Nabucco 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 Indonesian style.
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 boat trip...

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).



The arrival

When you arrive at the Island a sign above the jetty states:

‘Welcome to paradise’.

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.


The bungalow

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 low tide.
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 available.
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!


The resort & facilities

Did 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 the bar.

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 atmosphere.


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)
The restaurant

In the 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 into account.
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.

The dive center

Well, the 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 fantastic job.
The diving operation takes place under the ‘Extra Divers’ flag.

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)


There are 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 guests.

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!.



The diving
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.
The 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 run.

Jellyfish lake on Kakaban Island

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 evaluation

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 additional features.
Therefore you should only pay attention to our ratings if you’re planning a diving holiday.

Where we base our score on:

Accommodation: Room size, beds, cleaning, bathroom, location, environmentally friendly, etc.
Hotel / area facilities: Pool, sport activities, organized trips, TV, Internet, phone, etc.
Dive center: Quality of equipment, boats, crew, dive guides, location, service, marine conservation, etc.

Scoring matrix


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 holiday.
Big, big complements to the management and the entire staff!

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 same area.
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.
Our verdict
Hotel / area facilities:
Dive Center:
Total score:
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 Island Wall.

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!