfil your call to do pilgrim. God answered my pray. Somebody pulled me out. He dragged me to the boat to get first aid. It’s over. I’m done. No more snorkelling. I will not go to the sea anymore. Never. All equipment is for sale. 

For me, to travel is to live. That near to death experience apparently never stop me for traveling. I did some adjustments on the trip destination. No sea, land only. But Indonesia is too beautiful. My traveling partners always find the way to convince me to join the trip. By appointing me as an EO. They know me so well that my OCD will take over everything. “You should have a tour agent in the future”, “we completely trust on you”, “you have excellent vision of the flight ticket price”. Even one of them always give the money in advance and only ask four questions: where to go, when will be, how many days, should I bring swimsuit or not. Thanks guys! So I have no option but agree, with one condition. I will not go for snorkelling. They are very persistent people who always “forced” me but my phobia is over everything. I missed lots of Indonesia’s underwater heaven, such as Belitong, Tanjung Bira, Sabang, Pahawang, and Ora beach in Pulau Seram. At those places, I just stayed in the boat, taking pictures or reading a book.

Sangalaki, May 2015

Five years later, I’m the edge of the boat, trying to convince myself to jump. “C’mon mel, we’ve been traveled this far! don’t you remember that 4-hour-full-pain-in-the-ass in the speedboat yesterday?”. My friend shouted. Well I just missed seeing the turtle and manta in previous two snorkelling spots. Finally I jumped. Ricardo dragged me to see the stunning view of Sangalaki’s coral garden. I did it!

The next morning’s schedule was the Kakaban island. In the middle of Kakaban island, there is a fresh water lake, full of stingless jellyfish. This stingless jellyfish can only be found in its origin habitat in Kakaban Lake,North Kalimantan and Palau, Micronesia. Somehow, I always feel that swimming in the lake is more creepy than sea. The water is not going anywhere like in the sea. Loch Ness monster is playing around in my head now. People said, actually you will not get drawn in the sea, because you will floating anyway as long as you don’t get panic or there’s no current to sweep you away. But this is a fresh water lake and I don’t know how deep the lake is. Here I am, always be the last person to jump, with that Flores memory in my head. “for God sake, don’t think, just jump, I will take your hand”, my friend said. Few second later, I’m in the lake.


See how cute the stingless jellyfish in this video: 

The best snorkeling spot is in this surrounding Kakaban Island. There is a coral reef with lots of colorful fish. Coral reef is like high cliff that bordered coral garden in shallow area with deep-sea. You barely will see nothing from the surface at that deep area. It’s all dark blue. I feel like want to pass out when the guide explained about the amazing coral reef. Seriously? We have to swim in that dark blue area? Here we go again, a near to death experience part 2!

Everybody in this boat has jumped. I’m still here. Still being the last person to jump. Ricardo is waiting for me..”don’t worry, I will hold you”. Mom, if this is the time, I just want to say I’m sorry for what I have done. That was my last pray before jump into the sea. Suddenly my fear was gone. The stunning view of coral reef and colorful fish really amazed me. Each time we have to swim in deep area, I just hold Ricardo’s hand so tight. I was in the water for almost one hour, swimming almost across the Kakaban island. I did it. I conquered my fear! Thanks Ricardo! Thanks Mba Sari, Mba Anita, Cici Rini who always be my guardians!


A trip review:

The tour operator:

I have to admit that Kakaban trip is the most recommended tour operator for safety. There are two guides in each group, one to lead the group and one as a sweeper. The equipment is excellent. Life vest is proper, snorkel mask and fin are in good shape. The life vest also available in the boat. The boat is clean. Maratua paradise resort where we stayed for 3 nights is great. Even we did not get a chance to stay in water villa because of fully booked, the beach chalet is not bad either.

How to get here:

Actually the tour operator offers a package with flight ticket directly from Jakarta to Tarakan using Lion air included. However, all of us prefer to use Garuda Indonesia for safety reason. So we upgrade the ticket with route Jakarta – Balikpapan continued with Balikpapan – Tarakan. We stayed overnight in Tarakan as everybody in the group will arrive in Tarakan at 9 AM in the next morning. From Tarakan, we use speedboat to reach Maratua island for almost 3-4 hours. Don’t ask how does it feel. Full pain in the ass! And back! And we have to do it again for traveling back to Tarakan.

See my illustrated journey in Maratua – Sangalaki – Derawan – Kakaban in my web album

This post is dedicated to my traveler mates: Novie Esther – Nunung Susilawati – Tata Wardhani – Fifie Alifia – Putu Juniari – Aisyah Anita – Sari Nurul – Rini Saputra. Love you guys! *Yakinlah kalau nenek moyang kita adalah seorang pelaut!”

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