Kalimantan is off the typical tourist radar. It's tricky to get to, and usually involves an overnight stay in congested Jakarta. However, if you're hoping to see orangutans outside of a rehabilitation sanctuary, and are keen to spend an evening or two onboard a house boat navigating a jungle river, this could be the best place in Indonesia to do just that. Delve deeper into indigenous Dayak culture and discover the more modern influences that are alive and kicking in the capital city of Palangka Raya.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
As the sounds of the riverboat start to blend into the background, your senses slowly, but surely, tune into the jungle. Keep an eye out for signs of life within the mangrove thickets and tropical foliage bordering the narrow waterway. As the boat's engine idles, and then switches off completely, you realise you're not alone. There, on one of the small wooden feeding platforms hidden on the riverbank, is an orangutan: mesmerising and close. This is why you've travelled such a long way to get to Kalimantan. Tanjung Puting National Park is the place to see wild orangutans. Although nothing is guaranteed, journeying deep into the jungle in the company of an expert local wildlife guide stacks the odds firmly in your favour.
For a truly wild experience of Tanjung Puting National Park, you can’t beat a one- or two-night stay aboard a traditional klotok houseboat. These converted river barges, with their distinctive ‘klok toc’ engine noises, are a far cry from luxury cruising, but there's something about floating through the jungle that naturally adds an extra air of adventure and romance. Once on board, there’s nothing to distract you from immersion in the sights and sounds of Kalimantan’s extraordinary landscape. This is one of our favourite ways to start a trip to Indonesia, especially if you're looking to recover and relax after a lengthy transfer. Sleeping out on deck, listening to the riverside frog chorus under a blanket of stars, is quite something.
The journey to the city of Palangka Raya is half the fun. Homestays in tribal villages and nature walks within valley-filled forests provide immersive diversions on route to Kalimantan's capital. Staying in the city itself is a genuine eye opener, and gives you an opportunity to explore independently. Discover the distinctive cultural contrasts between the traditional Dayak tribal heritage and the myriad mosques and catholic churches. Stroll along the banks of the Kahayan River at sunset in the company of local families and groups of friends. Enjoy simply sitting by the water soaking up the atmosphere, and succumb to the tempting, sweet smells emanating from the night market.