Today I will deviate a bit from my usual photo blogs and will talk about a destination. Nabucco Islan Resort, a fantastic place with excellent diving for the adventurous diver.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus

As an avid underwater photographer, I’m always on the look for new and exotic destinations. Recently I had the opportunity to join Martin Edge on a photo trip to one of those remote places that not many of us have heard before. Nabucco Island Resort in East Kalimantan, on the Indonesian part of Borneo.

Ran by Katherin and Tarkan this little resort has much to offer to the diver looking for an off the track destination with some amazing diving.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus

How to get there

Maratua atoll is located about 1000 miles northeast of Jakarta, next to the island of Borneo. Getting there requires a bit of planning and a couple of days. We started our trip at Heathrow and flew to Jakarta via Singapore where we landed in the evening. We continued the next morning with a flight to Balikpapan followed by a second one to Berau where we picked up our bags. Then we boarded the resort’s speedboat for the final part of our journey.  A 4 hours sail to the resort.

The beautiful colours of the waters surrounding Nabucco island.

The resort

We disembarked onto the jetty that leads to the dive centre and from here a series of paths take you to the bar and restaurant overlooking the lagoon and to the different rooms. Sea view bungalows, garden rooms and the new suites offer a range of accommodations for everyone. In the middle of the island, is the longhouse. Here you will find a quiet communal area, a library and a small shop offering souvenirs and any essentials you may need.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus
From the bar, you can see the dive centre over the blue lagoon

For the underwater photographer, there is a newly built camera room with plenty space, charging points and loads of storage. By the dive centre, there are dedicated camera rinse tanks. You only have to put your housing in your dedicated basket and the crew will make sure is properly stored and protected onboard your dive boat.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus
The newly built camera room offer is perfect to set up your photography rig

Diving with Nabucco Island Resort

Maratua atoll is subject to strong tidal currents and diving has to be planned accordingly to avoid the fast-moving water.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus
Tarkan giving us a thorough briefing before the dive

Most of the dive sites are located on the east side of the island, towards the open sea. Here the reef starts in the shallow area and drops very quickly forming a series of drop-offs and walls.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus

Beautiful sea-fans grow along the wall and fantastic hard corals cover the shallow areas,  the fish life is plentiful, jacks can be seen alongside the reef eagle rays are common sights but in my opinion, the turtles were the real attraction.  I’ve never seen so many turtles, including juvenile ones, can be seen on most dives.

The small stuff

For the macro lover, there is also plenty to see, nudibranchs, shrimps, cuttlefish and pygmy seahorses are among the critters you can see you can encounter here.

Scuba Travel, fishinfocus, Nabucco Island Resort
a cuttlefish completely isolated from the background.

The Highlight site

There is one dive site, in particular, that is worth a mention, Big Fish Country or BFC for short. This site is located next to the Nabucco Island Resort. It is the entrance of the channel opening into the lagoon. The dive has to be timed to coincide with the current coming into the lagoon.

Barracudas, Jacks and Grey reef sharks at BFC

A negative entry and a quick descent to 20 mt will take you to a ledge where to attach your reef hook and wait. soon grey reef sharks and huge schools of jacks will start coming by. But the real highlight here is the massive resident school of barracudas.  in their thousands they will form spectacular patterns and with some luck, you may experience them swimming in a tornado formation. This is a dive you will remember for the rest of your life.

A particularry unique site

About 20 km west from Maratua the atoll of Kakaban offer some unique opportunities. An astonishing wall covered with soft coral extend alongside the south area but the unique attraction is the Jellyfish Lake.

Surrounded by mangroves the lake is home to 3 different species of non-stinging jellyfish. This is one of a handful of this places in the world and snorkelling here can be one unbelievable experience.

Nabucco island Resort, ScubaTravel, fishinfocus, Kakaban
Sponges and jellyfish at Kakaban Jellyfish Lake

Since my trip in July, traveling to Nabucco has become easier, a direct flight from Singapore to Balikpapan and a weekly service from here to Maratua make the journey much faster.

East Kalimantan is one of those destinations that are not widely known but has so much to offer. Nabucco is a beautiful and remote resort with an excellent dive operation that will give you the chance to explore some of the best dive sites this remote location has to offer.

Mario is well known for his patient, calm approach to teaching underwater photography, he will help you develop new skills and build your confidence in a relaxed and fun environment.