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  4. Holidays on the Island of Kalimantan - the Indonesian Part of Borneo

Kalimantan is a vast land of adventures and mysteries in Indonesia. Mysterious jungles, winding rivers and mountains offer endless possibilities for rainforest exploration. This is a region not yet filled with tourists: you can travel here for weeks without meeting a single foreigner.

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Kalimantan is part of Indonesia and is located on the island of Borneo. 73% of Borneo's territory is occupied by Indonesia, and the rest by Malaysia and Brunei. Kalimantan means "Island of Scorching Weather" and is derived from the Sanskrit word "Kalamantana" as it is located on the equator. It can get quite hot on the island.

The island is the third largest in the world. You'll find lush jungles as well as winding rivers and green countryside. Hiking through pristine tropical forests is a favorite pastime for tourists. You may meet unusual inhabitants, such as proboscis monkeys. If you want to immerse yourself in natural beauty and look into a part of Indonesia that has not yet been visited by tourists, then Kalimantan is a great choice! And one of the most beautiful islands in this part of the world.

Kalimantan's natural resources have attracted resource hunters to the area. Once-abundant wildlife and traditional indigenous cultures are under threat. This is still the best place in the world to see orangutans, gibbons, and proboscis monkeys.


Climate of Kalimantan

Kalimantan has a tropical climate with average temperatures ranging from +23 to 31°C. The island receives a large amount of precipitation, about 300 mm per year. The light rainy season comes from March to May, with more intense rainfall from November to January. However, rainfall levels are significantly lower than many other parts of Indonesia.

The south of the island is usually dry. The best time of year to visit Kalimantan is the dry season, which lasts from June to September, as this is when the orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park are most active.

April to October is the best time to dive the Derawan Archipelago off the east coast of Kalimantan, when you can expect clear visibility.


Flora and Fauna

Borneo's rainforests are 130 million years old, making them some of the oldest rainforests in the world. They are 70 million years older than the Amazon rainforest. Borneo is rich in biodiversity compared to many other areas. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of mammals and 420 species of birds! Under massive deforestation, Borneo's remaining rainforests are some of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean orangutan.


How to Get to Kalimantan

Sepinggan International Airport (BPN) near Balikpapan is the main airport on the Indonesian side and receives flights from Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia) and Singapore (Silk Air), as well as many Indonesian cities.

Syamsudin Nur Airport (BDJ) is a regional airport located in South Kalimantan, well connected to major cities in Indonesia (Jakarta (Sukarno-Hatta), Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Denpasar/Bali, Makassar, Balikpapan, Pontianak).


Best Places to Visit in Kalimantan

Bunyu Island

Bunyu Island is a small island consisting of three villages, home to the indigenous Tidung tribe. There you will find a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful beaches to relax in, the main ones being Nibung Beach and Sungai Kura Beach. You can also hire a boat and go island hopping.

Be sure to try herring, a delicious fruit typical of the island.

To get to the island, you can take a speedboat from Tarakan. The journey takes about an hour.

Derawan Island and Archipelago

Visiting the island is one of the best things to do in Kalimantan.

Of the 31 islands, only 4 are equipped to receive tourists. Derawan Island is the most accessible and also the most crowded. It is mainly visited by local tourists who come for the weekend.

Maratua Island is more of a peaceful paradise, while Sangalaki and Kakaban are wilder, with dense forests. The Derawan Archipelago is one of the best places in Indonesia for diving and snorkeling. The reefs are incredibly well preserved and the marine life is truly diverse. Some of the most common marine life you can see are barracudas, sharks, manta rays and turtles. The archipelago is also famous for its rare jellyfish lake.

Getting to Derawan Island is easy: there are regular boats from Tanjung Redeb to Berau. To other islands you will need to rent a boat and the price can be quite high. Same thing when you are in Derawan: the price of island hopping is quite high.

Some hotels offer packages at lower prices, but you will still need to have a sufficient budget if you want to fully experience the archipelago.


White Mountain, Tanjung Selor

White Mountain is a popular tourist attraction among locals. You can climb to the top for stunning panoramic views and explore the cave at the base of the mountain.

River in Kalimantan and waterfall

Take a trip to the Sesayap River and a pair of nearby waterfalls.

Semolon Falls is a popular attraction among locals. Along the way, you can stop by Desa Wisata Setulang, a traditional Dayak village. If you are lucky, you may witness a traditional dance show. Gunung Rian Waterfall is also a must-visit with stunning scenery along the way.

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Kayan Mentarang National Park

Kayan Mentarang National Park is Indonesia's largest and most remote national park and is home to many endangered and endemic species. Getting there is an adventure in itself: 6 hours by boat on good days along the Mentarang River from Tarakan.

The park is great for hiking and wildlife watching. You may be directed to a couple of guesthouses for an overnight stay. For the trip you will need a guide.

Mahakam River

Climbing up the Mahakam River in East Kalimantan is a truly unique experience: the further you move from the coast, the deeper you plunge into the wild rainforest of Kalimantan. Traveling along the Mahakam River into the heart of Borneo is the best way to experience the lush jungle and Dayak culture. This is also where you will see the last remaining pink Irrawaddy dolphins, which are now almost extinct.

If you're in the area in August, you can purchase tickets for the Erau International Folk and Art Festival. Tribes from all over the world perform during this festival.


Lake Labuan Chermin

Unknown to most foreign travelers, Labuan Chermin is a beautiful lagoon with a mirror effect. The place is surreal and unique. You can swim and snorkel in the lake.

It is difficult to get there; some operators offer a tour from Derawan Island.

Kutai National Park

Home to Malaysian sun bears, slow lorises, deer, many small monkeys and orangutans. Kutai National Park spreads over 198,000 hectares of forest, lakes and mangroves.

The two main entry points are Sangkima and Prevab. It's best to arrange your trip through a local travel agency; once you get there, you'll be in the middle of nowhere.

Beras Basah Island

Just a short boat ride from Bontang is the small island of Beras Basah. A great place to visit if the weather is clear and you have a couple of hours. A beach with white sand, crystal clear water and luxurious palm trees.


Pendopo mangroves, Balikpapan

Balikpapan is one of the largest cities in East Kalimantan and is a good starting point, with easy access to most places in Indonesia. There you will find several museums, shopping centers, mosques and natural attractions.

Kemala, Manggar, Lamaru and Melawai beaches are popular spots to grab a bite to eat, drink and just relax on the beach.

Outside the city, you can visit the sun bear sanctuary and the Samboja Lestari orangutan sanctuary.


Bamboo rafting

Loxado, located in the mountains of southern Borneo, is the best and most accessible trekking destination. It is also a good place to observe culture and traditions. It’s also worth going bamboo rafting on the river. During the trek, expect to see numerous waterfalls and several remote Dayak villages.


Floating market in Banjarmasin

Banjarmasin is home to several floating markets. A unique experience, especially since floating markets are becoming increasingly rare. You will need to leave early in the morning and arrange a boat in advance. From Banjarmasin you can also visit Kaget Island, a protected area home to proboscis whales.

From Banjarmasin you can take a day trip to visit Kandy Laras Margasari. It is one of the few Hindu temples remaining on the island of Kalimantan, dating back to the 12th century.


Pulau Sambergelap

Pulau Sambergelap is known for its pristine beach and beautiful coral reef. The island is a popular day trip destination among locals. There you can go snorkeling and just relax on the beach or organize a diving trip. To get there, take a speedboat from Kotabaru.

Sebangau National Park, Central Kalimantan

Sebangau National Park, one of Borneo's last remaining peat swamps, is home to 6,000 wild orangutans. The park offers many hiking opportunities. Most trails lead to stunning viewpoints. There are two ways to get to the park: from Palangkarai to Kareng Bangkirai or through the Katingan River.


Palangkaraya is an ideal place to take a cruise to Central Kalimantan on a traditional rangkan river boat and see the local fauna and flora.

The town is also home to the Orangutan Survival Foundation Education Center and several excellent walking trails leading to stunning viewpoints.

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Sampit is famous for Pandaran Beach, considered one of the best beaches in Kalimantan, and the Orchid Park in Pembuangan Hulu.

You can also rent a boat to explore the river. Locals love to watch the sunset, or head to Danau Salyu, a blue lake surrounded by white sand.

Tanjung Puting National Park

Tanjung Puting NP is one of the most famous attractions in Central Kalimantan where you are guaranteed to see orangutans. Here the kids are rehabilitated and then released into the jungle. There is feeding time when the orangutans usually come. The park can only be reached by boat. Fantastic views! This is also a good place for trekking, but you must hire a guide. It is recommended to spend at least two nights in the park if you have time. A cheaper way is to travel in a small group and use an agency. If you're planning to travel to Sumatra or the Malaysian part of Borneo, you'll find much cheaper options to see orangutans. Expect to pay at least $300 for a 3-day, 2-night trip.



Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province, has many interesting attractions. Don't miss the 18th-century Kadriya Sultanate Palace and the West Kalimantan Museum.

Pasir Panjang Beach

Pasir Panjang Beach is one of the most beautiful in West Kalimantan. It is ideal for relaxing and relaxing for a few days. Nearby you will find a couple of bungalows and small hotels.

Betung Kerihun National Park

It is located close to the Malaysian border and is part of the transboundary Borneo rainforest heritage. The park is especially interesting if you want to experience the local Dayak culture and bird watching.

To get there, head to Matalo, where you'll find one of the park's offices. They will help you arrange transport. Please note that most of the park is accessible only by boat. It's best if you go as part of a group to share the costs.

Danau Sentarum National Park

Danau Sentarum National Park is one of the best places in Kalimantan to experience wildlife. The park mainly consists of marshes, lowland forests and seasonal grasslands. It is home to 237 species of birds and 143 species of mammals.

Trekking in Cross Borneo

This is an unforgettable jungle trek experience that requires time, money and effort. It takes 15 days! It's a challenge and you have to be physically ready. You will also need a decent budget as you need to hire a guide. Traveling up the Mahakam River, you'll begin your hike at Tiong Ohang, pass through the Muller Mountains, and board a boat on the Kapuas River. The Kapuas Hulu area is great for immersing yourself in Dayak culture and visiting some of the few remaining longhouses in Kalimantan. The 15-day trek costs about $4,000 per person.


Journey to the Equator

If you want to visit the equator, head to the city of Pontianak, which is located directly above the equatorial line!

Kalimantan: travel tips

  • Kalimantan is not a popular tourist destination. Therefore, local residents are not used to foreigners. Try to dress appropriately (shoulders and knees covered for both men and women). It is recommended to remain clothed on the beach. Most locals have probably never seen a holidaymaker in a swimsuit, and you will look out of place.
  • The distances are huge and the attractions are far from each other. If you don't have three months to spend in Kalimantan, you'll only have to pick a couple of places to visit. If you don't have a few weeks to spare, it may be worth focusing on just one area.
  • Be prepared to make changes to your itinerary during your trip. For example, it's hard to find information about boat schedules online, so you'll just have to check them on the spot. Or the boat you need may not be available for a week.
  • Don't rely on Google Maps, many roads are not there and the coordinates of many places are incorrect. Check with your hotel for directions.
  • If you don't speak Indonesian, download Indonesian to Google Translate so you can always communicate with locals even if you don't have Wi-Fi.
  • You can easily buy a local SIM card, but note that it will only work in Kalimantan.
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Such an adventure will require courage. It's like plunging into the unknown, a completely different world, so far from the usual civilization. Kalimantan is an entire expedition that allows you to see the pristine beauty of the world.


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