Kalimantan. Tanjung Putin and Dayak culture

Going back to our roots and learning to leave our comfort zone permits us to connect with our surroundings much easier. It offers us stimulants and sensations of freedom that we could never obtain another way. We stop being simple tourists and become part of a travel experience, we adapt, and we become flexible and accept things as they come without judging and with empathy. Everything else comes on its own.

If you are reading this you have already taken the first step on the road. Enjoy this journey that has just begun as much as I have. Where will it lead to? It is still unwritten.

Tribes of Kalimantan, Dayak culture

A brief explanation of the route and location.

Kalimantan is a part of Indonesia situated on the island of Borneo (the third largest island in the world) together with Malaysia and the sultanate of Brunei. Starting by the parallel 0, the climate and the nonexistence of volcanoes and tsunamis have influenced the creation of a tall and thick jungle with a unique ecosystem and wildlife. However this was once its downfall when it was exploited for its wood for burning for the production of palm oil so widely used in every type of product nowadays. 2/3 of the natural reserves have drastically reduced the population of orangutans and influenced directly in the local culture and half of the local life.

Even though in the last few years ecotourism businesses have started appearing and have begun to make advances in the protection of the environment by the sale of land to stop the expansion of palm exploitation. We encourage you to visit one of these natural paradises with your guide and give a hand personally directly or indirectly to the conservation of this marvelous culture.

The Dayak is the term used to call the more than 200 ethnic subgroups located mainly in the center of the south of the island of Borneo. Each one has its own dialect, customs, laws and culture although the distinctive common features are easily identifiable. They arrived in Kalimantan 3000 years ago from different parts of Asia and they were animists although, many converted to Islam and since the 21st century there has been a massive conversion to Christianism. Most of them live near the river and they earn their living mainly by growing rice, hunting and fishing. Usually they live in longhouses whose structure is of wood, normally built along the river. The front part of the houses is the common area for the community and in the back part are private apartments for each family. They estimate that nowadays there are 2 million diverse dialects of Dayak.

It is worth the effort to delve deeper into this rich culture and get to know their customs a bit better.

Transport. Who we arrived?

The journey begins from Pangkalan Buun and the three usual options are via air from Jakarta, Surabaya or Semarang. All of these are situated in different parts of Java.

From whichever of the three options there is an early start to fly first thing in the morning to Pangkalan Buun after which we arrive in our destination after half an hour where our guide will be waiting for us to start our trip. Another 4 hours by car to the village of Lopus (Dayak population) where we will spend a few days.


In this village we are going to visit there is a small house for guests which we will share with a host family who will look after us and it will be our home during our stay. It will be a fantastic experience and at the same time our base, restaurant and bedroom. It is the closest connection possible to experiencing the natives who will be delighted with our visit.

Although the facilities are very basic, the house has a shared bathroom and two private bedrooms for guests in which are mattresses and mosquito nets should they be needed.  On the return in Pangkalan Buun in the evening we will stay in a hotel and the following day we will continue to the airport or along the route by the river Sekonyer.

The route, Dayak culture (3 days – 2 nights)

Day 1 Pangkalanbuun-Lopus village: Once we arrive in Pangkalanbuun in the morning a guide will meet us at airport and load all our luggage into a car and we will head towards the village of Lopus. The journey takes about 4-5 hours through endless palm plantations and stopping to have lunch in a local restaurant in Nanga Bulik. When we notice the landscape begin to change to tropical forest we will know that we are arriving at our destination. There will be a brief stop in the village for the welcome ceremony that the locals will have prepared for us. After this we will get settled in the guest house and we will have time to take advantage of watching the family cook the traditional meal that they will share with us and the rest of the community at night in another celebration prepared for us. Nasi Tembiku (sweet rice with coconut milk), Kompu (chicken or fish cooked in bamboo).

Around 6pm we will meet with the locals to have dinner in which the spiritual leader will perform a local welcome ritual with the community, to whom we will belong during our stay. After dinner we proceed with the Bagondang, Tuak, Arak dances and music that will make it an unforgettable night.

Cultura dayak en Kalimantan

 Day 2 Exploring the village and its customs: This day will be a day of learning. We will be shown the construction of their traditional houses (Rumah Betang) and their defense mechanism also the brewing of their traditional alcoholic beverages Tuak and Arak. We will have an artisan class in how they grow rice and the different skills necessary to live in the jungle.

On this day, the option which is written above is to walk 6 hours (both ways) through the jungle to Muhur (another village) beautiful landscapes and waterfalls which we will discover along the way.

Day 3 Lopus-Pangkalan Bun-Hotel: After breakfast, to finish our experience, we will take part in an aiming demonstration with a blowgun that we can try out ourselves. We will be shown various different traditional games which we can practice in our free time. After lunch we start our journey to Pangkalanbuun (5hours) where we will have dinner in a local restaurant before settling in our hotel.

Tanjung Puting and ricver Sekonyer. Jungle in kelotok

Brief explanation of the route and location

Hand in hand with our guide we will visit the national park of Tanjung Putting, staring our experience from Pangkalan Bun to Kumai and later navigating in a ¨Keltok¨the typical boat of the region by the river Sekonyer. We will have the opportunity to see an amazing amount wildlife that live in the area, highlighting the Narigudo monkey of Borneo and the Hornbill or Calao of Borneo, monkeys, gibbons, crocodiles and different types of lizards. Also a multitude of plants and exotic flowers will be on our stops as we observe the orangutans. We will learn a little about this magnificent ape that shares 97% of our DNA, the hierarchy of the family and respect.

Pongo Pygmaeus is the endemic species of this island which is in danger of becoming extinct. We will be able to see it at different places along the river in the Tanjung Putting Park to guarantee its survival. We will take a walk through the jungle and collaborate in the Reforestation of Pesalat symbolically, planting a tree if it is so desired.

Transport and acommodation. Kelotok

The kelotok will be the boat that we use on this trip by the river as it is well equipped for these conditions. It will be our mode of transport and living quarters in the jungle. We will want for nothing as it is completely comfortable prepared for a maximum of 6-8 people (crew not included). The main cabin will be a living space, equipped with tables, seats and hammocks and from where we can observe everything going on around us during the navigation. At night the crew put out mattresses, pillows and mosquito nets. Of course sleeping in the jungle is a unique experience. In the lower deck you find the crew´s quarters and the kitchen area where they will prepare us 3 meals a day. Also mineral water, tea and coffee whenever you want. (Of course personal provisions can be brought too). The bathroom and shower can be found at the back of the boat which although simple, is clean, comfortable and functioning.

The route (3 days, 2 nights)

Day 1 Hotel/Airport-Tanjung Harapan (-/C/C): Transferring directly to Kumai where we board the Kelotok boat. It will take 20 mins. In Borneo the main mode of transport is by boat so it will be ours too during our stay. The sail will be slow so as to enjoy the landscape, mangroves and fauna that this beautiful river offers us. The big nosed monkey and long tailed monkey the silver langur may make an appearance before we arrive at our first stop in the Tanjung Harapan station to see how they feed the orangutans at about 3pm. It´s also necessary to be attentive in case a crocodile shows up. Before dusk the crew prepares the boat for sleeping while we have dinner.

Day 2 Pondok Tanggui-Leakey camp (D/C/C): After breakfast at about 8am we resume the cruise by the river to be in Pondok Tanggui station by 9am and have our second encounter with the orangutans. The next destination is Camp Leakey a legendary rehabilitation camp for orangutans where Dr. Birute Galdikas started studying them in 1971. In this zone of the river the water turns darker, the colour of tea, creating a beautiful reflective effect unequal the length of the river. If we are lucky we could come across a sweet water crocodile or other wildlife attractions. We will have lunch before visiting Camp Leakey from 2pm-6pm.

At night we will take a nighttime walk to see the nocturnal animals before dinner.

Day3 Pesalat-Kumai-Hotel (D/C/-): After breakfast at 8am we will travel to the camp Pasalat. In this camp guided by the ranger who lives there, we will have the chance to plant endemic fruit trees. This programme helps the park to replant trees in the areas affected by forest fires. Lunch will be provided on the way back and if souvenirs are wanted we can visit the gift shop before returning to the hotel/accommodation/airport.

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