Borneo or also known as Kalimantan is a paradise for world adventurers. Borneo is known as the third largest island in the world and the second largest island in Indonesia. It is located in the north of Java Island and west of Sulawesi Island. Surrounded by oceans, Borneo has many rivers. Therefore, Borneo has earned the nickname of a Thousand Rivers.
The Borneo island is located in the heart of Southeast Asia maritime and is more than 100 million years old, the rainforests of Borneo are one of the oldest on the planet. This forest is home to several types of rare wildlife that always attract tourists from all over the world.
If you’re a person who loves nature and adventure, the things to do on this amazing island are to see the wild endemic animals, discover lush mangroves and rainforests, see the Dayak Tribe and go tubing in the river.
With all its natural wealth, what can this island offer to tourists? What do they have to make a great impression on all visitors?
Orangutan – Tanjung Putting Journey
A popular natural tourist destination worldwide, Tanjung Puting National Park is the largest habitat, conservation and research center for the Bornean Orangutan. Tanjung Puting is one of the iconic tourist destinations in Kalimantan. There you will find out how forests become a support system for human life by exploring every side of the Tanjung Puting National Park forest. Join the excitement of orchids watching, medicinal plants, and observe various types of wildlife, especially the Bornean Orangutan. After going along the Sekonyer river using a Klotok boat and know about various types of animals and plants, you can visit oil palm plantations around Tanjung Puting National Park to see how sustainable forest management is. You can also visit Sekonyer Village and socialize with local people.
To visit Tanjung Puting, it’s a good idea to look for travel agent and join a group tour to make your activities easier there; especially if you’re forced to go alone because you don’t have friends with you. Currently there are many open trip services. Usually, this open trip is available in 3 days 2 nights and 4 days 3 nights tour options.
There are many advantages from an open trip (group tour), including meeting new people, not feel lonely during the trip, able to share food, having a clear itinerary, and of course it will save you a lot more on expenses because you don’t have to rent a Klotok (as for boats for the local community).
Tanjung Harapan Camp
This camp is the first camp to visit when you first arrive in Kumai and along the Sekonyer River using a Klotok. You can see the wonderful scenery around Kumai River which is part of the Sekonyer River route which only green views of mangrove trees, Pidada trees that grow napas roots, Kendeka trees, Nirih trees, and Nipa palms.
After about two hours along the river, you will arrive at the Tanjung Harapan Camp pier. From here, continue your journey by walk to the forest and along the slippery terrain has lots of puddles. Well, that’s the tropical rain forest.
Walking through the forest for about 30 minutes and you get to the feeding spot. Here the mosquitoes are much more numerous and ferocious. Visitors are only allowed to see Orangutans from a distance of 10-15 meters. The ranger in charge of feeding brought two baskets filled with fruits such as bananas, mangoes and corn. They shout at each other making “auuuu” sound to call and notify their Orangutans friend that their meal time has arrived. Not long after, Orangutans came from all directions and many were hanging from one tree to another. What an amazing sight!
At the end of the afternoon and feeding time, return to the Klotok to continue the next activity not far from Tanjung Harapan, it is watching the proboscis monkeys sunbathing in the afternoon on a tree. There are tens or even hundreds of proboscis monkeys, both young and adults. Proboscis monkeys really like the warm afternoon air to sunbathe and appear in the trees.
Continue the journey to Pondok Tanggui to see Orangutan feeding time again, of course by trekking into the forest before reaching the feeding spot. After trekking for about 15 minutes through the forest and beautiful natural scenery, you will arrive at the feeding spot. This place is crowded with tourists, both local and foreign. They have chosen a place and are sitting neatly waiting for the Orangutan.
You will wait quite a while before finally a group of Orangutans arrive from various directions to eat. Unlike the first camp, here you can see Orangutans at closer distance and there are more orangutans.
Camp Leakey is one of the most visited camps by tourists; this is because they can see Orangutans roaming directly from a very close distance. It’s a fun and thrilling experience, afraid that Orangutans will suddenly attack tourists. However, even though visitors can see orangutans directly and at very close distance, there are several rules that must be obeyed: tourists are prohibited from holding, feeding, and making noise around Orangutans because this can endanger tourists.
Mahakam River Tour
A Mahakam River Tour is the perfect way to admire the natural beauty and culture that flourished on the river’s banks. An once-in-a-lifetime experience that you shouldn’t miss is sailing on a boat down the river between the rainforest and riverside villages. Departing from Loa Janan, Samarinda, the Mahakam River tour will take you see the beautiful riverside life in East Kalimantan. Overnight on a houseboat with full meals for several days during your trip will give you a unique experience of living on the river. Some of interesting experiences of this river tour are traditional villages, dance performances, wildlife, jungle trekking, museums and the Royal Palace.
In addition to the wealth of flora and fauna, Borneo is famous for the Dayak tribe. This native Borneo or Kalimantan tribe has a unique culture and customs compared to the Indonesian tribes that you usually see in cities. The Dayak tribe is scattered in many villages in Kalimantan and they have their own language and customs. One that usually visited is the Dayak tribe in Kubung Village, located about 300 km from Pangkalan Bun or about 4-5 hours away by car.
Indeed, the Dayak tribe here is not too primitive because they have their own electricity from Hydro Energy which is managed by the villagers. But this village is unique because we can still find traditional Betang longhouses, old Dayak Kaharingan graves, and traditional rice barns. They also have primary and secondary forests which are rich in beautiful flora and fauna such as Black Monkeys, Flying Squirrels, Hornbills, Deer, Wild Boars and even wild Orangutans. The deeper you explore the forest, the more beauty you can find in this tropical rain forest.
The Dayak have a strong commitment to maintaining their ancient customs and culture and protecting the tropical rainforest as their natural habitat. They believe that losing their tropical rain forest will destroy their community because mostly their life depends on the tropical rain forest for their survival, food, medicine and ritual purposes.
When you do trekking or even spend the night in the forest, you will be treated to beautiful views, rich wildlife, and beautiful waterfalls. There are about 20 waterfalls around the village as well as time to learn how to survive in the jungle with the local Dayak team.
A very large Dayak Festival is held every year. At this festival, people show their best customs and traditions. Many traditional dances, sacred weapons and all the valuable belongings of this community are exhibited at this event.
Derawan Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia and is located off the coast of the main island of Borneo. It is part of its own small archipelago and is one of the best places to dive in Borneo. The waters here filled with marine life like blue ringed octopus and scorpion fish. You can also find bobbing seahorses and ghost pipe fish. There is a famous rock here called the Blue Trigger Wall which is about 18 meters long and located 10 meters below the water level and this is one of the best diving spots in Derawan.
This island is located between Indonesia and Malaysia which is included in the Derawan islands. One of the main reasons for coming here is to see the two famous lakes in the area, Tanah Bamban Lake and Haji Buang Lake. There is a resort here which is known for its unique rooms. They stand over the water and have wonderful view; you can see fish and turtles swimming below you. There are plenty of water sports here and you can enjoy snorkeling and jet skiing, or just rent a boat and see the sights from the water.
Banjarmasin is in South Kalimantan and is the area where you will find the stunning Meratus Mountains. The city is split by a long river which you can explore use small local canoes, and this is a great place to enjoy a city tour mixed with strong local culture and traditions.
Lake Sentarum National Park
Danau Sentarum National Park is a large wetland area. Most of the park is made up of low-level rainforest as well as a large peat swamp and this is a great place if you want to find lots of native flora and fauna in one beautiful place.
Some of the wildlife you can meet here are: orangutans, proboscis monkeys and crocodiles, or you can also spot pheasants and herons. Several indigenous Borneo groups also live in the park so you can visit their camps and see how people have lived on this island for centuries.
Kakaban Island is one of the most famous in Borneo with a magnificent lake in the middle of the island. The lake is full of beautiful though non-poisonous jellyfish, which means you, can swim with them and see this amazing natural sight up closely.
The jellyfish consist of two species called the Golden Jellyfish and the Moon Jellyfish and the only place in the world with similar phenomenon is in Micronesia, so if you ever get the chance to visit Kakaban Island, be sure to take a trip to this amazing place.
Kutai National Park
The National Park is covered by pristine ironwood forests. The park is sprawling and you’ll find stretches of mangrove forest here as well as fields of colorful wild orchids. It is also home to sun bears, lorises, deer and orangutans.
Sampit is a small city located on the banks of the Sampit River and is an attractive city tourist destination. One of the best is Pandaran Beach which is next to the mouth of Sampit River and you can see the point where the river falls into the wider sea. Another tour is the Orchid Garden in Pemburanan Hulu which is a forest area as the name suggests, covered by beautiful and colorful orchids.
White Mountain or mount Putih in Indonesian is located in Bulungan Regency and is one of the most important peaks in Tanjung Palas. Many visitors want to climb to the top of the mountain, and enjoy clear views of the surrounding countryside. If you don’t like the idea of a mountain trek then you can explore the underground caves here which can reach via some beautiful mountain slopes. You can explore the area around the mouth of the cave and there are 42 spotlights in it that will take you into the main chamber.
Sesayap River Protected Forest
Don’t miss a trip to the Sesayap River Protection Forest in North Kalimantan. Enjoy the majesty of the jungle here by cruising down the river and you can see all the cool natural scenery, enjoy the towering lush trees and gigantic flowers. There are also monkeys, snakes and various colorful birds as this is a protected area so you know that the animals here are safe and not being hunted. You can also see the Perengat tree here which has a special tamarind fruit which used in various natural remedies.
Pontianak is the largest city in Kalimantan which is located at the point of two major rivers: the Kapuas River and the Landak River meet. Some of the best places in the city are the Kadriyah Palace which is a former royal palace and the Pontianak State Museum which is a national museum and a great place to learn about the history and culture of this area. For building tours, there is the Equator Monument and the traditional Dayak Longhouse.
Sembuku Sembakung National Park
This national park is the only place in Borneo where you will find amazing natural elephants and forests. Sembuku is one of the newest areas in Indonesia to be declared as a national park and stretches along the border of East Kalimantan. One of the park’s popular destinations is that it spans six different land areas which include mangrove swamps, green hills, and dense forests.
This island located in North Kalimantan, is one of the best places to see some local culture and local food. Bunyu Island consists of three distinct villages which are home to the indigenous Tidung tribe of Borneo. This island is also famous for its salak fruit (snakefruit) which is one of the best and tastiest native fruits in Indonesia, so make sure you try it when you visit. Another recommended place for you to visit here is Nibung Beach with a golf course, or you can go around the island by speedboat.
• How long in Borneo Island?
Borneo is a giant island, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see it all in one visit, even if you stay for a month. Most travelers will choose to spend more than a week in Borneo. Two weeks is a good time to get to know about Borneo, although you may want to stay longer. Most tours offer popular destinations in Borneo: beaches, national parks, wildlife reserves, and some culture. But if you’re constrained by time, money or school holidays, there are shorter tours you can do in seven days or less. Discuss with your travel agent to get a short but memorable tour. Make a list of which destinations you are visiting and whether it is possible for you to visit all of them.
• Best time to visit
The wettest months are November, December and January; so the best time to visit Borneo Island is during the dry season which runs from April to September to see the Orangutans while from April to October is the ideal time for diving.
In spring and early summer, when rainfall slows down, flowers and leaves are at their best. Mid-summer through autumn is much drier, making you always want to take a shower. Any activity, such as cycling or hiking, will be complicated by the humidity here, and this is something to keep in mind when choosing what to do. October to December sees increased rainfall, but it may be worth the trip in Borneo’s low season.
• How to get to Borneo Kalimantan
There are several cities on the island of Borneo that have both international airports and domestic airports. Pontianak (West Kalimantan), Pangkalanbun and Palangkaraya (Central Kalimantan), Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan) and Balikpapan (East Kalimantan), Samarinda (East Kalimantan), and Tarakan a small Island at North Kalimantan can be reached from Indonesian cities such as Jakarta, Makassar, Denpasar, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Semarang. Meanwhile, Balikpapan, Tarakan and Pontianak have international airports and flights from Singapore, Brunei and Kuala Lumpur.