Island Resort, Maratua Atoll, Kalimantan
(Borneo) - Indonesia
[Description below provided by Nabucco resort]
At the eastern coast of Borneo -situated in the
Sulawesian Sea- Extra Divers built in 2001 eight double
- and a single occupation bungalow in a vintage
Around the island there are a few small sandy beaches.
Due to the tides, swimming sometimes is only possible
nearby the jetty. By now they extended this with some
extra double bungalows.
A fantastic nature as well as a familial atmosphere are
provided by the exotic Resort.
During the construction of this little paradise, the
natural vegetation was preserved so as not to disrupt
the ecology. Perhaps this is why coconut crabs still
call Nabucco their home, and why monitor lizards, king
fishers, flying foxes and different kinds of small
lizards all still inhabit the island.
Reaching the Island
To the east off the coast of Borneo/Kalimantan, the
third largest island in the world, lies the Maratua
Atoll with its long stretched lagoon. Nabucco Island
Resort is located on the edge of the Maratua Atoll.
There are actually 2 options to reach the Maratua Atoll;
by boat or by plane.
Since October 2017 the resort can be reached by airplane
directly from Balikpapan. The exclusive (Extra Divers)
charter flight is operated by Garuda Indonesia’s with an
ATR-72 aircraft. Maratua has a small airport (landing
strip), from there you'll be picked up by car to go to
the Maratua harbor. A short boat transfer (10-15
minutes) will bring you to Nabucco Island.
There is only one thing to keep in mind....the flight
goes only once a week (Saturday), so if you'll arrive,
or leave on another day you'll be forced to take the
As mentioned, the other option is to go by boat from
Berau, this boat trip will take around 3 ½ hour
(depending on the weather conditions).
When you arrive at the Island a
sign above the jetty states:
And that is true! This
picturesque (private) Island is a true paradise. We were
welcomed by the management couple Kathrin (German) and
Tarkan (British). A short meeting in the bar was setup
to explain all the ‘Island rules’.
From this moment on
you will directly experience the familiar atmosphere and
the helpful attitude of Kathrin, Tarkan and the rest of
the staff members. A remarkable detail is that almost
instantly the entire staff knows your first name, and
will call you by that name during your entire stay.
After the meeting we were taken to our bungalow, where
our suitcases were already delivered.
Our (beautiful) bungalow was located on the sunset side
of the Island. Like all the bungalows, it had a
waterfront view as well as a large balcony in front of
the room that has enough space for the 2 sunbeds from
which you could watch the sunset. The bungalow resides
on poles above the beach (or sea at high tide) and is
completely build in traditional Indonesian style using
mainly wood. There are stairs available from which you
can enter the water during high tide, or the beach with
There is plenty of space available in the room; our
bungalow contained a twin and a single bed. There was a
large build-in closet, a bench and a (camera) desk with
a chair. There is a small minibar which can be filled up
according to your own wishes. In the room there are 2
ceiling ventilators as well as an air-conditioning unit
The beautiful large en-suite bathroom features a toilet,
a sink and a shower area.
Most of the times you'll have warm water, the water
pressure might fluctuate now and then when everybody is
taking a shower after diving at the same time, but for a
small Island like this it's exceptionally good!
In the room there are also a couple of electrical
outlets available (220 volt, 2 pin EU standard).
However, if you have many battery chargers for cameras
and strobes etc. a splitter would be recommendable.
Electricity was always available during our entire stay.
Housekeeping will take care of your bungalow every day.
This includes the complete cleaning, making your beds
and changing the towels. All done very well!
you ever dream about your own "Robinson Island"?
Spending holiday far away from civilization, from hectic
and stress, from noise and every-day-life? Look no
further, we found it !!
Nabucco is a protected Island and has a size of not even
20.000 m2. (Almost round with 130 by 150 meter). The
resort was built around the existing flora - no single
palm, no single tree was cut.
There is one sandy path that leads you to the small
beach, via wooden walkways you can reach more or less
the entire Island straight through nature.
|There are 3
common area’s on the Island, the restaurant and the bar
and the ‘long house’.
In the ‘Long house’ located in the middle of the island,
you’ll find the office, WiFi and lounge area, a small
(gift)shop (where you can buy some toiletries, clothes
and some small scuba supplies) as well as the library.
The WiFi provided in the ‘Long
house’ area is a satellite connection. This means that
it’s not always available and certainly not high speed.
However it’s enough to send a message to the ‘civilized
world’ that you’re still alive….
The office is also located in
the Long house, here you have the possibility to drop
your valuable possessions in a safe if you want.
||The bar is
located above the water / beach between the diving
center and the restaurant.
Located between the diving center and the restaurant is
the bar. It’s partly indoor and partly outdoor. You can
relax in one of the beanbags or just socialize at the
bar of at one of the tables. And yes, you can have a
good “Deco-Bintang-Beer” here, but also a Radler or a
glas of wine or soda is possible. All coming with salted
peanuts or fried and spiced coconut chips!!
In the late afternoon, Tarkan
will most of the time show you a the scuba diving movie
in the bar area.
The restaurant, also built on stilts over the water, is
the place where guests can enjoy panoramic views
combined with high quality meals. It’s located next to
Between the restaurant and the
bar there are (very clean) public toilets, never more
than 20 steps away from your glass of beer.
Kathrin & Tarkan
|Everything on the
Island is very well organized by Kathrin and
Tarkan, they go all the way in order to please
their customers! (Way more than you actually
could realistically expect from them).
So a big compliment from
our side towards the two of them!
For all the restaurant and bar
related matters, Florian is their main man. Florian is
the sun on the Island (even on a cloudy day), he’s
always smiling, very committed to the guests and ALWAYS
there….(sometimes from 04:00 hrs. till midnight !!)
Besides these 3, we must say
that every single staff member is extremely friendly and
helpful, that is what creates this special familiar
||This resort is a
real diving resort, besides diving (and snorkeling)
there is actually not much ‘entertainment’ on the Island
itself. You can play volleyball on the beach, or enjoy a
relaxing massage if you like. It’s also possible to book
a trip to one of the nearby islands.
This doesn’t mean that nothing is being organized on the
resort, what about live music from the staff in the bar,
or an actual beach BBQ with all guests!
Note: It’s not possible to pay by credit card on the
island, so make sure you bring cash with you. (Euro, US
dollars or Indonesian Rupiah)
morning you can enjoy an a la carte breakfast. If you
applied for full board, you can enjoy the a la carte
lunch as well. In the evening there’s a 5-course-dinner.
The quality of the food is
exceptionally good, and all freshly made by the chef
Ajis and his team!! The Resort provides Asian
specialties in combination with Western food. They use
the available fresh ingredients like fish, meat,
vegetables and fruits.
If you have a preference or
disapprove for a certain type of food it will be taken
If you are a diabetic and / or have any type of food
allergy they will prepare separate meals for you.
All dishes are served in a professional way by Florian
and his team.
main reason we came to Nabucco is for the diving! It’s
no surprise that almost everything on this Island is
about diving. When you enter the Island you’ll walk
directly through the diving center. Tarkan is managing
the dive operation, and he is very committed and does a
The diving operation takes place under the ‘Extra
The dive center is located on
the small pier, and holds a dry room where you can store
your equipment in your personal box and space. There is
also a small office where you can rent scuba gear, the
rental equipment is well maintained and in very good
condition. In the dive center they also serve you tea
before and after the dives (and often cake). The dive
briefings are also performed here.
They have 3 well equipped
diving boats available, with 2 crewmembers on each boat,
which assist you during your trip. Most of the dive
sites are only a few minutes from the resort.
Basically all you have to do is
make sure you have your wetsuit on and your mask and
fins with you, the rest is done by the crew. They
assemble and disassemble your set for you (if you like)
and even rinse it for you after the dive. Note for
photographers; there is also a separate bin with fresh
water for cameras available.
Nitrox is available on request
(and depends on availability), note that you will be
charged a small extra fee for the nitrox.
Sudir and us (Nightdive)
3 default dives a day (08:30, 11:00 and 15:00
hrs.), and when the tide and currents are right
an extra early morning dive (06:00 hrs.) and an
optional sunset / night dive (17:30 hrs.)
Most of the guides are
local guys with a wealth of experience and very
good at their job! It’s amazing what they find,
especially the macro stuff of course . When he’s
available, Tarkan will sometimes also guide
Our guide during the
entire trip was Sudir, a very experienced guide
which we jokingly gave the nickname ‘Shitty
guide’ as he was able to find such small stuff
we could not even see through a macro lens!!.
(No hard feelings)
Bottom line is that
the dive center is very professional with high
safety standards and well managed. Compliments
to the entire dive team crew!.
Diving, that’s what it’s all about on this resort.
Before I continue I have to admit that we are very
‘spoiled’ divers… we’ve been diving all over the world
on all the well-known top locations. Maratua is located
in the Celebes Sea, from which we know from our own
experience (Sipadan), that it contains one of the most
beautiful and diverse underwater habitats in the world.
We also know how good the circumstances under- and above
the water can be.
Therefore the interpretation of our dive experience
might differ from less ‘spoiled’ divers, but we are
aware that we are quite “blessed”….
||Let’s start with
one of the most important criteria: the visibility.
During our stay (9 diving days) we encountered often a
poor visibility. According to the staff it was an issue
they had been experiencing from time to time over the
last couple of months. They did not know what the exact
reason is but they assume it has something to do with
the recent weather conditions, which were quite windy
with lots of rain (even for the rainy season) but also
lots of plankton.
We experienced sometimes a
visibility of max. 10 meter, while ‘normal’ visibility
should reach up to 30 meter. This milky visibility
caused by plankton and / or debris in the water, made
wide angle photography rather challenging.
Most dive sites are located
on the east side of the Maratua Atoll, and are only 10
min. by boat from the resort.
|The main attraction is
‘Big Fish Country’ a great current dive site in front of
the channel that goes into the atoll. It resides a large
(700+) group of resident black fin Barracuda’s. If
you’re lucky, on the same dive you can spot some grey or whitetip sharks and big tuna at the drop-off. We made 3
dives on BFC, and joined the barracuda’s on 2 dives.
corals are all in excellent condition, and you can spot
sponges here from over 2 meter! Do not only stay deep,
as especially the top of the reefs are very colorful and
full of small reef fish and turtles.
Most of the dives we did we found a
lot of macro life, we encountered many pygmee seahorses
(all Hippocampus Denise), a large variety of nudibranchs,
candy crabs, orangutan crabs, boxer shrimps etc. (Big
thanks to our guide Sudir, what an amazing eyesight does
this guy have!)
However if you look into the
‘blue’ you will also spot the larger species like;
jacks, barracuda’s, tuna’s (dog tooth), Mackerels, eagle
rays, and on the bottom large mangrove stingrays and
every now and then even a passing grey of whitetip shark.
Personally we liked the dive
sites located South of Big Fish Country the most, e.g.
Sea wall (garden), Leo point & wall and Midnight snapper
Jellyfish lake on Kakaban
|If you like to
see manta rays, you can apply for a daytrip to Sangalaki.
They have several manta dive sites where you can dive
with these incredible and beautiful creatures. As always,
it can never be guaranteed, but most likely you will
meet the Manta rays around Sangalaki. Interestingly
enough, apart from the big ones of both Alfredi and
Biostris species, you might see some young ones as well.
The same daytrip also includes a
dive on Kakaban Wall (on Kakaban island). This wall
drops straight down for about 200 meters and is
completely covered by corals, gorgonians and sponges and
in our opinion it is the best dive site in the area. (Based
on our interests off course)
During this daytrip you can
also take a plunge into the 'Jellyfish lake' on Kakaban
Island (Only snorkeling allowed and no fins)
Our ratings below are based on our personal
experiences. They are also adapted to our needs
as divers. Meaning that we’re less focused on
Therefore you should only pay attention to our
ratings if you’re planning a diving holiday.
Where we base our score
Room size, beds,
cleaning, bathroom, location,
environmentally friendly, etc.
Hotel / area facilities:
activities, organized trips, TV,
Internet, phone, etc.
Quality of equipment, boats, crew, dive
guides, location, service, marine
First of all Nabucco Island resort is a real
piece of paradise!
During our stay we encountered quite some rain
and thunder storms, but that is the risk when
you visit Nabucco during the rainy season….
The resort and the management are absolutely
great! Actually we can’t find anything negative
about the resort at all, this is absolutely the
resort you want to reside during your diving
Big, big complements to the management and the
With regards to the diving, we had high
expectations based on our dives on Sipadan,
which is more or less (350 km north), in the
Maybe we must admit that our expectations were
set a bit too high. The diving around Maratua is
quite different from Sipadan, so maybe we
shouldn’t try to compare apples with pears…
The fact that we are first of all ‘spoiled’
divers and on top of that photographers and
videographers, might also give us a slightly
different view on how we judge the underwater
world compared to other divers.
Hotel / area facilities:
We were for sure a bit unfortunate with regards
to the visibility but there is nothing to do
about that, still in spite of that, it is
absolutely worth the long trip to go there! The
diving around Maratua is great and we certainly
recommend everybody to go there!. Must-do-dives
in our opinion are: Big Fish Country,
Gorgonzola, Sea Wall and Leo’s Point and of
course Sangalaki (Manta rays) and the Kakaban
The resort is less suitable for non-divers,
unless people are looking for a quiet,
comfortable, well run resort to relax. Clearly,
diving is the core activity at this resort, and
they are really good at making sure you do as
much as possible of just that! On top of that we
really enjoyed and appreciated the hospitality
of the entire Nabucco team.
Based on all arguments we
can highly recommend the Nabucco Resort!