Nerves were piqued. Hearts were beating fast. Three sets of eyes were darting about! We were entering the narrow pass through an extremely shallow reef into the atoll lagoon of Maratua. Whitewater was breaking over the treacherous shallows and we had a 4 knot current running against us, but we kept our wits about us and successfully navigated inside and dropped the anchor in the middle of an azure patch of sand. Paradise found once again!
We had been tipped off by other cruisers that Maratua Atoll was a must-see spot on our passage down the East Kalimantan coast and across to Sulawesi. By all accounts it was a great spot to spend a few days relaxing, snorkelling and exploring, so that’s exactly what we did. It was a great spot to anchor and the snorkelling was superb. And it served as a good jumping off point to the nearby islands of Kakaban and Sangalaki.
An interesting thing about these island is that they sit right on the “Wallace Line” – a geographic delineation of Australian and South East Asian animals. There are a few birds that are only found here and nowhere else on Earth, so they are a bit like the Galápagos Islands. We managed to spot a couple of these birds during a road trip around the island: the Maratua (blacked-headed) bulbul, and the Maratua race of the purple-throated sunbird. Our driver Bucksan also proudly took us to the new runway. He’s hopeful planes will start arriving carrying loads of tourists, so it may not be off the beaten path for long. But for now, serenity still surrounds this little volcanic atoll in the middle of the Celebes Sea.