Kingdoms have been built and destroyed along the length of Kalimantan’s Mahakam River. Samarinda is the capital of the East Kalimantan province on Kalimantan Island. The city is lies on the banks of Mahakam River.
Indonesia announces location of new capital on Borneo. The new capital would be located in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province between Samarinda City and the port city of Balikpapan. The president over a month ago moving the capital to East Kalimantan but officials had not mentioned an exact location.
With its position at the end of the mighty Sungai Mahakam, Samarinda feels exotic. Sprawling on both sides of the river – though the city centre is a relatively compact area of the north bank – Samarinda’s land has been opened for coal mining, resulting in numerous health and environmental effects, and causing hotels to advertise their ‘flood-free event halls’.
Samarinda has a decent range of accommodation and services, so most travellers spend a day or two here preparing for their river adventure or jungle treks to the north.
Explore the Mahakam River
It’s an absolute necessity to explore the Mahakam River and the local tribes, who live on the banks of the river. If you’re a fan of adventure travel, you’ll be blown away by the dance performances that usually take place here when tourists arrive. The river is exceptionally beautiful at sunrise or sunset, so try to plan your trip around early morning or late afternoon/early evening. There are a couple of hotels in the area, but head to Melka if you have the time. It’s a long journey to get there (30 hours by boat!), but you’ll find a spectacular orchid reserve and breathtaking nature.
Visit the port town
Samarinda is well-known for its timber production, but it also houses an important port town. The port has become increasingly popular since the 1970s due to the timber production, and even though it’s not particularly attractive, it serves as the gateway to more remote regions of the province.
See the waterfall Tanah Merah
This beautiful waterfall is located about 14 km from Samarinda. It provides a bathhouse, shelter and pavilions to rest in, which makes it the perfect day trip destination. Remember to bring your camera and swim wear! It’s possible to reach Tanah Merah by car or public transportation.
East Kalimantan has at least 300 species of wild orchids. Wild orchids are difficult to cultivate and once their habitat is damaged, it will be almost impossible for the orchids to survive. The damage caused by the 1997 fire was therefore a big loss to the nation.
The reserve owes its popularity to its rare Black Orchid (Coelogyne pandurata), found only in this region. Growing in shrubs, the Black Orchid blossoms between April and December. In fact, that is the best period to visit the reserve when all the orchids are in full bloom and all you can see is a plethora of colourful orchids. The dark-black orchid is the emblem of Kalimantan.
The Dayak Tribe
Forest fires remain the main threat to the reserve. Kersik Luway, according to the reserve’s forest rangers, has been hit by forest fires four times. The first was in 1982, then 1994, 1997 and 2000. Signs of the fires are still evident. Charcoal tree barks can be seen standing, while tall grass and shrubs dominate the vast landscape. Despite the scars, the reserve still holds its beauty.
Kersik Luway, according to the Dayak people, is used as a worshipping place. Hundreds of years ago, Kersik Luway was a holy place of the Tunjung and Benuaq Dayak people. The magical and quiet nuances have made it sacred.
Traditional people, who inhabit Kersik Luway, do not dare to look for wood, to hunt, or carry out any exploitative activities. The native people consider the place as the home of their ancestors which sacred, and the silence may not be disgraced. This is probably the reason why the desert is called Kersik Luway, which in the native language means “the peaceful sand”. Kersik Luway is a unique and exotic region, its beautiful nature is not yet well known. To get there, you can travel along the Mahakam River by a car or taxi, or travel to Samarinda and then to Tenggarong. From Tenggarong, continue further to Malak.
The road trip is along an incredibly bumpy road. As well as getting there by road, you can also take a boat; it takes a full day and night to reach the site by river (in excess of 24 hours). While travelling along the river, you can enjoy the life of the river, with fishing and farming villages along the Mahakam River.
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