Kayan Mentarang, The Largest National Park in North Kalimantan
Kayan Mentarang National Park is the biggest uniformity of primary and secondary forest, which covers 1,360,500 hectare, and still remains in Kalimantan and in the Southeast Asia. It is located in Bulungan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia, with humid weather and temperatures around 16°C – 30° C. This national park, situating at 200– 2,258 meters above sea level, has approximately 3,100 mm per year of rainfall.
Because of its geographical location, this national park is blessed with various biodiversity, ranging from tropical flatland area to heavy rainforest at mountain range, which becomes cocoon for many types of vegetation and endangered animals.
A few vegetations are:
Pulai (Alstonia scholaris), jelutung (Dyera costulata), ramin (Gonystylus bancanus), agathis (Agathis borneensis), kayu ulin (Eusideroxylon zwageri), rengas (Gluta walichii), gaharu (Aquilaria malacensis), aren (Arenga pinnata),various types of orchids, forest palms, and Tropical pitcher plant or Kantong semar.
Interestingly, many of the vegetations are not yet identified, and considered new ones in Indonesia. There are 100 species of mammals (15 species of them are endemic), 8 species of primates, over 310 species of birds, and 28 species among them are Kalimantan endemic and have been registered by ICBP (International Committee for Bird Protection) as the endangered species.
A few endangered animals are as follows:
Clouded leopard / macan dahan (Neofelis nebulosa), Honey bear / beruang madu (Helarctos malaynus euryspilus), White Head Lamur / lutung dahi putih (Presbytis frontata frontata), and Buffalo / banteng (Bos javanicus lowi).
There are approximately 20,000 – 25,000 people from Dayak tribes, namely Dayak Kenyah, Punan, Lun Daye and Lun Bawang, live in the vicinity of this national park. They live side by side with the surroundings in reference to their indigenous knowledge and wisdom. That uniqueness is apparent in the way they preserve natural diversity. Many kinds of archeological inheritance like burial places and ancient stone equipments could be found in this national park. It is estimated that Kayan Mentarang National Park is one of the major archeological sites in Kalimantan.
Kayan Mentarang National Park is considered a remote area. It is possible to stay overnight in the villages as many hospitable Dayak settlements inside this national park are available. The villages can only be reached on foot. Camping in the forest may be an adventurous alternative. Still, around Long Bawan area, there is a comfortable and clean accommodation called Agung Raya Inn. It costs 50,000 IDR per night (5 USD). If you prefer to stay overnight in homestays, the rate ranges from 50,000 – 85,000 IDR per day and this includes 3 meals per day.
You can move around this national park on foot or cruising the rivers by longboat. Chartered motorized canoe costs about 180,000 IDR per hour (20 USD).
To access this national park, travelers might want to use available airlines from Samarinda – Long Ampung, and Tarakan – Long Bawan routes, for approximately one hour. Another alternative is by boat from Tarakan – Tanjung Selor – Long Pujungan routes. Cruising Mentarang River by speedboat will take around 6 hours, and smaller motorboat requires 1 day to get there.
Alternatively, to access the southern part of this park, travelers can fly from Samarinda (East Kalimantan) or Malinau to Long Ampung Airport. From Long Ampung, the trip continues heading for Data Dian (Kayan Hilir Village), taking about 5 hours journey by boat. Since fuel is oddly expensive, boat cruising is considered costly, although travelers might find half the price when going with the locals on public boat, heading to Data Dian.
Here, travelers are invited to do many activities in several spots, among few are:
Pulau Datok Beach and Lubang Tedong Hill;
It is the best spot sea cruising and swimming.
Palung and Panti Mountains;
Mount Palung (1,116 meters above sea level) and Mount Panti (1,050 meters above sea level) are perfect choices for hiking, observing flora and fauna, savoring the waterfalls, and camping.
It is a nature research center, which features research station facilities, lodges, and library. Travelers will have the opportunity to see orangutans, gibbons, and leaf monkeys.
Here, visitors could conduct an observation on proboscis monkeys.
Matan and Simpang Rivers;
These rivers are ideal spots for visitors to do an observation on archeological sites, or just having fun experience with the rapids of these rivers by longboat.
The ideal time to visit this national park is on September up to December each year.
DAS (Dirgantara Airline Services) and MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) flights require advanced booking (minimum 1 month before departing date) and both airlines reserve the authority to prioritize seats for local citizens from around the park.
It is good to bring luggage less than 10 kg when flying with DAS (DAS limits each person, including luggage, up to 80 kg). This makes it more flexible to secure a seat on board on last minute seat available. MAF puts even more restrictions on luggage weight (up to 10 kg/person) on regular flights unless chartered.
Necessities for the trip include a flashlight/ torch, warm clothing, sleeping bag, comfortable trekking shoes or rubber shoes, and glove as a protection against the freezing temperature at night.
Before start trekking, hiking or climbing, make sure that you eat beforehand, or you can bring some food and drink from your places of stay.
It is wise to hire local guides with some knowledge of Indonesian Bahasa, as no one in this area speaks English (cost 70,000 IDR per day / 7 USD).
Bring mosquito repellent and at least two pairs of knee-high socks for leaches. Preparing anti-malaria pills is a good idea, although there seems to be no malaria.