Clement Lee's Report from Sangalaki

The following report update is provided by Mr. Clement Lee, on of the four (famous) Borneo Divers, discoverers and founders of Sipadan Island's pristine diving. The Borneo Divers are now developing another island paradise - Sangalaki.

Sangalaki Island

Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia

Borneo Divers' Sangalaki Diving Lodge

Copyright © 1996, 1997 - Island Dreams, Inc. All rights reserved.

Here is Clement Lee's Sangalaki trip report:

Sangalaki is a tiny island lying about 2 degree above the equator. It is about 135 miles from Tawau, Malaysia and its size is about 30 acres (slightly smaller than Sipadan). Sangalaki is surrounded by fringing reefs which extend out about 500 to 600 meters into the sea. As a result, the area of the fringing reefs is at least 10 times greater than the island itself. Sangalaki is covered with dense tropical forests with thick undergrowth, and the island is surrounded by wide sandy beaches and you can leisurely walk around the island in less than 20 minutes.

Sangalaki does not have walls like Sipadan, but the reefs drop from 3 to 4 meters to about 18 to 24 meters and up to 40 meters at some point. The corals are practically untouched and hence with display good, healthy growth. Marine life is very rich in giant manta rays, which congregate around the island and hence giving rise to the names of dive sites..manta parade..manta run etc.

Mantas are considered "ghost" fish and hence 'feared' by the local fishermen. Scientifically it would be interesting to investigate the rational behind this assembly of huge mantas, however it is also interesting to note that about 1/4 miles from the water line is the continental shelf, dropping to 150 meter depth of water.

Unoccupied by human beings, and 'feared' by local fishermen perhaps explains why huge mantas still exist around Sangalaki. Also in abundance are huge giant clam (about 1.5 - 2 meters), huge giant sea fans, giant green turtles, giant grouper, giant mating cuttle fish, reef sharks, and of course the beautiful leopard sharks too. Both macro and wide angle photographers will find the animal life fascinating .

All diving is from boats (there is no beach diving at Sangalaki), and you can expect some current especially with tide changes. This is the perfect opportunity for swimming with the mantas, which can be found even on the water's surface. (I again observed them leaping out of the water when I was there on the 25th of June). Visibility at the time was estimated around 30 meters, as confirmed by other divers. The water temperature ranges between 82 and 85 degrees F.

Sangalaki is also a major haven for nesting sea turtles. 20 to 30 landings per night (for laying eggs) are common and we have thus far recorded a high of 80 landings per night during the peak season (July through October).

Every effort will be put into conserving the turtles' nest and eggs, and we are hoping on support from the diving community. We (Borneo Divers) are again negotiating with the District Government to purchase the turtle egg concession so that the turtles can lay their eggs naturally without disturbance. Watching the tiny baby turtles fighting their way out of the sands, waddling down the beach, and swimming out to sea is a wonderful sight, and worthy of the expense.

Sangalaki is a very pristine island - here you will be able to blend with the environment and truly return to nature. The development of our resort is carefully planned so as not to disturb the natural environment, eg. we've built our small resort within the tree line, and the chalets are on high stilts so as not to obstruct turtle laying eggs. All lights are shaded from afar so as not to distract the turtles, and noise is kept to a minimum, etc.

Topside on the island you can see monitor lizards, eagles, pigeons, megapod birds and many other examples of exotic bird life - hence Sangalaki is also a heaven for bird and animal watchers.

About 20 minutes boat ride from Sipadan lies the very special and unique island of Kakaban. All around this island is a dramatic wall which drops to 180 meters (600 feet). In addition to great wall diving, Kakaban has an inland jelly fish lake which harbors some of the most unique marine animals in the world. The only other place such an environment is found, is the Jelly Fish Lake in Palau, Micronesia.

With the combination of Sangalaki's coral gardens, dense tropical fish population, sharks, tuna, turtles, barracuda, jack fish and other pelagics, and its profusion of manta rays, plus the superb wall diving and Jelly Fish Lake of neighboring Kakaban Island, we feel can again offer divers one of the top dive destination dives in the world. I invite you to visit us soon...and see for yourself.

Clement Lee - Borneo Divers


Balikpapan is an international airport (no visa needed), and is served by all major Asian Airlines, Garuda, Merpati, Sempati, Royal Brunei Airlines etc. Most international arrivals will be either in Denpasar or Jakarta, with same day connections to Balikpapan. Then will have one overnight in one of the 3 or 4 stars hotels (Blue Sky, Bahtera, or Dusit Inn) and take the 1 hour flight by DAS to Berau (via Samarinda). This is where Borneo Divers will pick you up for the 1 hour boat ride along the Berau river where you can see Proboscis monkeys along the scenic river way, then another 1 hour run from the river mouth to Sangalaki.


Chalets with twin beds and built in showers, toilets. Ceiling fan, bed lights, wardrobe, mirror, chairs. At the moment we have 10 units and will increase to 15 to 20 units by year's end.

Central dining hall, equipment room. Generator of 2 x 100 kw. Two units air compressor 9 cfm, 10 to 15 sets dive equipment and 50 to 100 tanks.

1 x 33 foot ferry boat with 2 x 200 hp and 2 units 28 foot dive boats 2 x 85 and 2 x 11hp (obviously this will increase).

3 dives a day and daily trips to Kakaban (including Jelly fish lake dive). Night dives depend on weather.


For more information, please contact our U.S. representative, Island Dreams Travel. It's owner Ken Knezick was one of the first American visitors to Sangalaki (and Sipadan). Ken and his staff can help you with airfare, lodging, transfers, and to experience the best of Borneo's diving.

Kenneth D. Knezick - President, Island Dreams Travel
1309 Antoine Drive, Houston, Texas 77055
(800) 346-6116 ** (713) 973-9300 **

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