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A seven or eight day adventure in Kalimantan
Encounters with the men from the forest
The Tanjung Puting National Park
The Rungan River Cruise
One of the few words of Malay-Indonesian origin that were absorbed into the English language is ‘orangutan’ which literally means ‘the man from the forest’. This seven/eight day adventure takes you to his (and hers) native habitat.
The Tanjung Puting National Park is a peninsula of 4,150 km² (1,600 sq miles) that juts out on the southern coast of Central Kalimantan and has been a national park since 1982. The best known animals on Cape Puting are the orangutans, made famous through the long-term efforts of the Orangutan Research and Conservation Program. Camp Leakey is the well-known site of the longest continuous study of any wild animal in the history of science. In addition to orangutans the park is also home to proboscis monkeys, gibbons, macaques, clouded leopards, sun bears, wild boars, porcupines, and deer.
The indigenous people inhabiting the dense tropical rainforests of Borneo are collectively called the Dayaks, but in fact they comprise many tribes that are diverse in culture as well as in language. The word ‘Dayak’ actually means ‘inland’ or ‘upriver’. It follows that to experience Dayak culture that is exactly where one has to go: upriver. For the second stage of this eight day adventure Top Indonesia recommends the Rahai'i Pangun, a 19 meter traditional Kalimantan river boat that was converted to take passengers in great comfort from the river port of Palangkaraya, up the Rungan River in Central Kalimantan.
Day one: Pangkalanbun - Tanjung Harapan
A voyage into the forests of Kalimantan typically starts on Java. There are direct flights from Jakarta, Semarang or Surabaya to Iskandar Airport of Pangkalanbun, which is the gateway to the Tanjung Puting National Park. An early morning flight schedule usually allows you to immediately proceed to the Park. We meet you at the airport, which is only twenty minutes from the Kumai River port. The only access to Tanjung Puting is by water so here we board a traditional wooden river boat. It takes less than half an hour to cross the Kumai River and when we reach the opposite bank we turn onto the Sekonyer River, the main artery running through the Park. You will find that the rooftop upper deck of our ‘klotok’ is a perfect platform from which to observe the surrounding jungle. Not only is there a simple toilet on board, the boat even has a galley and a cook. While lunch is served you start seeing the first proboscis monkeys on the river bank and during the rest of the day you see much more wildlife as you smoothly glide through a landscape of truly untouched nature. At the end of the afternoon we reach Tanjung Harapan, where we stop at the Rimba Lodge, which is simple accommodation but the best available along the Sekonyer River. Dinner and overnight.
Day two: Pondok Tanggui - Camp Leakey
After an early breakfast we immediately get underway again to reach the first of the two rehabilitation centers, Pondok Tanggui, in time for the 09.00 AM feeding session of the orangutan babies and juveniles. Afterwards we turn on to the black river which is full of wildlife with many kinds of birds, primates, fish, as well as crocodiles. When we reach the highlight of the National Park, Camp Leakey, we first follow a hiking track into the forest to learn even more about wildlife in this forest. At noon we return to the boat for lunch, again served by our own cook. At 14.00 we join in the orangutan feeding program. Feeders will lead us to the site and we bring milk and fruits. After a memorable afternoon with the men from the forest we return to the boat and go downstream again, back to Tanjung Harapan for dinner and overnight at the Rimba Lodge.
Day three: Pangkalan Bun - Palangkaraya
We leave the Rimba Lodge at sunrise and have our breakfast on the boat. Since our klotok is going downstream it swiftly takes us back to the river port in one and a half hour.
The roads and bridges from Pangkalan Bun to the province capital of Palangkaraya are in relatively fair condition but an overland trip by car will take approximately 8-10 hours. However as the crow flies, the distance is only 258 kilometer and three times a week Aviastar operates small DH6 Twin Otter planes on the route.
In case you fly you will arrive in time to immediately embark on the 5 cabin Rahai’i Pangun the same day.
In case you would end up having to travel by road you would arrive in the early evening and in that case we suggest you spend the night at the Aquarius Boutique Hotel and join the vessel along its route the following morning. It is perfectly possible to join the cruise somewhere along the route to dovetail with your own timetable but it is important to realize that travel on the river is always subject to seasonal conditions. The details of the following itinerary may vary slightly from the description but most importantly: this boat is very comfortable, the crew is both skilled and friendly, the food is fantastic and the experience is absolutely unique.)
From the river port of Palangkaraya the Rahai’i Pangun casts off around noon and first cruises past a colorful scenery of houseboats and rows of traditional wooden houses on stilts that are lining the riverbank, but as the boat makes its way upriver you soon enter jungle territory. In the course of the afternoon you reach an area of shimmering black water lakes and the crew will invite you to take to a canoe and get a closer look at what lives on the shore. It is not at all impossible you will again spot orangutans or long-nosed monkeys and probably much more. When you return to the Rahai’i Pangun a wonderful dinner will be awaiting you followed by a memorable night in the middle of the jungle under a million stars.
Day four: Marang - Kanakaran
The Rahai’i Pangun moves up the Rungan River to the village of Tangkiling, where we take you by car to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Education Centre.
The Nyaru Menteng reintroduction centre was founded in 1999 and is home to more than 600 orphaned and displaced orangutans. What started as a small-scale operation has grown into the world's largest orangutan conservation facility. The forest around the centre is where young orangutans are initially taught how to survive in the wild. Five small islands nearby are used as their introductory home, once the orangutans begin their new lives without human assistance. Back onboard we cruise past the orangutan release island of Pulau Kaja, to Kanarakan village. We go wandering through the village with a local host to see how people live and work in these isolated communities. Afterwards the boat crew finds a quiet mooring nearby.
Day five: Kanakaran - Tangkiling
The boat makes its way down stream, again passing the orangutan island and ties up to the shore at Palas Island. We take to the canoe to move to Tangkiling Hill to see the village ‘patahu’ at the sacred Batu Banama rock. In the afternoon we hike up the hill for a view over the vast flood plains. After catching the sunset we return to the boat for dinner.
Day six: Tangkiling - Bukit Rawi
Our home on the river sails downstream to the convergence of the Rungan and Kahayan, then upstream the latter, arriving mid afternoon in Bukit Rawi. When we stroll around this historic town we learn about the Dayak funeral ceremonies and the ancestral bone houses, or Sandungs. A Sandung is a wooden structure in which the ashes of the dead are kept; we also see so-called Sapunduks, statues that serve as a pillar where tribesmen tie buffaloes during ceremonies.
Day seven: Palangkaraya - airport
Rahai’i Pangun returns to its homeport and at the appropriate time we transfer you to the airport for the flight to your next destination.