A visit to Lake Labuan Cer­min in East Bor­neo

Bali & Beyond - - TEAM TALK - By Edna Tari­gan

“Let’s go to Lake Labuan Cer­min some­day in the near fu­ture,” a dear friend of mine said one day. It was only two months later that we made the trip come true. Pic­tures of a blue lake with a small boat float­ing with al­most no re­flec­tions on the wa­ters were fill­ing my head. I saw those pho­tos on so­cial me­dia, and they were enough to make me agree to go on this trip.

Situated at the en­trance of Biduk­biduk district of Berau re­gency in East Bor­neo, Labuan Cer­min is a meromic­tic lake which is fa­mous for its two lay­ers of wa­ter – fresh wa­ter on the sur­face and salty wa­ter at the deeper level, and they do not in­ter­mix with each other. The lake is even more pop­u­lar than the district it­self, and I was cu­ri­ous enough to see its beauty with my own eyes.

Many visi­tors go to Labuan Cer­min as a part of their trip to Der­awan and Maratua Is­lands, which are also lo­cated in Berau re­gency. How­ever, dur­ing my visit to Labuan Cer­min, I opted to stay in Biduk-biduk district rather than make a trip to Der­awan and Maratua Is­lands, as I wanted to cher­ish my time at the lake. So, af­ter a flight from Jakarta to Kal­i­ma­rau Air­port in Tan­jung Redeb in Berau, fol­lowed by a six-hour road trip to Biduk­biduk, we took a mo­tor boat that can ac­com­mo­date up to 10 peo­ple to reach the lake. The 15-minute boat ride from our home­s­tay in Biduk-biduk Vil­lage was the start of our ad­ven­ture…


The view as we cruised on the mo­tor boat was al­ready breath­tak­ing, even be­fore we ar­rived at the lake. Tosca wa­ters with green­ery along its sides made a pic­ture-per­fect scenery dur­ing our jour­ney from the pier to

the lake. Some­times, we en­coun­tered other boats that just got back from the lake. And when we fi­nally en­tered Labuan Cer­min area… I was lost for words.

The lake takes about one hectare and is sur­rounded by jun­gle. There is a small pier made of plas­tic bar­rels and wood that con­nects the lake with the land. The area was al­most de­serted – there was only our group and an­other boat tied to the pier. I felt like the lake was ours alone.

Be­fore we stopped at the pier, our boat skip­per took us around the lake. And ev­ery sec­ond we spent on the wa­ter, I found my­self mes­mer­ized by the scenery. I thought the lake was full of un­der­wa­ter ecosys­tem that made the wa­ter so blue. But af­ter a cou­ple of min­utes star­ing at the wa­ters from the boat, my jaw dropped as I re­al­ized just how crys­tal clear the wa­ter re­ally is – I could see rocks and some fish swim­ming un­der the sur­face.

Ac­cord­ing to our skip­per, the lake may seem shal­low as we can see un­der­wa­ter life from the boat, but no one ever ac­tu­ally knows how deep the lake re­ally is. The near­est part of the lake to the land is al­most fiveme­ters deep al­ready. That is why, he warned us to be care­ful when swim­ming in the lake.

With wa­ters so pris­tine, Lake Labuan Cer­min is per­fect for swim­ming and snor­kel­ing. So, make sure to bring snor­kel­ing and swim­ming gear when vis­it­ing this lake.


As pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts, we didn’t want to miss the chance to

take some “com­pul­sory pic­tures” in Labuan Cer­min; that is to take pho­tos on the boat with al­most no re­flec­tions at all on the wa­ter. This is to cre­ate an il­lu­sion that our boat is fly­ing rather than float­ing on the wa­ter. This photo style has be­come iconic to Labuan Cer­min on so­cial me­dia, and also one of the rea­sons I was so in­trigued by this lake.

How­ever, it is quite chal­leng­ing to snap this il­lu­sive pic­ture as the best time is only be­tween 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun is right above our heads. Dur­ing this time, not only can we get the fly­ing-boat il­lu­sion, but we can also cap­ture the lake at its bright­est color. With pa­tience and de­ter­mi­na­tion, we man­aged to take some shots and were proud of the re­sult!

Af­ter tak­ing our “com­pul­sory pic­tures”, it was time to take a swim in the crys­tal clear wa­ter. As I snorkeled in the wa­ters, my cu­rios­ity about Labuan Cer­min as a meromic­tic lake was met. I could see the lay­ers un­der the sur­face where wa­ters with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and tem­per­a­tures sep­a­rate from each other. It was such a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. The wa­ter was also so re­fresh­ing that we spent hours ex­plor­ing al­most the whole part of the lake.

The roots and tree branches un­der the wa­ter were an­other in­ter­est­ing dis­cov­ery as I swam deeper. And I can only imag­ine how fun it would be to do free div­ing here and go deeper into the lake. This is def­i­nitely one of the best swim­ming ex­pe­ri­ences in a nat­u­ral won­der I’ve ever had in my life.

Be­fore dusk came, we had to leave the lake. On our way back on the boat, I said to my­self that I would go back to Biduk-biduk district and visit Lake Labuan Cer­min again next time. But be­fore that time comes, I would like to per­fect my swim­ming and free div­ing so I can ex­plore the deeper level of the lake when I re­turn.

Tosca wa­ters and green­ery on our way to Labuan Cer­min.

With al­most no re­flec­tion on the wa­ters, it seems like our boat is fly­ing rather than float­ing.

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