More popularly known as Borneo, Kalimantan is Indonesia’s 73% share of the world’s third largest island. Just the name Borneo conjures up all sorts of images of early European explorers wearing safari suits and pith hats whilst plying jungle rivers in dugout canoes. Yet for a place with so much mystique and a huge landmass to boot, it’s kind of surprising how few travellers have actually visited. Compared to its well promoted Malaysian counterpart, Kalimantan suffers from a lack of promotion, despite an abundance of attractions.
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Although most people associate Borneo with dense jungles, the landscape is a veritable mosaic of rainforest, peat swamp forests and giant rivers feeding vast tracts of wetlands and mangrove systems. Elsewhere, the semi-nomadic Dayaks, the indigenous peoples of Borneo have cultivated rice and other staples such as candlenut for hundreds of years.
The island’s dense interior is cloaked with the world’s oldest and incredibly bio-diverse rainforest. At an estimated 130 million years, it is nearly twice as old as the Amazon jungles. Despite intense pressure from deforestation, vast tracts of jungle remain untouched and home to an incredible array of flora and fauna. The clouded leopard, armour-plated Sumatran rhinoceros, pygmy elephant and primates such as the orangutan, slow loris, proboscis monkey, gibbon and the wide-eyed tarsier are all found here, alongside hundreds of exotic species of birds and freshwater fish.
Not surprisingly, Kalimantan offers a swag of opportunities for those seeking a little adventure. Stay in a traditional Dayak longhouse, cruise the mighty Mahakam River into the heart of Borneo or go jungle trekking and bamboo rafting in the Meratus Mountains. It is wildlife you’re after, cruise the Sekonyer River African Queen style aboard your very own klotok (local houseboat) in Tanjung Puting National Park, where orangutan encounters are guaranteed and proboscis monkeys, gibbon, wild boar and crocodiles are bonuses. For a more watery encounter, Derawan-Sangalaki Archipelago off Berau in East Kalimantan can’t be beaten for Borneo’s best diving, snorkelling with manta ray, sea turtles and coral reefs. Kakaban Island boasts a unique inland jellyfish-filled freshwater lake. If all that sounds a little tame, consider a cross Borneo expedition, surely the big daddy of all adventures.
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Entry & exit points and transport options
By air, land or sea