A visit to Lake Labuan Cermin in East Borneo
“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.