Adventure on the Mahakam River: Kalimantan

The archipelago of Indonesia is an adventurers delight and also for those travellers who want to get off the beaten tourist path and immerse themselves into different cultures as well as engaging in activities beyond the normal tourist norm. Each island offers something different to the traveller whether it be hiking, climbing, white-water rafting or just photography, the list goes on. The island of Kalimantan is, without a doubt, an adventure-seekers island. This doesn’t mean you have to be young and super-fit. On the contrary, I have met many middle aged and older people on the tracks and in warungs enjoying their trip. One adventure I would recommend is a journey by boat down the Mahakam River. With a length of around 980 km, it flows from the highlands down to its mouth in Makassar Strait. Here you will find the city of Samarinda and it lies along the river 48 km from the river mouth. Being an important river in the region of East Kalimantan it is where you will find big ships using the system to navigate upstream as far as the highlands. It is at this point that the rapids begin and longboats are used to navigate the waters.

As you progress along the river from its mouth, the towering masses of jungle that was once there have dissipated to flat and desecrated land. Blame it mostly on deforestation, but the further you progress upstream, the more the green Amazon-style jungles become prominent. Passenger boats ply this river as far as the rapids and then at the village of Long Bagun you can organise a longboat to take you further upstream. Always negotiate the price. The whole journey is truly one adventure and the further up the river you go, the more panoramic the scenery and wildlife. A plethora of monkeys like Macaques and Proboscis are common site as are the explosion of colour from the plumage of the numerous species of birds. Admittedly this kind of trip is not for the feint-hearted or those looking to relax in five-star comfort. It is an experience and one that you will never forget. In fact, I can guarantee that you will return to Kalimantan again…and again.

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