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BORNEO Travel Guide: The Land of Orangutans and Dayak Tribes

Welcome to the most complete Borneo travel guide on the internet! Not only will it provide you with all the information you need to prepare your expedition to one of the last unspoiled places on Earth, but you will also learn a lot about its people, its diversity, and we will tell you all about the destinations within the island so that you can choose which areas or what kind of trip you want to experience.

Borneo travel guide

Being the third largest island on the planet and the only politically managed by three countries, the Indonesian Borneo (or Kalimantan) has 73% of the territory of the island. This is divided into Borneo Central, West, North and South Borneo. The remaining portion belongs to Brunei and Malaysia.

Based on the basis that Borneo is home to the oldest rainforests in the world, with 6% of all the flora and fauna on the planet, there is no doubt that we must concentrate in order to decide wisely, which part to stay on and how to absorb as much as possible in the days you have dedicated to this destination.

Indonesian Borneo map

The best time to take a trip to Borneo

Although it is known that Indonesia has two seasons (wet and dry), Borneo’s tropical climate is generally sunny and hot all year round and with a high percentage of humidity (90%). The average year-round temperature is 32 degrees during the day and 20-25 at night, although you may have to pick up a sweater in the early hours.

Being an island mostly covered by river forests, it is very common that during the day the rain falls that is usually strong but not long lasting. If it is to be said a few months that it rains more than average, those months would be between November and March, while the driest months of the year are therefore between April and October. That is said, it is useful to keep a small foldable umbrella or raincoat for your trips in Indonesia. Also, check out our post When to travel to Indonesia for destinations and months that will help you choose the best time to come.

Where to stay during your trip to Borneo?

Accommodations on Borneo Island are varied depending on where you are. You can find everything from treetop rooms, budget hostels, basic guest houses in the most remote areas to luxury beach hotels.

The most interesting options include stays in ecological hostels and in rescue & release center of Orangutans as is the case of the Samboja Lestari that we will talk about later. It is recommended to book the accommodation before travelling.

Trips to Borneo are usually made in national parks and nature reserves, and accommodation is usually included; while it is true that it is often necessary to do night before or after the expedition to coordinate with flight schedules.

Borneo Orangutan Tour in Indonesia

Borneo language, religion and traditions

Speaking of the island as a whole, the predominant languages are Indonesian and Malay, although English and Chinese are quite widespread in some points of the island.

The Indonesian region of Kalimantan is generally Muslim, although animism and other indigenous beliefs are also practiced.

The most significant population of the island is the Dayak, an ethnicity of indigenous people mostly concentrated in the south and west of Borneo although it is true that they extend throughout the island. Most Dayaks are riverside people who live in small communities of communal houses that can accommodate up to 50 people.

Traditionally children live with their parents until they marry and boys, who usually look for girlfriends outside their hometown, stay to live in their wife’s community. Its subsistence economy is based on rice cultivation, complemented by hunting and fishing. Currently, there more than two million people of Dayak and they use various Dayak languages.

Mahakan River Cruise and OrangutanEs Reserve

Points of interest: What and where to see on your trip to Borneo

Wrapped in a rainforest that stretches for thousands of miles, here adventurous travelers and wildlife enthusiasts will find their paradise in nature.

It’s not just a jungle on earth, as the Derawan Archipelago offers some of the best diving spots in the world and Dayaks tribes make the experience even more spectacular.

So we can say that Borneo’s main claims are: Wildlife, Tribes and Underwater World.

Well, here you will find the most important destinations to decide your trip:


Tanjung Puting National Park – Home to the Orangutans

Tanjung Puting National Park is the perfect destination if you are looking to spend 2 to 4 nights in the middle of nature. Perfectly connected to 3 Javanese cities (Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya) daily and additionally to Yogyakarta (only a few days of the week), Tanjung Puting is the most comfortable option to see orangutans in freedom as you visit and experience a cruise on a houseboat (locally called klotoks) and trekkings in the jungle have no requirement.

It is ideal for coming with children. In addition to orangutans in freedom, this park with 416,000 hectares of jungle, is the home of proboscis monkeys, macaques, bearded pigs endemic to Borneo, Borneo gibbons, crocodiles and monitor lizards.

Another reason why Tanjung Puting is an excellent choice is that in a 5-hour drive away, we find one of the Dayaks settlements where we can share some nights with them.

If you have a short time to see orangutans in Indonesia, Tanjung Puting is your jungle.

In addition, Come2Indonesia actively collaborates with the conservation of this park placing itself as one of the most sustainable tour operators of the national park.

The city you must fly to to visit Tanjung Puting is Pangkalan Bun (PKN). The usual airline companies operating are Nam Air, Trigana and Wings Air, and some routes such as Pangkalan Bun – Semarang, are operated by Garuda Indonesia. Check flight schedules in our Tanjung Puting post.

Check out our itineraries in this Borneo jungle so you can see what they’re like, as well as our Tanjung Puting travel guide to know what to bring or tips for mosquitoes and malaria, or just to know how life works on the boat. For the more adventurous, it is also possible to camp some of the nights in the middle of the jungle.

If you need more information about this park to prepare your trip to Borneo, remember that you can write to [email protected] and we will be happy to help you.

Sebangau National Park and Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) – Orangutans, Cloud Leopard and Dayaks

Also in the heart of Borneo, you will find Sebangau National Park. With daily flights from cities such as Jakarta or Surabaya, Sebangau is one of the last remaining swampy peat forests in Borneo, and the perfect choice for explorers who want to take a trip to Borneo away from mass tourism.

The vast national park, which covers approximately 568,700 hectares, is home to more than 6,000 orangutans, forming one of the largest populations in the world in the wild. It is also possible to spot the nebula panther or cloud leopard but less often due to their nocturnal habits and the reduction of the number of species due to deforestation.

Refreshing freshwater and crystalline lakes can also be found in the Sebangau National Park. These lakes are also the habitat of several different fish species and other flora and fauna, and are the best place to observe the nature process at its finest.

Trips to Sebangau are usually 2 nights and the programs combine trekings in the jungle with canoe crossings. You can spend the two nights camping or in a modest homestay. The city you have to fly to visit this park is Palangkaraya (PKY). There are daily flights to/from Jakarta and Surabaya.

Currently, the airlines operating services in Palangkaraya are Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya Air and Lion Air.

Check out our sebangau trips so you can see what the routes are like.

From Palangkaraya you can also opt for a more educational program on a 6-night trip.

This experience combines two nights in a Dayak village and three aboard a houseboat along the Rungan River, from where in addition to admiring the dense jungle, you will visit the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS).

You will take a motorized canoe to observe the orangutans and then visit the BOS Education Center where the orangutans expect to be released from the socialization cages.

You’ll learn about the entire history of BOS and rehabilitation programs. BOS manages orangutan rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction programs in central and eastern Kalimantan. With more than 500 orangutans (as of December 2018) under thier care, and between 600 and 1000 employees, BOS is the world’s largest primate conservation NGO.


Banjarmasin and Loksado – Floating Market, Waterfalls and Dayak Tribes

Banjarmasin is the best place to absorb Kalimantan’s urban culture, both on land and in the water. Located in a delta near the junction of the Barito and Martapura rivers, Banjarmasin, along with its neighboring city, Banjarbaru, form the center of Indonesia’s ninth largest metropolitan city. Both Banjarmasin and Loksado are two perfect destinations to combine with other wildlife areas of the island on your trip to Borneo or to visit at any time of your trip around Indonesia.

Living closely with nature, the Dayak Meratus practice the Aruh Ganal Rituals that revolve around agriculture. As fascinating as the exotic Dayak culture are the Meratus mountains themselves, which are full of natural splendor. The lush landscape is decorated with fascinating waterfalls, including Haratai Waterfall, Riam Hanai Waterfall, Kilat api Waterfall, Rampah Menjangan Waterfall, Pemandian Anggang Waterfall and Tinggiran Hayam Waterfall.

From ancient times to the day, Banjarmasin has remained an important port city in Kalimantan. It has an abundance of wide and flowing rivers, which have always played an important role in the Banjar lifestyle (the indigenous ethnic group of Banjarmasin).

To this day, every morning there are floating markets where farmers and traders transport their products on boats to trade. The main attractions of the city are the suburbs crossed by canals where much of the city’s commerce takes place.

The floating market is perfect for seeing traffic of all kinds of boats laden with bananas, shrimp, fish, spinach, coconut, spices and incandescent chilies, buckets of hairy rambutans and any other seasonal fruit. Maneuvering their boats with dexterity and precision, as boats are constantly shaken by river waves, traders exchange goods and money. It’s a show of colors and authenticity that you won’t want to miss on your trip to Borneo.

On the other hand, we have the mountainous area of Loksado. This part of Kalimantan is the home to an ethnic group of the Dayak Meratus indigenous tribes of Kalimantan who occupy traditional houses called Balai. Today, there are at least 43 of these Balai that can be found in 9 villages throughout Loksado. A Balai is a traditional elongated wooden house with dozens of rooms of 3 by 4 meters and are occupied by dozens of families.

For both Banjarmasin and Loksado, you must fly to the city of Bajarmasin (BDJ) on daily flights from many cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Balikpapan and Sampit.

For these two destinations, one night in Bajarmasin and two in Loksado are enough, but this area of Borneo can be combined with the Tanjung Puting Orangutans (with two flights between the two points), with the Orangutans and Dayaks of East Borneo (with a direct flight), and even with the Derawan Archipelago where you will find the fantastic Maratua Island that I will explain a little later.


Mahakam River, Kutai National Park and Samboja Lestari Orangutans Sanctuary, Dayaks, Freshwater Dolphins, Malay Bears, House Boats

1. The Mahakam River

Located in East Borneo, the mighty Mahakam, Indonesia’s second longest river (after Kapuas, also in Borneo), is a microcosm of Kalimantan. As you sail upriver in search of the heart of Borneo, you’ll find many traditional ships coming down with the current selling groceries to the highest bidder. You’ll see centuries-old villages on the banks of the river, coal mines and logging camps, as well as incredibly tall trees looming next to oil palm plantations.

Away from the tours most requested by tourists, the Mahakam River will allow you to live a fascinating adventure aboard floating houses and motorized canoes during your trip to Borneo. With specialized crews you will enter the mouths of this river which is home to some settlements of the Dayak tribes and thousands of endemic species of monkeys and waterfowl.

An area of rainforest characterized by its peat black waters. A unique opportunity to see up close the behavior of wild orangutans or to see the “freshwater” dolphins that exist in few areas of the planet. This is East Kalimantan in all its conflicting, powerful, confusing and compelling beauty. And there’s no better way to see it than on a journey through the Mahakam, a journey you’ll remember all your life.

2. Kutai National Park.

Also from Balikpapan we can visit Kutai National Park, located north of the Mahakam River and includes several lakes: Danau Maau, Santan, Besar and Sirapan. It is adjacent to the cities of Bontang and Sangatta and 120 km north of the provincial capital, Samarinda. There are several traditional Bugis settlements within the national park.

This reserve is dominated by a lowland rainforest and has 958 species of flora, including 8 of the 9 genera in the Dipterocarpaceae family of the world, 41 species of orchids and 220 species of medicinal plants. The other types of vegetation include coastal mangrove forests, freshwater swamp forests and Kerangas forests.

The park provides habitat for 10 species of primates, 90 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. They include orangutan, Malay sun bear, sambar deer, banteng, brown leaf monkey, white-fronted leaf monkey, Miller langur, test monkey, Borneo gibbon, cloudy leopard, black flying squirrel, jaspered cat, flat-headed cat, yellow sable throat, seagatter and smooth-haired otter.

3. Samboja Lestari Reserve

On the other hand, we have the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary, one of the most prestigious and recognized orangutan rehabilitation and rescue centers in Indonesia, and one of the main focal points of BOS (Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation) that we discussed earlier in the Central Kalimantan. It is a fantastic option for your trip to Borneo if you want to know even more about the behavior and way of life of the orangutans.

Its main task is the rehabilitation and release of orangutans, many of whom were rescued from heinous situations. The primary objective is to reintroduce orangutans to ensure natural habitats in order to establish new viable long-term populations to reinforce the conservation of the species in nature. BOSF has already successfully released several orangutans.

One of the achievements of the projects of which it is most proud is Forest Schools, which give orangutans natural and educational play areas in which to learn forest skills before returning to their enclosures to sleep at night. A new clinic and quarantine area has also been established, as well as many new forest cages for larger orangutans and a baby room for the little ones.

For these orangutans, the sanctuary provides them with a safe haven where they can live the rest of their lives away from the threat of deforestation and human destruction.

Several islands of orangutan have also been created to house orangutans suffering from chronic hepatitis B or other disabilities that prevent them from being released into the wild. For these orangutans, the sanctuary provides them with a safe haven where they can live the rest of their lives away from the threat of deforestation and human destruction. These islands can be seen from our boats on the voyage during the trip.

The Samboja Lestari also includes an area of 58 hectares reserved for the more than 50 sun bears residing here, all rescued from the illegal pet trade or areas of great deforestation.

tour of the borneo orangutan

To make a trip to these areas of East Borneo, either separately or by combining them, we must fly the city of Balikpapan. Balikpapan is easily accessible from all major cities in Indonesia. Most airlines have flights to Balikpapan, including from Jakarta, Surabaya and Makassar. In addition to Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air, other low-cost domestic airlines to Balikpapan are Sriwijaya Air, Citilink, Indonesia Air Asia. Internationally, SilkAir flies directly to Balikpapan from Singapore.

Check out all the trips that include these areas and ask us any questions in [email protected]

4. Derawan Archipelago

Located right east of Kalimantan in the Berau district, the Derawan archipelago comprises 31 islands. The best known are the islands of Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban. Here is Indonesia’s largest nesting site of giant green turtles and rare and endangered hawksbill turtles, and where you can observe daily how they lay their eggs in the sand or swimming towards the sea.

The entire marine conservation region covers a total area of no less than 1.27 million hectares. It is the perfect tropical paradise with warm, secluded islands, soft white sand beaches, lined with rolling palm trees, pristine seas that change color from green to deep blue, and an incredible underwater life of giant turtles, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs and barracudas, stingless jellyfish and sometimes whales.

Jellyfish are located in Kakaban. This lake is home to the world’s largest and most diverse jellyfish, including four unique species of stingerless jellyfish that can swim upside down.

We can find 460 different species of corals, placing this area second after the islands of Raja Ampat in West Papua. The Nature Conservancy and a team of international experts also found more than 870 species of fish here, ranging from tiny pygmy seahorses to giant manta rays.

The city we have to reach to cross the archipelago is Berau. On the one hand, SilkAir flies from Singapore to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan or you can take a flight from Jakarta, Surabaya or Denpasar to Balikpapan or Tarakan by Garuda Indonesia. Then we have to take a connecting flight to Tanjung Redeb in Berau. From here, the boats will take you to the islands.

My recommendation is to fly to Balikpapan to visit Mahakam and Kutai or Samboja and then go to Derawan as these trips usually include internal flight and boat. Check out this 10-night combo trip for example.

In Derawan it is ideal to stay in a resort on the island of Maratua and arrange excursions to other islands from the hotel. If it is a diving trip, we recommend you to book a package in advance at a Dive Resort with 2-3 dives per day. You can also opt for a life on board in this area of Borneo.


Betung Kerihun National Park

Finally we will highlight the jungles of western Borneo, on the border with Malaysia in the mountain range shared by these two neighboring countries. Here you will find Betung Kerihun National Park.

Located in the heart of Borneo Island, Betung Kerihun National Park is not easily accessible. It is located in the city of Putussibau and is easier to access from this city from Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan. Putussibau is the last stop for airlines and long-distance buses, as well as the last chance for an ATM, before jumping into the wild. Embarked on canoes, you will enter the National Park.

Ideally, you can visit this park with a camping stay although you also have the possibility to stay with a Dayak family in their communal houses. That’s why we recommend before and after the jungle, staying in a comfortable room to avoid exhaustion.

The topography of Betung Kerihun National Park is dominated by hills and mountains with around 179 peaks scattered throughout the site. The highest peak is Mount Kerihun at 1,790 meters above sea level. The contours are mostly steep slopes.

This park is home to more than 1200 species of plants (75 are endemic to Borneo) and 48 species of mammals, including orangutan. The Kapuas River, which at 1,143 km is the longest river in Indonesia, begins in this park dubbed as the heart of Borneo and which contains some of the most intact forests in the world, so we can say that hiking is not so easy. Trekking takes place in the wildest nature of Borneo.

The air is humid as a result of the tropical climate within its forests. If we’re lucky, we can see wild orangutans, Borneo gibbon, rhinos, calm, giant squirrel and a variety of birds. Our recommendation is to hire with the same operatorthe entire stay with flights to/from Pontianak included as well as accommodation before and after the expedition.

Dayak Tribes: Traditions, festivals, mentality and lifestyle

The Dayaks, as they have been doing for thousands of years, live in virtually primordial conditions. Aboriginal people themselves do not like this word, as in Malay it means “wild”. However, until very recently, the Dayak tribes were bloodthirsty and that name was justified. The influence of Western culture and, above all, the influence of missionaries caused them to lose their spirits. Now no one demands a young man’s head from his enemy to show his maturity, but the old still remember those times.

Finally, the Dayak people were influenced by civilization. Many of them studied, can handle technology, and even some have come to government. But most still choose life in the “long houses” Basically, it is a large house, where each family has a small room with entrance to the shared terrace. Such a construction may look like a barracks and there is a reason for this kind of life: at the alarm signal, warriors in full battle attire line up in front of the house.

Now the warriors were left in the past, but the locals still they’re going to hunt in armor, a spear and a kris. Today we can learn about the lives and manners of Dayak people. Locals welcome travelers and tell them about their daily lives. During an organized trip, you will not only see the daily routines of Aboriginal people, but also you can spend a few nights in his long house and participate in his evening ceremonies.

The people of Dayak have some interesting rituals, which a lucky traveler can witness. Ngamean, for example. This ceremony takes place before embarking on a journey. They make fire with the help of a silex and steel, and see if they’re lucky on the road the way the flame burns. Family discussions are resolved with a special Ngelaem Ponam Penega dance. However, it is difficult to know whether it belongs to modern times or if it originated a long timeago.

The ancient religion of the Dayak people says that a Tatau Lale ceremony will be held during a funeral. It is believed that without the help of the living, the soul of the dead is doomed to a bleak life after death. That’s why locals carve a figure from Mahogany Sapundu, which represents the deceased. Before Sapundu, they sacrifice animals and then perform ceremonies.

If you are interested in the culture of traditional peoples, I recommend trying to find the floating settlements of the “sea gypsies”. This large group of nomads are always happy to meet travelers.

If you miss the trip to Borneo on August 17, this day celebrates Hari Proklamasi, Indonesia’s Independence Day. The festivities, fireworks and races along the river in the city of Banjarmasin will make you spend a beautiful day of celebration with the locals.

As you walk through the streets of this city during the Ramadan era, you can visit Pasar Vadai, a pastry fair.

On the other hand, there is the Erau festival, where different local tribes wear their traditional clothes and perform their ritual dances, and the Naik Dango festival, when the Dayak people thank Earth for a great harvest, takes place in late spring and early summer.

Gastronomy: What to eat during your trip to Borneo

Borneo cuisine has traces of Chinese, local, Indonesian and Indian culinary traditions. Nasi or rice is usually served here as one of the main dishes. Local people use it as a side dish for meat and as a separate dish, boiling it in ingots, making fries or frying it with eggs.

They also steam the rice on banana leaves. Most of the population is Muslim, so pork is not common in Kalimantan. Seafood is quite popular here, as are grilled octopus, rapan kebab or shrimp with gravy.

It’s important to remember that they like spicy food. Local chefs like different sauces, they add them generously to any dish, and if a sauce is spicy, the better. Lobsters, shark fins and swallow nests can also be found in ingots. However, these “delicacies” are mostly imported from China.

On the other hand, there is a tradition of drinking ice water with some lime or an iced tea with lots of herbs along with spicy food.

Alcohol is illegal in Borneo and locals can be arrested for drinking beer, wine, vodka, etc. in public places. In general, alcohol is not very popular. However, palm arak vodka and local wine brem, made with rice, are pretty good. If you want to warm things up and try the local tequila, don’t forget to buy “Es Jeruk”, a non-alcoholic drink made of oranges, which local people drink with alcohol. Those who prefer beer will also find Kalimantan tuak beer, made with palm blossom juice. And an interesting non-alcoholic drink, preferred by locals, is coconut milk with rice, sugar and ginger. If it’s too hot outside, you can add crushed ice to it.

Hotels usually serve breakfast only, or breakfast and dinner, so you should take care of lunch if you are not on an expedition where all meals are usually included. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the fish markets. They are small restaurants with many aquariums where you can choose which one you want to eat, take it to the kitchen, grill it and you can enjoy a great delicacy, without questioning its freshness. We should warn you that if you have chosen a small coffee in a remote area, it is better to make sure that it meets the minimum hygiene standards. Indonesians are used to it, but the stomachs of unsuspecting tourists may not be prepared for this.

If you decide to take a cruise on the Palangkaraya River, which is close to Sebangau National Park, visit Kampung lauk as well. This place will surprise you with affordable prices and a variety of seafood dishes.

While in Sampit, you can visit RM Abang Adul: they serve an excellent “nasi goreng”, fried rice with beef stew on top.

If you prefer a homemade pizza or dessert in Palangkaraya, you can go to the Gallery and the Rest Kupi Tambi. They don’t have the lowest prices, but the level of service and good food are worth it.

If you want to try Dayak’s cuisine, visit Rumah Tjilik Riwut. It was established by one of Kalimantan’s first governors.

In Samarinda is Lipan Hill Restaurant and Cafe. Here you can have a long dinner, watching the city fall asleep. Overall, there are many excellent cafes and restaurants in Kalimantan.

We leave you some dishes that you can order in most restaurants on the island during your trip to Borneo:

1. Soto Banjar: Soto Banjar is a typical Soto (soup) from southern Kalimantan, with the main ingredient of chicken and aromatic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Soto contain chicken meat that has been cut, with additional cakes or boiled potatoes and boiled eggs.

2. Patin Bakar (grilled river fish): Very famous in Palangkaraya, ikan bakar is a dish from Indonesia and Malaysia, prepared with grilled fish or other forms of seafood. Ikan bakar literally means “grilled fish” in Indonesian and Malay. The ikan bakar differs from other grilled fish dishes in that it often contains aromas such as bumbu, kecap manis, sambal and is covered with a banana leaf and cooked over charcoal fire.

3. Yellow rice mountain: Yellow rice is commonly a symbol of Indonesian celebrations. It is often served during festivals or other occasions in Indonesia: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, newborns, opening of houses. Yellow is a symbol of good fortune, wealth and dignity. Yellow rice is usually stuffed in a cone-shaped pan, accompanied by various side dishes such as vegetables, fried chicken, tofu, tempeh, shredded omelette and beef.

Visit our Indonesian cooking section and you will find many recipes that you can make at home.

Travel to Borneo with children

Kalimantan is undoubtedly positioned as one of the children’s favorite destinations on their trips in Indonesia. Having the opportunity to spot animals so unusual in freedom is the fate of a few. In addition, these are educational trips where they will learn a lot about the nature of the jungles and the behavior of the species they encounter.

While it is true that during your trip to Borneo, they will live one of the most exciting and enriching experiences of their lives, do not forget that life in the jungle is not as comfortable as at home, so they can feel uncomfortable by mosquitoes or moisture.

My recommendation is to bring them to the jungle on a houseboat trip where they can rest from jungle walks or take a shower at any time of the day. The perfect destination for small adventurers is Tanjung Puting National Park. See what the experience with kids is like in this video.

Children will enjoy Banjarmasin too, stroll through its canals and interact with local children who are always swimming and playing in the rivers.

You can also visit Pontianak. Not only will they be at the equator, but they will feel almost like a sultan as they walk through the corridors of Kadriah Palace. If your child is interested in history and art, you can go to the city museum. Many pieces of porcelain and ceramics will tell you a lot about the life and customs of the local people.

As in any other tourist area, on any more or less popular Borneo beach, you’ll find water slides, bananas and trampolies. If your child is already 10 years old, he or she can learn to dive. There are some good training centers in Kalimantan that award international certificates and have many places to dive for beginners.

And without a doubt, one experience you will love will be snorkeling with stingless jellyfish in Derawan, east of Borneo.

Shopping and Souvenirs during a trip around Borneo

If there’s anything really authentic about Kalimantan, it’s the gemstones. To this day, diamonds, agates, rubies, sapphires and other jewelry are extracted using open pit methods. Anyone can find these pieces so there are many locals selling rare gemstones.

The market and high competition make prices two or three times lower than those of European jewellery stores. It is obvious that shops near the mines will have the lowest prices.

You want to take a diamond home? No problem, just remember a few things to keep in mind when talking to a seller. First of all, he always haggles. For Indonesians, as for other Asian countries, negotiation is a kind of art. People enjoy the process itself and no one will tell you the real price from the beginning. Please note that it will be a mistake to immediately name the price you are eager to pay. The price you will accept must be somewhere between the offer and the seller’s proposal. Don’t insist if the seller doesn’t lower the price. Try to get away. If a salesman is interested, he’ll come after you.

The second thing to keep in mind is that if you can’t distinguish between a real diamond and a fake diamond, don’t buy anything expensive. Indonesians don’t want to hurt, but business is business, and an in-experience buyer can easily come up with poor quality stuff. So, if you want to invest in diamonds, consult a well-known jeweler or take someone who understands the jewelry business. And finally, stay calm. Sellers are willing to do whatever it takes to attract customers. Be prepared to watch them eat glass from a broken bottle or something even more extreme.

You can also buy jewelry already built very well in price. However, not everyone will like the design, as locals prefer massive things to elegant ones.

On the other hand, you can also find different amulets, images of demons and spirits or figures of painted cats. We recommend shopping first thing in the morning, especially when it comes to food or fresh produce because locals start the merchandise from 5-6 a.m.

In all the more or less large cities you will find shopping centers. For example, E-Walk Balikpapan Superblock, Transmart Carrefour and Pentacity Shopping Venue in Balikpapan, or BIG Mall and Mesra Indah Mall in Samarinda. It is better to buy local delicacies and souvenirs in small shops, where it is easier to come to an understanding with a seller.

Unusual spirits, jewelry and pieces, made by local artisans: that’s what you should take from Kalimantan.

How to get around during your trip around Borneo

Due to its vast expanse, it is ideal to fly between major cities during your trip to Borneo. Kalimantan has 29 airports in total although many of the cities are not well connected so sometimes it is necessary to make transits, even on the island of Java.

To access the jungle areas, we usually drive with the same companies with which we have contracted our trip. There are some destinations that require many hours to access the jungles and others that are only 15 minutes away as is the case with Tanjung Puting.

You can ask us about the airlines and flight schedules in the [email protected]

Type of currency needed for a trip to Borneo

The official currency throughout the country is Rupiah Indonesia and the only one accepted. US dollars, along with other major currencies such as the euro, can be easily exchanged at the bank or exchange houses in major cities. Bring large 50/100EUR tickets for better exchange rates, and make sure all your tickets are new or in good condition. Banks tend to reject broken or old bills everywhere and exchange houses provide a less favorable exchange rate on smaller bills. You’ll need to exchange money only at licensed exchange houses.

The Rupiah can be found in 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, and 1,000 banknotes and 1,000, 500, 200 and 100 coins.

In the case of taking a trip to Borneo, depending on which areas you are going to visit, we recommend crossing to the island already with Indonesian rupiah on top as, unless you fly to one of the most developed cities on the island, it will be very difficult to find an official exchange house.

Visit our Indonesian Guide to learn more about the country if you are preparing your trip to Indonesia.

Responsible Tourism and Environmental and Social Impact

It’s a fact we’re losing the jungles of Borneo. A tragedy for nature and society is integrated invisibly into a range of consumer products. Palm oil derivatives are introduced into many products in stores, such as frozen pizzas, chocolate spreading creams and hazelnuts, biscuits and margarine. They are also used in the manufacture of numerous lotions and creams, soaps, makeup, candles and detergent. Raw palm oil is also processed in a mixture of biodiesel used in vehicles and industrial machinery.

Consumers can use palm oil every day without realizing it. Palm oil is the edible vegetable oil of the oil palm fruit.

And much of the world’s supply comes from Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer.
Indonesia’s tropical forests, which are constantly being deforested and burned by palm oil producers, are some of the most important in the world. Indonesia’s tropical forests are treasures of biodiversity and are home to 10% of the world’s reptile, bird, mammal and fish species.

When forests are cut down to create palm oil plantations, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Palm oil plantations, in other words, make paradise a wasteland.

Beyond the obvious deforestation resulting from the logging of lowland rainforests for plantations, there are other environmental impacts of oil palm cultivation. Several studies have found a significant reduction (in the order of 80 percent for plants and 80 to 90 percent for mammals, birds and reptiles) in biodiversity following the conversion of forests to oil palm plantations.

In addition, many animals will not move through plantations, while others, such as orangutans, will become crop pests, which will put them at risk of defensive poaching by plantation managers.

While there is no doubt that oil palm plantations provide much-needed employment opportunities in Borneo, there are doubts about the fairness of the existing system that sometimes seems to lock small plantation owners in slavery-like conditions.

Palm oil seems to be the best alternative for hardly living communities with rubber cultivation, subsistence rice cultivation and fruit orchards.

A study containing interviews with more than 100 people, including several dozen members of indigenous communities and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), documents how the establishment and expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia has adversely affected the rights of indigenous peoples to their forests, livelihoods, food, water and culture.

Read more about the problem of palm oil in the Borneo and Sumatra Islands.

10 Curiosities about Borneo

1. Borneo has the oldest rainforests on the planet. At approximately 130 million years old, the Borneo rainforest is twice as old as the Amazon rainforest of South America.

2. It is estimated that there are 170 ethical languages on the island.

3. In Borneo you can find the Rafflesia Arnoldii, the largest flower in the world and smelling of rotten corpses. That’s why it’s been dubbed the “Corpse Flower.” Although it produces this smell to attract insects, it’s not carnivorous. Insects help pollinate plants so they can reproduce.

Kerinci Seblat National Park

4. Borneo is the third largest island on the planet just behind Greenland and New Guinea.

5. It has 15,000 different plant species.

6. Orangutans are endemic to Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. These are the only two places where you can see them in their natural environment.

7. More than 100 of the animals are endemic to Borneo. Endemic means that you can only find the animal in that particular place, so for Borneo having more than 100 of these animals is extraordinary. They include testous monkeys, Borneo cloudy leopards and Borneo rhinos. Biologists researching in the country are finding more species daily, so it’s a very exciting time to see the island’s wildlife.

Remember that you can also write to [email protected] if you need help planning your Indonesia trip.

Enjoy your trip to Borneo!


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Article author

He was born in the Canary Islands (Spain), and decided to settle in Bali in 2016 after having been traveling in various destinations around the world.

Guio is responsible for our marketing and sales department, especially the Spanish-speaking market. Having been an avid traveller for much of her life, Guiomar has all the ingredients to be able to organize your perfect trip due to her great knowledge of the country and her insatiable curiosity to create the best routes in Indonesia.

Guiomar is a lover of live music and is closely related to the entire Balinese music scene. He always knows where to find the best concerts on the island!

Marketing Advisor


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