Central Kalimantan, dominated by the indigenous Dayaks, is known as the lung of the world for its vast and fertile tropical jungles and forests. The northern mountain chain, the Schwaner Range, is home to some of the most pristine forests in Kalimantan. Certain areas are within WWF’s Heart of Borneo conservation initiative signed by the 3 nations, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
These mountains are the source of 11 mighty rivers intersecting the vast lowland peat swamps and finishing their journey in dense, crocodile infested mangroves along the estuaries of Central Kalimantan. Peat swamps are home to iconic Bornean fauna, the orangutan, the proboscis monkey and red leaf eating monkey and many bird species. Deer, clouded leopards, porcupines, sun bears, giant pythons, magnificent hornbills, monitor lizards and wild civet cats also share this jungle habitat.
Its capital, Palangkaraya is the natural starting point for exploring the region, having numerous daily flights to and from Java, and further into the interior. It is also the centre of a web of public road transport to all areas and to South Kalimantan.
Palangkaraya, or Honoured and Sacred Great Place, is the capital city. Growing from Pahandut, a small stilt village on the banks of the Kahayan River, the first President of Indonesia, Sukarno, had decided that that it would become the next site of Indonesia’s capital. The new city was completely designed from scratch and built in grand proportions in the 1960’s.
After the passing of the Sukarno era, Palangkaraya was left as a back water, a tiny capital in a brand new province. Only in recent years has it realized its potential after the de-centralization of government to the provinces and the secret of its great natural bounty of resources was uncovered, ushering a period of break neck development. The idea of Palangkaraya as Indonesia’s capital has recently re-surfaced after Jakarta has become overcrowded and its traffic severely congested.
Eco tourism is yet to develop in the mountains, but in the lowland areas, orangutan and river eco tourism is well established.
Palangkaraya has it own eco tourism pioneers in Kalimantan Tour Destinations, who have introduced a comfortably remodeled traditional ‘rangkan’ river boat. Cruises encompass the natural beauty and magnificent fauna, particularly the orangutan, of Borneo. Working with local communities to create a true ecotourism experience, one guest rated it as an iconic Indonesian experience, and went on the say:
The Rahai’i Pangun Jungle River Boat journeys offer minimal impact viewing of its rainforest, wildlife, especially orangutans, and riverside Dayak villages from the vantage point of a traditional river mode of transportation. It also benefits local communities by generating alternative livelihoods and teaching new skills that contribute to the development of a sustainable local eco-tourism economy (click www.wowborneo.com for details).
About 700km southwest of Palangkaraya lies the town of Pangkalan Bun which is an entrance to the Tanjung Puting National Park. Tanjung Puting National Park has long been a centre for orangutan research and rehabilitation. Founded by noted orangutan expert and former Richard Leakey student, Birute Galdikas, arrangements for cruising canals in the Park, and disembarking to walk through forests to orangutan feeding stations are beautifully established and maintained. Rehabilitated orangutans are free at the stations and jetties. Many tour companies operate cruises on local boats with simple sleeping arrangements, or use the Rimba Eco Lodge on the park boundary. For 3 or 4 days, enjoy the natural beauty of this park, and come face to face with the orangutan.
(Contributor: Gaye Thavisin)