Encompassing coastal mangrove swamps, several lowland lakes, a swathe of alluvial plains rolling into gentle hills then deep jungle, the Kutai National Park has an amazing array of flora and fauna. Originally designated a game reserve back in the 1970’s before gaining national park status, it didn’t prevent large chunks of the park falling prey to logging and mining. Forest fires in the early 1980’s further degraded the park so that these days only 30% of primary forest remains.
Nonetheless, the park offers valuable sanctuary to 10 species of primates, including the orangutan, maroon leaf monkey, white-fronted leaf monkey, hose’s leaf monkey, proboscis monkey and Bornean gibbon. 90 species of mammals including the Malayan sun bear, pangolin anteater, tarsier, sambar deer, banteng, clouded leopard, black flying squirrel, marbled cat, civet, smooth-coated otter and over 300 species of birds also call the park home.
Located roughly 100km’s north of Samarinda, the park access is a 4 hour car or minibus ride away at Sangkima. The area has a number of old national park buildings that have suffered the same fate as the park conservation efforts but there is a large loop walking trail with sections of elevated boardwalk to one of the largest trees in the park.
A second access point is via the former Kakap Camp at Prevab which can be reached by a 20min boat ride up the Sangatta River from the Kabo Pier on the western side of Sangatta township. This section of the is far better preserved and offers the best chance of seeing an orangutan or other wildlife along several kilometres of walking trails fanning out from there. For a small fee, the park ranger or local guide are quite adept picking up the tell-tale signs of wildlife.
The only accommodation in the park is a single room in the park ranger’s house at Prevab. It sleeps four on thin mattresses on the floor under mosquito nets. There’s a mandi (local style bathroom) and a kitchen but you’ll need to bring your own bedding and provisions. Although the risk of the room being taken is slim, it’s best to call ahead of your planned visit (try the last known number 0813 4634 8803). You’ll need to get a taxi from Sangatta township to the Kabo Pier from where you can charter a boat to take you to the rangers station.