Kalimantan belongs to Indonesia and contributes approximately 75% to the island of Borneo; it’s an unspoiled gem, and one of Asia’s least visited regions. Its steaming jungles are home to the colorful Dayak tribe, mineral riches, rare flora and fauna and endangered orangutans; Kalimantan is one of the few regions where these incredible creatures can still be found living in the wild. I was lucky enough to recently visit Kalimantan to experience the allure of this remote hinterland, and I can safely say that what I found was beautifully untouched and lush with jungle.
For such a remote location getting to Kalimantan is fairly easy if travelling from Jakarta. There are daily flights from Jakarta to Palangkaraya with Garuda Indonesia, and the flight takes just over one hour. Palangkaraya is a fairly authentic and characterful city home to floating and stilted wooden houses. From here it’s just a 30 minute transfer to Kumai where the river boats begin their voyage into Tanjung Putting National Park, and where I began my exotic journey.
The simple wooden house boats are the perfect base in which to observe orangutan, proboscis monkey, Helmeted hornbill and a myriad of other tropical animals, which flourish in the dense trees that flank the river. I stayed on the Rahai’I Pangun, a simple but wonderful wooden boat which is currently being restored. In the next few months several cabins will be fitted with AC, making it stand out above the rest. Staying on board a houseboat is ideal, as you are able to capture the wildlife early in the morning and late in the evening when they are most active.
Kalimantan is fortunately home to many of the world’s orangutan, some living completely in the wild and others semi-wild having been rescued. I visited the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) who rescue orphaned, displaced and sick orangutans. After being brought back to full health, the rescued orangutans generally live on independent islands along the river where they can slowly adapt to living in the wild, without close human interference. Once they “graduate” from their protected island habitats, they are released into the deep jungles of Borneo to survive independently. It is without doubt that the rescued orangutans are easier to spot, but there is still a chance of seeing truly wild orangutans from the boats as well.
In my opinion a visit to Kalimantan should not only focus on wildlife, but the people too. It is arguably not complete without a stay in a traditional longhouse owned by a traditional Dayak family. It is possible to do this in Malahoi, which is a slightly jerky four hour drive from Palangkaraya by 4×4. This offers the opportunity to integrate and communicate with one of the region’s most untouched and unexplored ethnic groups and this was a real highlight for me.
If the thought of a 4 hours journey is off putting it is possible to visit small villages along the river during the overnight river boat journeys, and it is here where you can watch traditional dance, meet traditional shaman “healers” and watch people make their livelihood through rubber tapping and local crafts.
Because Kalimantan is still very much off the beaten track accommodation remains very simple and authentic which I feel adds to its allure.
Our Orangutans by private house-boat is a perfect tour for those who wish to experience Kalimantan’s luminous rivers, jungles and tribal villages.
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