1.TANJUNG PUTING KLOTOK TOUR (access from Palangka Raya/Kumai)

The starting point to the famous Tanjung Putting National Park is Kumai where all the tours and cruises can be booked, and local guides can be hired. Tanjung Puting is regarded to be the easiest place on earth to spot orang-utans and proboscis monkeys in their natural environment, and the prices are equivalent to this fact.

The coastal swamps and pristine mangroves were turned into a national park in 1982; ever since the conservation area has attracted adventurous travellers and nature lovers from all over the world.

Tanjung Puting National Park – the icon of ecotourism in Borneo (orang-utans)

The tropical rainforest is home to diverse fauna and flora, such as 9 species of primates, clouded leopard, sun bear, barking deer, sambar deer, crocodiles and more than 200 different species of birds, including the rare hornbills.

The vast wetland has such diverse fauna, and lush flora that is was given an epithet “Garden of Eden”. The major point of interest is Camp Leakey – an oasis for orang-utans, that can be reached by a traditional klotok boat.

An overnight klotok boat tour is the major attraction in Tanjung Puting


  • Overnight ‘klotok’ tour – traditional klotok boats are used to get closer to the fringe of the rainforest and watch the apes swinging in trees, the tours typically include jungle trekking, stopping at an orangutan camp and a Dayak village. There are 2 days/1 nigh or 3 days/2 nights cruises along the Sekonyer River, and this is not going to be a cheap trip (count on 300+ USD per person)
  • Camp Leakey – likely the main attraction of the whole Borneo (and the most controversial as well) is a must unless you are against eco-tourism. You can watch the huge primates from several viewing platforms/feeding stations while playing, getting fed and swinging in the tress. There are big males and babies, often interacting with the rangers and it is quite a spectacle to watch them having fun

Orangutans getting spoilt at the Camp Leakey, Tanjung Putting NP

2.KAHAYAN AND SABANGAU RIVER TOUR (access from Palangka Raya)

The Central Kalimantan`s capital city – Palangka Raya, spreads along the banks of two rivers – Kahayan and Sabangau, both meandering for several hundreds of kilometres to the far swampy inland in the Central Kalimantan.

The territory is far from being a tourist destination, and perhaps that is the reason for being more authentic. Taking a boat tour upstream either of the rivers will take the visitors to some of the most isolated regions of Borneo.

Dayak village, Kahayan River


  • Rungan River/Pulau Kaja – orangutans at the Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Centre
  • Gohong Rawai – waterfalls & rapids (great rafting, jungle trekking)
  • Buntoi – a one day trip by a klotok boat to the Buntoi longhouse that is more than 100 years old
  • Kahayan River – canoeing, kayaking, traditional timber rafting, extreme jungle trekking, Dayak villages
  • Sabangau River – a private eco-tour can be arranged in Palangka Raya to see orang-utans and other endemic species

Sabangau National Park features a peat swamp forest

3.CRUISING BARITO RIVER (access from Banjarmasin or Kualakapuas)

Barito River meanders from the heart of Borneo, 900 kilometres through entire Central Kalimantan, to join the Java Sea at Kualakapuas and Banjarmasin. The river can be travelled upstream from either of the towns by booking a boat tour to Muara Teweh.

There are several interesting towns and Dayak villages to stop by on the way as well as plenty of natural attractions to enjoy albeit this is one of the Borneo`s least trodden paths (perfect for adventure seekers who don`t mind getting out of their comfort zone).

Gold Panning is part of everyday routine for many locals in Barito


  • Buntok – Lake Melawen (ideal for wildlife watching, fishing)
  • Tamiang Layang – Liang Sarangih is an ancient limestone cave with numerous tunnels
  • Muara Teweh – Makonjun  Longhouse is an old Dayak Betang-home in the Makonjun village (2 hrs by motorboat from Muara Teweh)
  • Puruk Cahu – historical forts, longhouses, wildlife and jungle trekking tours (Poran and Koloubesar waterfalls), Labung & Masuparia villages (diamond & gold panning), black orchid park and wildlife reserve
  • Teluk Jolo & Tumbung Juloi – canoeing, kayaking, traditional bamboo rafting, jungle trekking and eco-tourism (outlying Dayak communities can be visited)

Teluk Jolo is known for rough waters and river rafting

4.MARTAPURA RIVER TOUR (access from Banjarmasin)

Officially belonging to the South Kalimantan, the city of Banjarmasin is set on a web of the canals of Martapura River and it is dotted with mosques. It has become famous for its colourful boats, stilt and raft houses and the world`s last remaining genuine floating market.

Banjarmasin is often called the “River City” for its far-reaching waterways, and although it has got a long Buddhist and Hindu history, the population is almost entirely Muslim.

Besides, the city has always been renowned as a centre of gem trading, particularly rubies and diamonds that are exquisitely brilliant. Nevertheless, much of the city life takes place on the water, and the whole tourism industry turns around the floating markets (klotok boat tours available at any guesthouse or hotel).

Floating markets are the symbol of Banjarmasin – the ancient trade hub


  • Floating markets – Pasar Terapung, Lok Baintan, Kuin,
  • Beaches – Angsana Beach, Pagatan Beach
  • Kembang Flower Island – long-tailed macaques (can be fed), Chinese Temple
  • Kaget Surprised Island – rare proboscis monkeys

The River city of Banjarmasin is known for stilt houses and mosques

5.KAPUAS RIVER HOUSEBOAT TOUR (access from Pontianak)

The capital city of West Kalimantan – Pontianak, lies right on the equator, on the junction of the Landak and Kapuas Rivers and their murky waters indicate that one arrived in Borneo.  Kapuas River is the longest river on Borneo, and with its length of 1143 km, it is one of the largest rivers in our planet.

The meandering Kapuas River, a boat tour from Pontianak to Putussibau


  • Sungai Kapuas Houseboat Tour – boat up the Kapuas River (Indonesia`s longest river), the journey starts at Pontianak and ends at the heart of Borneo, on the border with Malaysian Sarawak, in The passengers usually return by bus or fly back to Pontianak. The 5-day long trip offers a unique experience of exploring some of the least explored parts of the world, its murky rivers, thick jungles, abundant wildlife and traditional stilt villages
  • Putussibau – hire a scooter and search around the Dayak villages or take a tour to visit the oldest longhouses in Borneo
  • Danau Sentarum National Park – pay a visit to the wetlands of the reserve to enjoy its rich eco-system
  • Betung Kerihun National Park – Dayak tours, wildlife, jungle trekking, orang-utans

Vast floodplain of the Danau Sentarum National Park

6.MAHAKAM RIVER JOURNEY (access from Samarinda)

Boating upstream the Sungai Mahakam, Kalimantan`s second longest river (more than 900 km), Islam becomes less evident, and the indigenous Dayak tribes still dominate the jungles. Various boat tours from Samarinda run throughout a year.

The historic town of Tenggarong and the tribal villages at Tanjung Isuy and Mancong are definitely recommended locations to spend a few days at, and further up the river, the rural region of Melak greets the visitors in a friendly way.

Those who wish to continue to explore the outlying Apo Kayan Highland Plateau will get a chance to appreciate Long Bagun – the largest towns on the Mahakam River with lively markets, and Long Iram at the heart of Borneo. Here, a good guide is more than essential and the less you carry, the better for yourself.

Mahakam River, Borneo

There are two ways how to explore the Mahakam River:

1.Public Ferry from Samarinda (Terminal Sungai Kunjang) that are typically crowded, less comfortable but cheap and adventurous (you will likely need to let the pilot know where to stop not the ticket collector). You can construct your own itinerary or just get lost on the public boats and follow the locals.

There are both public and private boats upstream the Mahakam River from Samarinda

2.Private Boat Tour from Samarinda – expensive but more comfortable (bookings at most of the guesthouses and hotels – always negotiate the price). There are various tours, but commonly the itinerary is as follows: Samarinda-Kota Bangun-Muara Muntai-Tanjung Issuy-Mancong-Melak-Long Iram-Long Bagun and back (4-7 days, depending on your budget and you should count on 100+ USD/per person/per day)

Long Iram river village, Maharam River

7.BOATING THE SESAYAP RIVER (access from Tarakan)

One of the Borneo`s least accessible places and one of the last wilderness areas on Earth, the Kayan Mentarang National Park is the newest destination in Borneo that has opened to tourism. Its isolation contributed to the area`s outstanding perseverance.

It is right here where the last surviving Pygmy elephants hide in their natural habitat and few remaining individuals of the Bornean rhinoceros have survived, sadly only in captivity.

Last surviving Pygmy elephants can be spotted in the jungle of Kayan Mentarang

Besides, the indigenous Dayak communities have persisted in their ancestral way of life for centuries. This is still an authentic and pristine region in Borneo, with rivers at their cleanest, the forest at its healthiest and life at its purest.

The easiest way to visit the Kayan Mentarang National Park is booking a river tour along the Sesayap River from Tarakan to Long Bawan (via Mentarang).

Small motorboats will take the visitors to Long Bawan (at the Sarawak border)


The Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) is generally recommended to visit between June and October, during the dry season. In fact, many reserves and protected areas are only accessible outside the rainy season.


Daily flights to Kalimantan are from Jakarta, Medan, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Kuching.

There are 5 major airports in Kalimantan: Pontianak, Banjarmasin, Balikpapan, Samarinda and Berau.

For all domestic flights check out the Indonesian flight companies Wings Air, Susi Air, Kartika Airlines, Lion Air, Silk Air, Sriwijaya Air and Garuda Indonesia.

For all international flights go to www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com

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Eva Bodova

Sunday 19 August 2018

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