Kalimantan

Overview

Introduction

Located 420 mi/675 km northeast of Jakarta, Kalimantan is Indonesia's portion of the island of Borneo, which it shares with Brunei and the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. Clashes between ethnic groups have taken place in Kalimantan, especially in the central and western portions of the territory, and prospective visitors should be sure to keep abreast of security developments.

The area does not offer much in the way of comfortable tourist accommodations, in sharp contrast to the Malaysian side of the island. Much of the place seems more geared for the logging, mining and oil industries than for travelers. Local ground operators lead group tours along the Mahakam River with stays at tribal longhouses that are up to 600 ft/183 m long and house up to 50 families. The island has 200 Indonesian Dayak ethnic groups living in thatched houses on stilts. Its two national parks, Gunung Palung and Tanjung Puting, are good places to see the rain forest.

We know from experience that Kalimantan is not a good place to run out of insect repellent—be sure to take along plenty. Also, beware of the heat—the air can get steamy and oppressive. As tourism is still fairly new to Kalimantan, English is not widely spoken. Transportation arrangements can also be more difficult than in other areas of Indonesia.

One of the key attractions of Kalimantan is river boat expeditions upriver to visit the orangutan rehabilitation centers near Camp Leakey. These range from single-night visits to weeklong expeditions where you sleep on the boat each night. Besides the orangutans, these trips feature jungle trekking, firefly-lit evening dinners and visits to the Camp Leakey interpretive center. You'll spy hornbills, macaques and proboscis monkeys from the boat, along with crocodiles in the river and the occasional wild boar. Book tours with local guides via email, and be sure to shop around. Prices are not standardized, and getting three offers could mean three very different bids for essentially the same experience.

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