Betung Kerihun National Park is a Wildlife Sanctuary centrally located on the island of Kalimantan, and is the largest conservation area in the West Kalimantan province in the Heart of Borneo.
Its hilly topography spans an area of 8,000 square kilometers and encompasses 8 types of forest eco-systems, including lowland forest, old secondary forest, dipterocarpus, sub-montane and montane forest. A high level of plant diversity of over 1,200 species flourishes across the reserve, 75 of which are endemic to Kalimantan. 300 species of bird, 51 species of amphibian, 52 species of reptile, and 48 species of mammal, including the endangered orangutan reside within the parks boundaries. 24 species endemic to Kalimantan also inhabit these forests.
The many levels of ecosystems and rich biodiversity of the park have led to the discovery of several newly listed species including 13 species of palm trees. 7 species of primate populate the parks large territory such as the Maroon Leaf Monkey, Mueller’s Bornean grey Gibbon, White-fronted Leaf Monkey, Banded Leaf Monkey, and of course the Orangutan. Other commonly spotted creatures include the Sambar Deer, Western Tarsier, Sun Bear, Hairy-nosed Otter, and Larger Malay Mouse Deer. The most distinct bird species within the park are the Wreathed Hornbill and the Helmeted Hornbill, which is the largest species of hornbill and the symbol of West Kalimantan.
Local communities consisting of 8 ethnic groups exist in 12 settlements in and around the park, 2 of them within the park itself. Most communities support their livelihood through the practice of traditional agriculture, rice cultivation and wildlife hunting, with the exception of one community that sustains itself primarily from gold mining and collecting bird’s nests.
The park runs along the boundary between Indonesia and Malaysia, separated by the Muller Mountain Range, part of which constitutes the National Border. Opposite the border, lies Malaysia’s 2,000 square kilometer Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, and combined, the two parks have been proposed to form a World Heritage Site, The Trans-border Rainforest Heritage of Borneo.
And, together with the rainforests of Brunei Darussalam, the central forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei on Borneo jointly form the Heart of Borneo, a concerted effort to preserve this huge rainforest area as planet earth’s lungs.
Hundreds of rivers encircle the Betung Kerihun National Park. Indonesia’s longest river, the Kapuas River, measures 1,143 kilometers and begins in the Park.
The Park, originally known as Bentuang Karimun, was first designated as a nature reserve by ministerial decree in 1982. Ten years later, the reserve expanded from its initial 6,000 square kilometers to 8,000. In 1995, with the involvement of the WWF, the Reserve was converted to a National Park.
Currently, the local wildlife authorities continue to work together with global conservation organizations to improve the park’s management, protect endangered species and promote sustainable a livelihood for local people through agro-forestry and ecotourism.
For a fuller experience, homestays within the traditional houses are available to visitors who wish to spend and experience the complete Kalimantan package.
For regular accommodations, here is a list of hotels in Putussibau city.
Hotel Sanjaya is located on the main road, about 1.5 kilometers from the Kapuas River Station. It offers VIP, Executive and Economy rooms. VIP and Executive rooms include a private bathroom while economy rooms have a shared bathroom.
Hotel Sanjaya, Jalan Kom. Yos Sudarso.
Penginapan Permata Bunda is a losmen style lodging located on the main road, approximately 1 kilometer from the Kapuas River Station.
Penginapan Permata Bunda, Jalan Kom. Yos Sudarso.
Hotel Aman Sentosa is a budget hotel just a few meters from the Kapuas River Station.
Hotel Aman Sentosa, Jalan Diponegoro 14.
Another exotic way to spend the night is in one of the several camping grounds across the park.
Hike through the woods or along the river that flows around the park, and witness the vast diversity of plant and animal life that inhabit the park, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, providing a rare and memorable experience. Several hiking trails weave across the park, through the forests and up the mountains providing a variety of available surroundings for whatever your inclination may be. The park may be explored on foot, by bicycle, motorbike, or by longboat by way of river.
Explore the limestone caves towards the eastern parts of Bentung Kerihun. The Diang Kaung cave is an interesting archaeological destination with prehistoric paintings on its walls dating back 5,000 years. Tolo cave reaches a depth of over 120 meters enticing those with a passion for cave trekking.
Climb any of the mountains on the outskirts of the park’s primary forests such as Mount Betung, Mount Lawit and Mount Kerihun, one of only 19 mountains in the world that sit along the equator.
Brave the Rapids from the upper reaches of the Kapuas River, the longest river in Indonesia and the fifth longest in the world. Numerous rapids are found across the park, ranging from class III-V in difficulty. There are several options of water sports to choose from including white water rafting, canoeing, kayaking and tubing.
Enjoy the great outdoors to the full by camping amidst the tropical forests of Kalimantan.
Observe the customs and culture of the Dayak tribes, who are very much an attraction in themselves. Visit the traditional houses and learn the traditional methods of hunting, fishing and gathering of forest products, and even take part in these activities yourself.
There are four main entrances to the park: DAS Embaloh, Sibau, Mendalam and Kapuas. Each entrance offers various tours and packages.
The journey to Betung Kerihun is a long one over air, land and water. To get to there, first fly to the small international airport in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. International flights are available from Singapore on Lion Air and Kuching in Malaysia on Malaysian Airlines. Domestic flights to Pontianak come from Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Pekanbaru, Semarang, Batam and other smaller cities.
From Pontianak, one must embark on the challenging journey of 800 kilometers inland to the city of Putussibau. Various bus services cover the Pontianak-Putussibau route across Kalimantan which takes between 12-15 hours.
For a more time-saving route, flights depart from Pontianak to Putussibau twice a week on a small Cessna plane. Tickets are available at Pontianak airport and the flight takes approximately 2 ½ hours.
Once in Putussibau, continue your travels via longboat up the Kapuas, Sibau and Mendalam rivers for about 5 hours. Alternatively, you could take a speedboat which will take you about 3 hours.
The best time to visit Betung Kerihun depends largely on what you expect from your trip. Trekking tours are best during the dry season between June and August, whereby heavy rainfall is quite rare.
For the best white-water rafting experience, the period between January and March would be ideal as the water levels of the river are considerably higher during that time.
Between April and June, the Dayak hold their traditional “Adat Festivals”. The objective of the festival is to maintain the ancient local culture, which is one of the oldest in Indonesia. During the festival, various cultural arts are displayed from handicrafts to traditional dances.
The period of flowering and fruiting is between October and January, which is also the reproductive time for the primates and fish of the park, hence making this the best time for observing the beauty and abundance of Betung Kerihun’s plant and animal life.
A few other things to keep in mind are that while you do not need to follow an organized tour, visiting the park without a local companion or guide is not advised. Natural trails often cross water, and may become slippery. At times of rainfall, the rivers’ water levels may rise dramatically in a short space of time. Bring enough food and water for your visit. Bring appropriate clothes for trekking through a tropical rainforest, such as long pants, long sleeves and proper shoes.
Do not remove any plants or animals from the park, and hunting is prohibited. Last but not least, keep the park clean and help to maintain the environment and enjoy your visit to Betung Kerihun!