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EAST KALIMANTAN EAST BORNEO Gateway to The Dayaks Countr

December 2, 2008 by  
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The province of East Kalimantan serves as a gateway to other destinations on Kalimantan Island. Most destinations, such as the Dayak settlements in the hinterland along the big rivers, can be reached from here, moreover, a visit to Kalimantan does not seem complete without a visit to East Kalimantan.

The province of East Kalimantan occupies an area of 211,440 square kilometres. It is the biggest province of Indonesia since Irian Jaya has been officially divided into three. It has a population of more than two million, distributed over 1,080 villages, in 73 districts, or seven people per square kilometer.

The province consists of four regencies : Kutai, with the capital Tenggarong: Pasir ( capital Tanah Grogot ) ; Berau ( capital Tanjung Redeb),and Bulungan (capital Tanjung Selor).

The average annual rainfalls is 1,642 mm in the coastal regions, and 3,963 mm in the hinterland up to the northern parts of the province, bordering on Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysian Borneo.

About 80 percent of East Kalimantan consists of tropical rain forests, which cover on area of about 15.9 million hectares, consisting of nature and wildlife reserves and recreational forests (1.9 million hectares);protected forests(3.6 million hectares); limited production forests (4.8 million hectares ); production forests (5.5 million hectares); and research and educational forests (18,000 hectares). The acreage covered by convertible production forests is 5.1 million hectares.

The forests of East Kalimantan contain a wealth of rare flora and fauna. The black Orchid (Clogena pandurata), Nephents Amularia and Rattan vines growing up to 200 meters long, grow in these forests. So do various species of valuable tropical hardwoods.

Among the animal species typical of Kalimantan, living in the forests are chimpanzees (Pongee pygmaeus), bekantan (Nasalis Larvatus), Mahakam fresh – water dolphins or pesut (Orcela fluminalis) and many bird varieties.

The cultural and artistic traditions of the island’s indigenous Dayak population are still preserved in this region, especially in the hinterland of East Kalimantan. Sailing up the streams near the Malaysian border, one can still meet Traditional Dayak settlements than seem to have been little touched by the advent of modernity.

The Forests Of East Kalimantan contain a Wealth of rare Flora and Fauna.

Decades ago, a stone bearing inscriptions in the ancient Palawa script of India was found revealing advanced civilization in this area in as early as the Fourth century A.D. The inscriptions mention the name Mulawarman as that of a great and noble king, reigning in the area.

Apart from that ancient monument , however , very little has been left of the Hindu and Buddhist period in Kalimantan. Subsequent evidence found attests to the rise of Islam at around the 16th century, in Kalimantan.

The Dutch came to Kalimantan to trade, but although a flotilla visited Kutai in 1635, real attempts to establish a permanent relationship were not made until the middle of the 19th century. An agreement between the Dutch and the Bulungan Kingdom was closed in 1850. The cooperation did not last long , however, because the Bulungan Kingdom did not gain anything from the relationship . Some tribal chieftains even revolted against the king of Bulungan, who they considered to have become a Dutch puppet.

In 1933, a Dutch company began mining oil in Tarakan and Bunyu Island. During World War II , When the Japanese invaded what was then the Netherlands East Indies, the first target for their attaches was Tarakan, which they occupied for the main purpose of taking over its oil field.


Kwangkai is the death ceremony of the Tunjung and Benuaq, Dayaks of East Kalimantan . It usually lasts for ten days and ten nights and is designed to fulfill the dual purpose of leading the soul of the dead to the hereafter, and welcoming the new spirits which are arriving through the newborn.

The first part of the ceremony is called Setanggih, which reflects the Dayak cult of ancestor worship. The follows the Ngerangkai, in which a dance is performed by group of women.

Next come the Pekanan Saru, in which offering are made to the spirits. This involves the performance of ritual dances by the Belian Bawo (shaman). Also the Gantar Adat Dance is performed. The most important part of the ceremony involves the killing of buffaloes and other animals.

The Kwangkai ceremony is held either by individual families or collectively. It is usually held shortly after the harvest season. Before the ceremony takes place , the corpse is placed in the Lungun, a round wooden coffin, where , it is kept for many months so that the bones become dry.

In Families which cannot afford to keep the remains in the house for so long, (it must be given food every day), they are preserved for a few days only. Then the corpse is buried in the usual way, to be dug up and moved as soon as the means needed to hold a Kwangkai are available.

Ngungu Tahun

Ngungu Tahun is an annual post-harvest offering ceremony. It is held as a kind of thanksgiving ritual after a prosperous year.

The ceremony starts with the worship of the ancestors, followed by a series of rituals.
Erau Paray

Erau Paray is a ceremonial feast of the Kenyah and Punan Dayaks. It starts with the worship of the ancestors and the offering of thanks.

Bob Jenggeu is ceremony of the Medang tribe in the Muara Ancalong and Muara Wahau district, Kutai regency , which is accompanied by other rituals such as Uding, Dang Tung, Ne Legur , Ne Lei, Ne Blok and Nam Bleu. It is also accompanied by traditional sport events, as well as dances such as the Jong Nyelong, Ngeway and Ding Suk.

Erau Hudeg or Hudeg Feast is ceremony of the Bahau, in Long Iram and Long Bangun, Kutai regency This feast is held after the harvest season as an expression of gratitude. It lasts for several days and is accompanied by traditional dances and sporting contest.

Dangai is ceremony held by the Bussang and Penihing Umak Suling Dayaks in the hinterland along the Mahakam river, in the Long Pahangai and Long Apari districts, and in the hinterland of the Kutai regency. It is also held by the Kayan Dayaks in the hinterland regions of Bulungan regency. Dangai is held after the harvest season, and usually lasts for ten days and ten nights. It starts with the worship of the ancestors, with food offerings for the gods and the spirits of the ancestors. Dancing girls circle the offerings, dancing and singing in worship of the ancestors. The Tepung Mawar ceremony is held at the same time for girls entering adulthood , so that they will get good, honest and responsible husbands. Newly born babies are givens names. The highlight of the Dangai ceremony is a fight a kind of wrestling contest – between men, which takes place on rotten rice spread on banana’s leaves . While the match goes on , women dance and sing in a circle around the arena, stamping their feet all the while.

Palas Tahun is a thanksgiving ceremony of the Malayu Kutai Tribe , in Muara Bengkal , Kutai Regency. It lasts for three days and three nights, and is accompanied by traditional dances and sporting events.

Pangkon is ceremony originating from the Kutai Sultanate. It is held apart from the tribal Erau feast to honor the quest. There are various other rituals and ceremonies, designed to mark important events too numerous to mention one by one.


Samarinda is the provincial capital of East Kalimantan. Located on the Mahakam river, the town occupies a space of about 167 square kilometres and has a population of approximately half a million people.

Samarinda city started as a small village of Bugis settlers who, in 1668, arrived from Sulawesi, led by La Mohang Daeng Mangkona. Those first settlers came from Wajo to Parepare, from where they proceeded to Muara Pasir and Kutai. There, on January 21, 1668, they founded the settlement which is now the city of Samarinda. The date is commemorated annually as the official birthday of Samarinda.
Muhakam Mouth

Samarinda is surrounded by rivers. The Karangmumus flows to the east of the town, and the Karangasem river to the west. All of them empty in the Mahakam river mouth area.

Those rivers are important to the people of Samarinda. Besides serving as avenues for transportation, they also meet the people’s need for sanitation, and other facilities. Motorboats plying those rivers are popularly called water taxis, and it is mostly these noisy, agile vessels that cause the hustle and bustle on the riverside. The Mahakam, at this point, is about 430 meters wide, and the water-taxis are everywhere. The river splits the town parts, known respectively as Samarinda Kota and Samarinda Seberang . One unique feature of this provincial capital is that it is probably the only one that as a forest, 212,000 hectares in size, in the center of town, more than half of which is a production forest.

Citra Niaga Shops

There is an attractive shopping center in this town, called Arena Promosi Citra Niaga, covering an area of 2.7 hectares. Shopping at the Citra Niaga is pleasantly relaxed. The center is clean and artistically designed. There are shows and exhibitions on Saturday night on the open plaza.
Sarong From Samarinda

Sarongs from Samarinda are very well known throughout Indonesia. Samarinda sarongs are woven in cottage industries, and usually use high-quality silks.
Tanah Merah Indah Lempake

Tanah Merah Indah Lempake, 16 kilometers from the center of Samarinda, is a popular recreation park with a waterfall and playgrounds for children. There are also facilities for camping, fishing and swimming. There is also an art market where souvenirs are sold.

Balikpapan , the second-biggest town of East Kalimantan , after Samarinda.

The name Balikpapan is presumably derived from an overloaded ship, which capsized near Tukung Island.

A Dutch geological map in 1870 contained a small village of that name on Balikpapan bay. The first drilling rig was erected on Tukung Island, but as it failed to produce, it was moved to the foot of Commodore Hill.

This first producing well was given the name Mathilda, after the daughter of a Dutch oil industrialist. The well started producing on February 10,1897. That small village eventually developed into the present town on Balikpapan.

Now East Kalimantan’s leading oil town, and one of the most important in Indonesia, Balikpapan was during World War II the target of assaults by both the Javanese and the Allies.

The name Balikpapan is also mentioned in the War book at West Point, in the U.S.A.

Balikpapan is the main gateway to East Kalimantan province. It has grown in importance since the opening of the International flight routes. This town of about 500.000 is also visited by Pelni passenger ships on the route Surabaya – Ujungpandang – Balikpapan.

Outwardly, Balikpapan presents two different faces. The first is the old Dutch-built section of the town. The other is the newer part that as gown as a result of recent development efforts.
Pasir Ridge

The first contains most of the residential neighborhoods of the oil enterprises, such as Pasir Ridge or (American Village), in the hills. It is a self sustained entity, pleasant and provided with all the facilities for modern living, including good roads and parks.
Manggar Beach

Manggar Beach is nor far to the west of Balikpapan. It is very popular among the local people, who go there to bathe or simply relax.

Tanjung Jumelai is beach near Penajam village which can be reached by motorboat. The area is both beautiful and pleasant.

Tanjung Harapan, at Samboja, 40 kilometers from Balikpapan or 70 from Samarinda, is an attractive beach, six kilometres long, grown with trees and mangrove forest. Recreation facilities are available.
Mahakam River

The Mahakam river is 920 kilometers long, running over the Mueller Mountain , which forms the boundary between East and West Kalimantan, between Indonesia Kalimantan and the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The river as many tributaries, and in a number of places is 400 to 500 meters wide.

The river has its head waters in the forests of the Mueller mountain range.

Many small dayak settlements are found along the river. Lush jungle vegetation covers both banks and beautiful lakes and wild rapids are found along its middle and upper reaches. Transmigrant settlement and sawmills are found further downstream. The Mahakam can be navigated far into the hinterland.
Tanjung Lokang

Tanjung Lokang is the village farthest upstream. It is located on the Bungin river, a tributary of the Kapuas river, which flows through the neighboring province of West Kalimantan.

Sailing down the Mahakam river from its upstream reaches, we will come to the Peangei river, a tributary of the Mahakam. There is a path leading from the foot of the mountains towards the north, to a farmers settlement. This upstream area is inhabited by Ahoeng or Panihing Dayaks. Their main source of livelihood is hunting and tilling the dry fields.
Long Afari

Long Afari is a village far into the Mahakam river’s upstream reaches. It can be reached in two hours from a point on the Peangei river. The people of Long Apari belong to the Aoheng sub-tribe. Unlike those of other Dayak settlements, houses in long Apari are not built in neat rows, but are scattered across the hillside.

The village is inhabited by about 800 people, who live from farming, fishing, hunting and working in gold mines during the dry season.

Some of them make articles of rattan, Mandau machetes, and pandanus-leaf mats, which they sell in towns and villages downstream.
Tiong Ohang

Tiong Ohang is the most important village in the Long Apari district. The village’s population has the past decades considerably swollen to due to migration of people from the surrounding settlement. Building their houses on the other side of the river, those people till the dry field for a living. School and public health centers are available in this village, and life does seem to be better here for the newcomers.

Mutai is rather busy new settlement. The people till the dry land, and stay in the fields during harvest season. They are a friendly and hospitable people, and a generally fun loving.

Long Pahangai lies at the mouth of the Pahangai river, a tributary of the Mahakam. The Village is 480 kilometers away from Tenggarong, and can be reached from Long Bangun by boat. It is inhabited by bahau-busang dayaks. There are small shops selling food and refreshments.
Long Pahangai

Long Pahangai village is divided into two parts, Long Pahangai I and Long Pahangai II, each led by its own village head. The two parts are separated by road running parallel to the river. It is a division caused by religious differences between Christian, Moslems and Followers of the old animist belief.

Long Tuyok is not far away from Pahangai. Dangerous rapids are found in the river nearby.

Past the rapids, further downstream, is Batu Kelau a beautiful village with the hills in the background. It is always covered by fog in the early morning.

One has to negotiate several rapids when going to Long Bangun, sailing downstream. Long Bangun is also a base camp for loggers.
Long Iram

Long Iram is more like a small town. A boat service connects the village with Tenggarong. Small lodgings are available.
Barong Tongkok

Barong Tongkok is a nice village and good for spending the night. Several small waterfalls are found in its surroundings. There are lodgings, shops, and motorcycles to take visitors to other Dayak villages. Linongangmapan is 300 meters aside from the village road between Barong Tongkok and Tering. An ancient megalith site is found here. To reach the location, one must walk for a distance of about 40 kilometers, starting from kersik Luway.

Melak is a rather busy little town and the capital of a district. It can be reached from Long Iram in about 30 hours or from Tenggarong by motorboat. The inhabitants of Melak are dayaks of the Tunjung sub-tribe. Lodgings and a modest restaurant are available in Melak and it has an old longhouse (betang). Local handicrafts can be bought here.
Kersik Luway Nature Reserve

Kersik Luway is nature reserve between Melak and Barong Tongkok, 18 kilometers to the south. The “Black Orchid” (Coelogyne pandurata) which blossoms between April and December, grow s on shrubs in this 5,000 hectare reserve. Many hundred of other orchid species also grow in this forest. The reserve is located 170 kilometers from Samarinda and can be reached in 32 hours by boat. Other tourist spots in this regions include Jentur Gemuruh waterfall and Kersik Kerbangan, a forest known for is wild orchids. Visitors usually stay at Sekolag Darat village.

Pepas Eheng village belongs to the Barong Tongkok district, 209 kilometers from Samarinda . Plait work, rattan furniture and Tunjung Dayak statues are made here. The village can be reached from Melak in one hour by car.

Muara Oahu is a district town at the meeting point of the Kedang Pahu and Lawa river, in the Mahakam hinterland. Twenty-eight villages, with a total population a bout 11,000 are found in this area.

The cultural heritage of the Dayak people is very much evident at Tolan village. There are two traditional houses and a graveyard which are worth seeing. The people here live from panning for gold, looking for bird’s nests and tilling the dry fields.
Tanjung Isuy

Tanjung Isuy is a settlement of the Benuaq dayak. There is an original traditional longhouse in the village which welcomes visitors. Woman can be seen weaving ulap doyo, the traditional free-fiber cloth typical of the area.

Visitors can also see the guardian statues and the grave of a Benuaq king.

In this area, 149 kilometers from Samarinda via Muara Muntai, we can see floating houses on Lake Jempang .There is a grand old longhouse in Mancong, 15 kilometers from Tanjung Isuy. Also visit the lamin ( Longhouses ) of Pentat and Lembunah, on the Ohong River. Various species of birds, iguanas, and bekantan (Proboces monkeys) live in the forest along the river .

Muara Muntai

Muara Muntai is not far from Lake Jempang. It is a convenient stop for visitors traveling into the hinterland.

Kota Bangun

Kota Bangun is a small town up the Mahakam river. The town in the middle of the jungle can be reached from Samarinda or Balikpapan by either light plane or boat. Sri Bangun Lodge is an attractive bungalow.

Lake Melintang

Lake Melintang covers a surface of 10,000 hectares near melintang village, 150 kilometers away from Samarinda. The scenery here is very beautiful. A unique sight is that of buffaloes living in pens built on the water at Lebak Singkil, on the lake. The animals wade through the water, which is more than one meter deep, while looking for food.

Lake Semayang

Lake Semayang lies at the other side of Lake Melintang,and covers a surface of 13,000 hectares. Many villages are found in its surroundings.

There are several beautiful small lakes in the vicinity, such as Manggah, Barambai, Rabok, Tempatung, Kedang Mubung, Wis and Siran.

Muara Kaman

Muara Kaman is a small district town consisting of 11 villages, inhabited by about 15,000 people. Muara Kaman can be reached by water taxi from Samarinda. There is a place by the name of Bukit Berubus not far from Muara Kaman, which is presumed to hold the remains of the ancient Mulawarman kingdom.

Berubus Hill is not very high. It is overgrown with tall lalang grass and bushes. An inverted stone mortar is found in this area one of the very few remains of the Kutai Kingdom of King Mulawarman.

A few other stone relics were found here. One, known as the Lembu Ngeram, or Yupa, stone is now kept at the Mulawarman museum. There is no sign, however, to indicate the Kingdom’s exact location.

Muara Ancalong

The forest scenery around Muara Ancalong is arresting. This area is good place for hunting wild boars. Exhibitions are often held in the Lamin Datun, of the Kenyah Dayaks, in Muara Ancalong and Muara Wahau. Various kinds of crafts are made in this region. Stone statues were found in Kombeng Cave, Muara Wahau district. Remains of Buddha statues can still be seen in Tabang. They are believed to be related to the old Mulawarman Kingdom. Many giant bengris (Rasamala) trees grow in the forest of muara Kaman.


Kenohan means lake, and the Kenohan district is fittingly dotted by small lakes which are rich in fish. The villages in Kenohan district lie on riversides.

Tenggarong is 39 kilometers away from Samarinda. It is the capital of the Kutai regency, and is almost two centuries old. Up to 1960, the regency was know as the special District of Kutai. The remains of the Kutai Kertanegara Kingdom are found in this town. The old palace is now the State Museum of Mulawarman.

The center of the Kutai Kingdom is presumed to have been in the vicinity of Muara Kaman. Due to fear of foreign incursions, it was moved upstream , to Jembayan village. The King acting on divine advice given to him in a dream, later again moved the Kingdom’s seat of power, to what is now the town of Tenggarong.
Mulawarman Museum

The Mulawarman Museum contains the old royal paraphernalia as well as other relics related to the history of the area, such as the inscribed stone of Kutai, dating from the 4th century A.D., and stone statues from Kombeng Cave. There are also relics from the Kutai Kertanegara Sultanate, which embraces the Islamic faith. Among them is a huge crown of Sultan A.M. Parikesit, the last ruler of the Kingdom.

The older throne, dating from the 19th century , is also kept in this Museum. There is also the bridal bed of the royal family, dating from the turn of the last century.

The royal family’s graveyard is found at the back of the museum, containing among other things, Belontang statues, and Dayak lungun coffins.

From Tenggarong downstream, the signs of human habitation along the river’s banks become more and more pronounced, until finally, after three hours of sailing, Samarinda is reached.

Pesut Mahakam

If one is lucky, one might see a pesut Mahakam (orcela fluminalis), fresh water dolphin, during the trip. The species is also found in the Mekhong river in Indonesia and in the Amazon. In the Mahakam it usually surfaces towards sunset in the vicinity of Loangkang. Another animal indigenous to East Kalimantan is the Bekantan monkey (Nasalis larvatus), a big monkey with a long nose and reddish brown fur. Bekantan monkey can be seen in the trees alongside rivers.


Bontang is a well known natural gas producing region in the Kutai regency, on the east coast of the province. Adjacent to this industrial complex is the 200,000 hectare Kutai National Park, the natural habitat of rare tropical flora and fauna. Several species of animals exist in this national park, such as chimpanzees (Pongopygmacus), Pekantan Monkeys (Nasalisvatus), honey bear, deer, Kalimantan rhinos, crocodiles and at least 300 bird species.

The forests in the area were declared a nature reserve by the Sultan of Kutai, A.M. Parikesit in 1936, covering 306,000 hectares of land.

Bontang can be reached from Samarinda over land a distance of 136 kilometers, or by sea or river. The fastest way to get there is by plane, which is a mere 45 minutes journey.

Teluk Kaba

Teluk Kaba is small bay lying between Bontang and Sangata, reachable in 45 minutes by speedboat from the Pupuk Kaltim site in Bontang. The forest at Kaba Bay is inhabited by groups of chimpanzees.

The sea gardens in the waters of Kaba Bay are also very alluring. There are various colored corals and decorative fishes living in the bluish-green water.

Settlements of Bajau people are found around the coastal forests of Kaba Bay, in Bontang Koala, with houses that are built over the sea.

The areas around the estuary of the Sangkuriang River and the Mahakam delta are covered with dense mangrove forest.

Tanjung Redep, Tanjung Selor and Tarakan

Tanjung Redep, the capital of the Berau regency. It was an important port during World War II. In the 14th century, the old Berau kingdom was divided into two parts, separated by the Berau river. In 1960, both Kingdom Sambaliung and Gunung Tabur, were abolished by the government. Nowadays, the Sambaliung palace is a museum. Built of ulin wood in 1820 with walls of teakwood, it can be reached from Tanjung Redep by boat over the river. Parts of the Gunung Tabur Palace were damaged during World War II.

The town has a population of about 50,000, and is reachable from Samarinda or Balikpapan. There are motorboats from Tanjung Redep to Tarakan, a distance of 55 kilometers. The place can also be reached over sea from Tarakan, in nine hours.

Tanjung Selor is the capital of the Bulungan regency and a relatively busy town. Transportation to Tarakan Island is smooth and available daily.

Tanjung Palas can be reached by small canoe. And old cannon, dating from 1503, is found here. Its origin is not know. Many small lodgings are available.

The Kerayan mountains, are located in the Bulungan regency, in the Long Bawan area, Kerayan district.

Kerayan Mountain

The salt content of the river water here is sufficiently high to produce salt for the people’s household needs. The curious thing is that Karayan lies on a plateau 2,700 meters above sea level, far into the hinterland of Kalimantan. The Kerayan region is relatively fertile, and agricultural products such as rice are exported from this region to Tarakan, Tanjung Selor, and Tanjung Redep.


Tarakan, on Tarakan Island, thrives from the oil mining industry. The town is surrounded by hills. Some old oil installations, constructed by the Dutch in 1901, can still be seen. The air is rather hot, although somewhat tempered by sea breezes. Shops in the center of the town sell goods from Tawau and Sandakan, Sabah, in East Malaysia.

The Island’s coasts are lined with mangrove forest and swamps. In parts facing the open sea, however, the beaches have white sand and are very attractive. Tarakan can be reached from Samarinda or Balikpapan by air. The airport is quite busy. Connections are between other towns and cities such as Palu, Kuching and others in the southen Philippines.

Sea connection to various areas are also smooth. Ships to Manado , Donggala, Ujungpandang, Samarinda, Balikpapan, Banjarmasin and Surabaya are always available. A Trip to Sabah can be started from here via the small town of Nunukan. During World War II, Tarakan was the scene of fiery fighting between the Japanese and the Allies.

In the past, Tarakan was an uninhabited island under the authority of the Sultan of Bulungan, who had his seat in Tanjung Palas. As the Sultan liked kinsang, a kind of sea snail found among the corals around Tarakan Island, fishermen and later others as well come to the island, for sightseeing and eating parties.

The original inhabitants of Tarakan are known as the Tidung people, who nowadays number about 10,000 and live mostly along the coast. In 1982, Tarakan Island was a district of the Bulungan regency, inhabited by 70,000 people only. Nowadays, it as a population of more then 100,000. Tarakan’s proximity to Tawau makes it a busy and rapidly developing transit town. Many foreign goods are sold here.


Nunukan, a small town on the island of the same name, is sometimes referred to as Timber Town. Nunukan thrives on the timber trade. Money changers are found all over the town. Many small hotels and restaurants a available. Motor boats connect Tarakan with Nunukan every day. There are also motorboats departing Nunukan for Tawu and Sabah every morning. The distance between Nunukan and Tawau is 30 miles, and can be covered in three hours by boat.

Several island are found along the East Kalimanta coast which make attractive destination. Among them are Derawan, Samama , Sangalaki, Maratua and Panjang. All those island can be reached from Tanjung Redeb.

Derawan Island

Derawan Island has to total land surface of 40,000 hectares and is nature reserve with beautiful scenery and beaches. Several species of rare flora and fauna are preserved here, such as scaled turtles, belimbing turtles and sea cows.

This Island is occupied by Bajau people. It’s sea gardens are beautiful . Its coastal forests are inhabited by sea birds, iguanas, and swallows. There are caves inhabited by various kinds of crabs. The waters around Derawan are good for swimming, fishing, scuba diving, and other water sports.

Rabu-rabu Island is near Derawan, and is also called Snake Island. There are also Tanjung Batu, Panjang, and Kakaban Island, the latter with lakes.


Maratua is beautiful Island with a small lake on it and a bay facing the Sulawesi sea. There are four village : Teluk Harapan, Teluk Alulu, Bohebelian, and Payung-payung. This area is very suitable for canoe races, speedboat racing, water skiing, and scuba diving. Maratua Island is also called as Sandalwood Island. It is reachable from Tanjung Redep or Tarakan.

Samama Island belongs to the some group as that of Derawan Island. Samama means “mother”. It is a nature reserve for turtles.

Bunyu Island lies to the north, and in the past was believed to contain gold. The Dutch came and opened a mine there, but they never found any gold.

In Pembelian, 64 kilometers from Nunukan, on the Sebuko river, is an original settlement of Dayaks.

Sebatik Island

Sebatik Island is separated from Nunukan Island by a narrow strait. Sebatik Island is divided into two parts. The southern part belong to Indonesia, and the northern to the Malaysian State of Sabah. The inhabitants of this Island are mostly fishermen and unskilled labourers. Some engage in trading along the border between Indonesia and Malaysia. The island is inhabited by almost 15,000 people, who live in two villages, Sungai Nyamuk and Sungai Pancang. The distance between Sungai Pancang and Tawau can be covered within 15 minutes by motorboat.

Kayan River

The Kayan river with its tributaries stretches from the border area between Indonesia and Malaysia along the Muller mountain range to its estuary on the south coast of east Kalimantan. Tanjung Selor, at the estuary of the Kayan river, is the capital of the Bulungan regency. This river has a tributary called the Bahau river.

The upstream region of the Kayan river, especially the plateau (400-1,700 meters above sea level), is called Apo Kayan, inhabited by Kenyah Dayaks, who live in the villages of Long Sungai Baran, Lindung Payau, Long Uro, and Long Apung. The plateau is covered with forest and dry fields. The Dayak settlements are found in areas 400 to 800 meters above sea level.


Generally, the Kenyah live in umaks, or longhouses of sub-tribes. The Kenyah are divided into several sub-tribes or umaks. The Tukung occupy the furthest upstream village on the Kayan river, Long Sungai Barang. The Tao live in Lindung Payau and Lonh Uro, and Jalan in Long Apung village.

The umak, or longhouse, has many compartments. Each is called a lamin, used by one family. The length of a lamin is five meters. The length of longhouse is between 100 and 300 meters. In the past, there were longhouses 400 meters long. There are flights from the Long Apung airstrip to Samarinda, a 75 minutes flying distance away. Nawang Baru and the umak dado longhouse are not far from Long Nawang, about three kilometres away. The original arts and culture of the Kenyah, and rattan handicraft items, can still be found here. Besides beautiful jungle and mountain scenery, the Apo Kayan region has a refreshingly cool climate and spring.

Long Bawang and Long Berini, in the upstream regions of the Bahau river, a tributary of the Kayan river, can also by reached by plane from Tarakan, or by motorboat from tanjung Selor.

The river journey up the Kayan river from Tanjung Selor is a rather lengthy one, as it must go through the villages of Tanjung Palas, Long Penjalin, Muara Hilir, Antutan, Mara, Long Beluah, Long Pesok and Long Bia. Giram Raya is a big rapid near Long Pasok, with a length of 275 meters and a width of 55 meters, and gorge with whirlpools and granite rocks. Boats must be carried over land, to avoid the rapid.

There is a row of old graves in the shape of houses with statues serving as pillars in Long Panjungan. The roofs are decorated with wooden figure dragons. Sometimes dances are performed around the village. The people wear masks during the rice planting.
Tanah Grogot

The pasir regency, capital Tanah Grogot, is 42 kilometers to the south of Balikpapan. It can be reached over land in three hours,or by boat in 10 hours on the Kendilo River.

The former Palace of the Pasir Belengkom Kingdom can be found in Tanah Grogot. The royal graveyard, an old cannon, a gong and some palace pararhanilia are found around and inside the old building.


Penajam is a small town near Balikpapan, on the other side of the small bay. There is a land road spanning the 149 kilometers distance from Penajam to Tanah Grogot to south Kalimantan via Solan and Simpang Kurao.
Caves in East Kalimantan

Besides rivers, beaches, and culture, several regions in East Kalimantan have attractive caves, especially in the Mangkalihat and Nyapa Mountains.
Mangkaliat mountain

Several attractive caves are also found in the Mangkaliat hills, along the road between Samarinda, Bontang and Sangkulirang, via Sangata.


Pengadan village is the nearest place with a cave in its vicinity. The people of this village often enter the cave to look for swallow’s nests.

Many roads are available to visit the Mangkaliat mountains. From Pengadan, a village with a small airstrip belonging to a timber company, one can walk to the caves, some of which are inside the company’s concession area. Near Ampanas village are the Martua and Ampanas caves, located 200 meters from the roadsides. There are 40 caves between the Mangkaliat and Nyapa mountains.

Ampanas and Mertua caves are quite unusual. Their stalagmites and stalactites are curiously shaped. Some of them form pipes like soda or lemon straws, neat and vertical. Others look like shining crystals in thin sheets, or like cups.

Kepayang Cave

Kepayang Cave has seven entrances. The walls consist of limestone. There are very long alleys. The sound of dripping water causes a peculiar effect.
Gunung Kongbeng Cave

Gunung Kongbeng Cave at Muara Bengkal, 40 kilometers from the district capital, or 300 kilometers from Samarinda, is known because an inscribed stone monument from the ancient Mulawarman kingdom was found here. Stone statues were found in this cave.(ist/vb)

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