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40 Things to Do in Kalimantan, Indonesia – Beaches – Islands – Natural Parks

by steve

kalimantanKalimantan is a part of Indonesia which encompasses 73% of the Borneo Island. The rest of Borneo Island is owned by 2 countries, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. The name Kalimantan itself derives from the Sanskrit word Kalamanthana, which literally means “burning weather island” because the island was located right at the equator, hence the extremely hot climate. In fact, a city in Kalimantan, which is also the capital of West Kalimantan province, named Pontianak was located precisely on the equator line.

This third largest island in the world was known colloquially to Indonesians as Kalimantan. They dubbed it as the “Land of Thousand Rivers” for the numerous rivers that flow in this island. In fact, the river is a very important part of Kalimantan people’s daily lives, they use it not only for drinking, washing, etc but also as a method of transportation. Because of the dense tropical rainforest, rugged terrain, and lack of road infrastructure, people still travel around in Kalimantan by using rivers until now.

As a tourist destination, Kalimantan is quite popular because the island is covered with an extensive and vast tropical rainforest containing many natural ecosystems. Due to the lush greeneries covering this island, Kalimantan is considered as one of the lungs of the world. The verdant jungle is also teeming with a plethora of flora and fauna, some of them are unique to this island like the famous orangutan and the proboscis monkey. Many explorers of the past have come to seek adventure and unravel the mysteries in this island.

An extensive amount of logging leads to the deforestation of Kalimantan is happening at a rapid pace, which leads to the Indonesian government declaring that 45% of the island will be off-limits from any logging activity. However, illegal logging and forest fires are still happening up to this day.

Kalimantan itself was divided into 5 provinces, the South Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and the newest province North Kalimantan. Each of the provinces has amazing natural attractions as well as magnificent historical landmarks. As a result, here are the best things to do in Kalimantan Indonesia.

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Visit East Kalimantan

Home to the rare and nearly extinct black orchids, East Kalimantan was the location of three famous kingdoms in the past. Many indigenous people of Dayak tribe still living in the jungle in this area. East Kalimantan also has some beautiful islands that become popular tourist destination located in the Makassar strait such as Derawan Island. Here are the main attractions of the East Kalimantan province.

1. Derawan Island 

derawanNominated for UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2005, this island off the coast of Kalimantan is famously known as one of the major diving spots in Indonesia. Derawan island is part of the Derawan archipelago which consists of several islands with nearly identical ecosystems. There are so many aquatic lifeforms around the island including ghostpipe fish, bluering octopus, scorpionfishes, seahorses, cuttlefish, and much more. There is a famous rock called the Blue Trigger Wall, which is an 18-meter long rock located about 10 meters below the surface, where a lot of red-toothed trigger fishes can be found. It truly is a great place for divers. Visitors could also snorkel around the island to see many colourful pelagic fishes as the ocean’s water is crystal clear.

2. Maratua Island

maratuaThis frontier island is one of the furthest parts of Indonesia and it directly borders the Malaysian part of Kalimantan and is also part of the Derawan Archipelago. There are two famous lakes in this island, the Tanah Bamban Lake, and Haji Buang Lake. Visitors could opt to stay in Maratua resort with cottages on top of the water. The water is so crystal clear that sometimes you can see sea turtles and other fishes swimming right under your room. There are plenty of aquatic recreational activities as well such as speedboat, jet skis, etc. but most people would prefer to snorkelling and enjoying the serene ambience of the ocean from their cottage.

3. Kakaban Island

kakabanAnother lovely island which belonged to the Derawan Archipelago, Kakaban Island was famous for the lake in the centre of the island. The lake is a combination between rainwater and seawater that seeps through the soil pores. Thus, it creates a special endemic habitat that is very unique. In fact, there’s only one lake that has the same characteristics as the Kakaban Lake, which is located in the Palau Island, Micronesia. Inside the Kakaban Lake lives several species of unpoisonous jellyfish such as Golden Jellyfish and Moon Jellyfish with the photosynthesis ability. Another interesting place in this island is the Kehe Daeng which roughly translates to Fish Hole, where you can see plenty coral reefs and other aquatic lifeforms during ebb tide.

4. Labuan Cermin Lake

This crystal-clear lake is located in Labuan Kelambu Village, about 6-7 hours drive from Berau, East Kalimantan. It got its name from the fact that the water of the lake reflects your image just almost like a mirror. Some say that it was caused by the combination of saltwater and freshwater contained in this lake. Whatever the reason is, the water in this lake is really clear you’d feel like you’re snorkelling in the ocean. There is also lots of fishes to be found here. The atmosphere is really calm and relaxing, and the surrounding forest just adds more serenity to the ambience. If you plan on visiting Derawan island, put this island in your itinerary as well since you won’t regret it.

5. Beras Basah Island

Legend says that this island name derives from an old tale where in ancient times, a ship carrying rice was capsized near this island. Instead of sinking, the rice floats to the surface and form a new land. That is why the island name, Beras Basah, literally translates to Wet Rice. This island offers beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear ocean waters. You can get to this island by taking a boat from a port in Bontang.

6. Mahakam River

As the largest river in East Kalimantan, the Mahakam river has supported the populace around it for decades. It is also known as home for the freshwater dolphin called pesut by the locals. Visitors could also observe a multitude of birds and other wildlife by cruising along the river.

7. Kutai National Park

Located north of the Mahakam river and hosts several lakes, the Kutai National Park extends over an area of 2.000-kilometer square. Visitors could access this park through two main points, which is Sangkima, and Prevab.

8. Samarinda Islamic Center Mosque

Located near the Mahakam river, this mosque is the second largest in Southeast Asia. With an area as wide as 43.500 square meters, this Islamic Center has 7 towers around the complex, one of them was the 99-meters tall Asmaul Husna tower. This magnificent building is one of the icons of Samarinda City, the capital of East Kalimantan province, and it is located next to another icon, the Mahakam Bridge. It is a very spectacular sight to see this mosque from the bridge and vice versa. The decorations and ornaments inside this mosque complex bear resemblance to the Middle-East mosques, such as the palm trees, Moorish architectural style, etc.

9. Pampang Cultural Park

Every Sunday at 3 PM, there will be a dancing show performed by the Dayak tribe. It is truly an immersive and exotic experience for many tourists. The park itself looked like a normal Dayak village with their traditional houses.

10. Erau Festival

To see the authentic Kalimantan native tribe, Dayak, in their cultural ceremonies is truly an amazing sight to behold. If you ever visit Tenggarong, try to join the Erau Festival to get the very best of your Kalimantan attractions.

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Turn to South Kalimantan

Geographically this province is divided into two: the highlands in the centre with the Meratus mountain range, and the lowlands in the eastern shore and western part. South Kalimantan possess many natural and cultural tourist attraction and things to do in Kalimantan Indonesia.

11. Rimpi Hills 

Located in Pelaihari, South Kalimantan, this hill is very popular lately due to the magnificent view it has. The scenery bears a striking resemblance to the Windows XP original wallpaper, and many people have gone to this hill just to take some pictures.

12. Seran Lake

This lake is actually a mining hole left by the diamond mining company in the past. After years of neglect, the hole was filled with water and the Seran Lake is born. It is one of the most popular tourist destination in Banjarbaru. The water is very clear and refreshing.

13. Pantai Takisung

Located approximately 87 miles from the South Kalimantan capital Banjarmasin, this is the most popular beach in South Kalimantan. The waves are somewhat calmer than the beaches at the northern coast of Java.

14. Martapura and Cempaka Diamond Tours

Ever wonder how did people mine for diamonds? Take this tour in Martapura and see for yourself how the populace panned the river for diamonds. Martapura has been known as one of the largest diamond producers in Indonesia and has been dubbed as “Diamond City” by many Indonesians. In this tour you can see the whole process of diamond mining from panning for raw diamonds in the river to the processing it until it became the diamond you usually see in a jewellery store.

15. Samber Gelap Island

This major tourist attraction provides a turtle breeding farm, pristine coral reefs, white sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters. It is also known as one of the best diving spots in Kalimantan.

16. Melawai Beach

As the most popular beach in Balikpapan, this beach is always crowded with tourists, especially on weekends.

17. Kaget Island

A natural habitat for proboscis or also known as long-nosed monkeys, this delta on the Barito river is classified as a nature preservation area thereby it is illegal for logging in this island.

18. Candi Laras

There are only a few religious heritage in Kalimantan, and this is one of them. Built by the Hindu kingdom Srivijaya in the twelfth century, this site was meant as a marker for pilgrimage.

19. Kuin Estuary Floating Market

This traditional market is a cultural heritage of the Banjarmasin city. Bustling with activities traders constantly moves with their ship to barter or sell and buy something. However, due to modernization, the amount of trader in this floating market is dwindling every year.

Stay in West Kalimantan

The capital of the province, Pontianak, is known as the Equatorial City for it is located right at the equatorial line. Kalimantan’s nickname “Land of the Thousand Rivers” owes its epithet to this province due to the amount of river that flows within this area. West Kalimantan is also known for its rich culture and producers of many handmade ethnic crafts and items.

20. Pasir Panjang Beach

Located in District Seven of City of Singkawang, this beach is known as the city’s icon and have been a major tourist attraction for years. The large waves make this beach suitable for surfing.

21. Bougainville Hills Park

This park is known for its bougainvillea flowers, hence its name. You can take a flower park tour to observe the multitude of flora in this park.

22. Sinka Island Park

This recreational park is a blend of a modern tour with contemporary natural tours. There are several beautiful beaches and also a zoo within this park. Visitors can try a lot of activities here such as horse-riding, jet skiing, etc.

23. Sentarum Lake

This lake is known for housing a large number of Arowana fish. Also known as the dragonfish, the Arowana shares many similar traits with the Arapaima, the largest freshwater fish from Amazon. Many people believe that raising and keeping arowana in your house can bring good luck.  In this lake, there is a tour that allows tourist to observe hundreds of Arowana in their natural habitat.

24. Rumah Marga Tjhia

This house was built around more than 100 years ago, but the shape and every bit of detail are still the same as the first time it was built. Many people said this house was the very foundation of Singkawang city. Founded by Tjhia Hiap Seng, this large housing complex is inhabited by his descendants until now.

Get Lost in Central Kalimantan

This province is known to be covered in a dense forest, vast swamps, mangroves, and numerous rivers. It is the third largest province in Indonesia in terms of landmass area. Lots of orangutans can be found in this province, as well as other endemic animals.

25. Kahayan River

As the largest river in the province, Kahayan river provides many benefits to peoples and communities living around it. Also called Great Dyak, this river is home to many Dayak tribes who lives along the river who often hunts and fish around the area. Kahayan is known to contain large amounts of gold deposits, which attracts many people to come and panned for gold in the riverbanks. Visitors should opt to try the Kahayan River Fringe, which is an expedition that involves trekking along the Kahayan river using a boat to see the local wildlife and cultures.

26. Tanjung Puting National Park

Comprised of 416,040 hectares of rainforest, this park is home to many of the Kalimantan endemic faunas, such as the orangutan, bearded pig, proboscis monkey, pitcher plant, clouded leopards, and a lot more. There are many tour companies that offer boat tours to traverse the park and observe the beauty of the flora and fauna here, and also visiting research centres that scattered around the park. There are four research centres that focus in observing and rehabilitation of orangutan, which is what the park is famous for.

27. Tahai Lake

This small lake located near Tahai village possess an unusual color of water. If most lakes are blueish or green, the Tahai lake is more reddish. People say the color came from the roots of the trees of peatland surrounding the lake. There are many lodges and floating house around the lake, and you can hire a boat to travel around the lake to observe the majestic natural sceneries of Tahai lake.

28. Water City

Located in the Teweh estuary, these floating homes are one of the must see attractions when you visit the West Kalimantan.

Sit in North Kalimantan

As the newest province of Indonesia, established around four years ago, North Kalimantan is one of the fastest growing provinces in terms of infrastructure development. However, access to this province is still difficult, there’s only one road that connects them to the south, the East Kalimantan province.

29. White Mountain

Located in the Bulungan Regency, this mountain is an important icon for Tanjung Palas. There are two main attractions here, you could opt for hiking to the peak of the mountain where you can get an unobstructed view of the surrounding areas, or you could visit the underground cavern beneath the mountain that accessible from the mountain slopes.

30. Crocodile Captivity Juwata

This crocodile breeding farm is one of the major tourist spots of the town of Tarakan. There are 3 crocodile species that are being bred here, the freshwater crocodile, the supit crocodile, and the saltwater crocodile.

31. Rumah Bundar

This historical landmark was built by the Australians in 1945 after they took over from the Japanese army. It was originally built as a housing for soldiers and command center, but after the Indonesian Independence, it became a museum which holds a lot of World War II mementos.

32. Muara Kuin Floating Market – The sensation of buying things by boat here, just like in Bankok floating markets.

33. Bangkirai Hills – Challenge yourself to cross the canopy bridge in the middle of forest.

34. Kembang Island – visit this monkeys island and feed them with love.

35. Kelam Hills – Go and try to challenge  yourself hiking on Kelam wild hills.

36. Loksado District – The live of Dayak tribe, the local tribe of Kalimantan with their traditional and beautiful culture.

Meanwhile, it’s never enough to talk about how beautiful of Indonesia is. Thus, Kalimantan it’s just one island both you and I cannot explore it in short time. Whatever that is, Kalimantan is such a beautiful island ever. Thus, if you have time and money, let’s go explore all the great wild things to do in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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