South Kalimantan is well known as land of thousand rivers, many big and small rivers, wide swamp and low land are the characteristic of the land. Some of those rivers like Barito, Nagara, and Martapura mark the boundary between South Kalimantan with neighbor province of Central Kalimantan. At northern and eastern of the region is dominated by tropical rainforest and mountainous landscape, western part is swampy and low land, while southern side is coastal plain rich of fresh and salt water fish. The province crossed by a mountain range called Pegunungan Meratus, settled by the minority of Bukit Dayak people. South Kalimantan is one of the most interesting regions to visit in Kalimantan. There are docks of Bugenese schooners moor, beautiful mosque, busy floating market, exotic canals, island of monkeys, old town of ancient houses and carving, beautiful beaches and coral, traditional diamond digging, jewelry and stone craft making, and the Meratus Mountain is a place to explore rainforest and the Dayak people.
Dayak people of Loksado used to get the bamboo rafting for carrying their commodities to sell in Kandangan town on the downriver. There was no road connected to the town, so this transportation was the best choice, despite trekked back home for two days. Nowadays, they are no longer using it to carry their forest revenue but only selling the bamboos in town. Getting this bamboo rafting adventure makes you experience the effort of the inland people to sustain their living by rafting and maneuvering through thrilling rapids while enjoying the beautiful scenery of tropical forest and exotic animals which are showing up occasionally along the riverside.
Driving Into the heart of the Meratus Mountain Range, some two and a half hours from Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan Province, one will be welcomed by a lush landscape decorated with wonderful waterfalls, rushing rivers, and the enchanting culture of its indigenous people. That isolated piece of South Kalimantan’s paradise is known as Loksado, a sub-district of the Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency where the well preserved indigenous Dayak culture meets the stunning natural landscape.
This particular part of Kalimantan is home to the indigenous Dayak Meratus tribes–a sub ethnic group of the Dayak in Kalimantan that occupy traditional houses called Balai. Today, there are at least 43 of these Balai that can be found in 9 villages across Loksado. Among these, the most notable are Balai Hambawang Masam, Balai Adat Malaris, Balai Kacang Parang, Balai Haratai, and more. A Balai is a traditional wooden long house with tens of rooms measuring 3 by 4 meters and are occupied by tens of families.
Although many of Dayak families have turned to more modern housing, these Balai are still used for religious rituals. Similar to most Dayaks, the Dayak Meratus follow an ancient religion called Kaharingan which simply translated means “life”. This faith includes the concept of a Supreme Deity and emphasizes the harmony between mankind, between man and nature, and the harmony between man and God.
Living closely with nature, the Dayak Meratus practice the Aruh Ganal Rituals that revolve around agriculture. There are three parts in the Aruh Ganal Rituals, they are: Aruh Basambu, after completion of rice planting (locally known asbehuma/menugal), which usually occurs in February ; Aruh Bawanang Lalaya, to celebrate the harvest (usually occurs around June); and Aruh Bawan Banih Halinto mark the close of the harvesting season (which usually occurs in September). These rituals can be observed in some of the villages, among which: the Haratai Village, Muara Ulang Village, Lahung Village, and more.
Equally fascinating as the exotic Dayak culture are the Meratus Mountains themselves that are filled with natural splendors. The lush landscape is decorated with fascinating waterfalls, among which are: the Haratai Waterfall, Riam Hanai Waterfall, Kilat Api Waterfall, Rampah Menjangan Waterfall, Pemandian Anggang Waterfall, and Tinggiran Hayam Waterfall.
There is also the Tanuhi Hot Spring where one can enjoy refreshing hot water. Its tropical forest moreover, holds other treasures where the exotic pitcher plant (Nepenthes distillatoria) and the endemic Meratus Orchid (Dendrobium hepaticum) grow.
The most exceptional feature of Loksado’s natural treasures is the Amandit River that runs through some of the most fascinating sceneries of the area. The winding river of fresh clear water decorated with rocks and creeks and unique traditional bridges that look to the lush green hills of Meratus are surely a sight rarely found elsewhere. To top it all, you should enjoy the magnificent scenery and exceptional sensation from a bamboo raft on the river.
The highway is paved all the way from Banjarmasin to Kandangan, but from Kandangan capital of Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency) the road narrows considerably. There is no public transportation from Banjarmasin or elsewhere, except from Kandangan but even this is not frequent. If your starting point is Banjarmasin, your best bet to reach Loksado is by renting car with driver. The trip itself will take approximately 4-5 hours.
With so many traditional Dayak Meratus villages, Loksado is the best place to observe the culture of the indigenous people of Borneo which they have whole heartedly preserved. The Meratus Mountains is also a perfect place for those who enjoy trekking and discover the treasures of Kalimantan’s tropical forest.
However, the most exceptional activity –one that you definitely must try- is the Bamboo Rafting. Different from cruising the river on rubber boats or kayaks, the thrill of riding the currents over creeks while standing on a bamboo raft is something truly out of the ordinary. Bamboo Rafting here actually originated from the local people’s activity in transporting and selling bamboo known as Balanting Paring. In transporting the bamboos, the indigenous people of Loksado strap together some 50 or 70 bamboo poles and ride them on the river to the city of Kandangan.