Stranded in “paradise” on Maratua island!

When we were meticulously planning our travels around Borneo, I never imagined I’d end up writing a post about the time we were marooned on an island for the day! I think I now know where the saying “only in Indonesia” comes from…

It all started at the end of our scuba diving trip. We were keen to finish our Borneo travels with a bit of luxury so were heading to Nunukan island for 3 days of beach/chill time. We knew Nunukan was an island below Maratua, but now we know what these distances actually feel like whilst on a tiny speed boat, we might’ve had a rethink! The islands are all around an hour apart, but Nunukan was almost 2 hours from our lovely over-the-water bungalow at Scuba junkie¬†Derawan. This seemed the be the crux of all our problems.

We had chosen not to book our transfer with Nunukan as we were sure we could find a cheaper alternative from Derawan. We’d had some good experiences in Bali with finding cheaper local deals, however this was another place and another time!

Take care when travelling to more “unexplored” places – From our experience, the locals (who are only just getting used to tourists) are more likely to try and get as much out of you and they can!

This is our story.

The dive masters at Scuba Junkie arranged our transfer with a local boatman, who agreed to take us to Nunukan. We paid 1.5million IDR (around ¬£75) for the transfer and set of pretty happily on our way…

Waving goodbye to Derawan island

As you can see, the boat was TINY and our smiles quickly faded as we were traversing across some pretty big waves. We did spot some flying fish though. An amazing sight as they really do look like they are flapping their wings as they zoom over the top of the water.

After 1hr15 we reached Maratua and the boatman drove us to a random beach resort telling us it was Nunukan… we’d studied the map enough to know that that wasn’t true. After some stubbornness on our behalf, refusing to leave the boat, we continued round the island until we reached Maratua Paradise resort. Once again it was announced that we had arrived at Nunukan!

The next half an hour was quite tense! There was some sort of commotion going on between the people at Maratua paradise resort and our boatman. It felt like they were basically trying to decide the best way to rip us off! The boatman was telling us he couldn’t carry on the journey due to the tides but later his story changed at it was because he didn’t have enough fuel…

By the time he’d got his story straight, it really was a tidal issue!

Maratua Paradise resort were desparetly trying to get us to stay there for the night, and it would’ve felt very idyllic, had we not already paid to stay on Nunukan! Rob managed to finally persuade them to help us find another boatman. Although we were very short of cash flow (not that they believed us!), we relunctantly agreed that we would need to pay more to complete our travels to Nunukan.

The transfer was agreed at a price of 700,000IDR(!), and Rob was informed the boatman would come back at 3pm once the tides changed back.

3pm came and went.

By 3:30pm we were starting to get a little worried that the promise of a boat would not be followed through. Cue a slightly panicked email to Nunukan that we might need rescuing! We were finding it mildly amusing that our location really did look like paradise but in reality we just couldn’t relax!

The boatman did eventually come but there was some miscommunication as we’d already ended up in his friends boat who was trying to charge us 1.5times the agreed price! After some back and forth from the Maratua pier, we were eventually on our way to Nunukan for 800,000idr.

I’ve never felt so relieved to finally arrive! Lesson learnt, take the transfer offered on an already complex travel plan!