The Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve, (in Bahasa Indonesia: Suaka Margasatwa Sungai Lamandau, or SMS Lamandau) is a river that flows through 76,000 hectares of tropical rainforest, and is a sanctuary for many endangered species, including the Borneo Orangutan. The reserve is funded by the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) and provides preservation of lowland forest ecosystems and orangutan habitats. It is also a source of livelihood for 12 rural communities in two districts of the surrounding forests.
The Lamandau River flows through Pangkalan Bun in southern Central Kalimantan, and emerges into the Java Sea at the Kotawaringin Bay. The peat swamp forests of the reserve provide an ideal habitat for nine of Kalimantan’s thirteen species of primates, and are also some of the last surviving primary forests in Kalimantan.
A tour up the Lamandau river takes you through Kalimantan’s rainforests where you may catch a glimpse of gibbons, proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaque, sun bears, wild boars, porcupines, and sambar deer. The colourful kingfisher birds and hornbills dominate the skies, with the occasional giant Bornean Butterfly fluttering past, while the false gavial fresh water crocodile may be seen lurking in the waters beneath you.
Sadly, this ecological treasure has been critically threatened by human exploitation, which may irreversibly destroy the forests and their abundant biodiversity. Gold and zircon mining have caused pollution in the river and the displacement of many unique species. Illegal logging and large-scale deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations have also played a major part in biodiversity loss, drought and flooding.
Fortunately, the local government officials have joined forces with international NGOs to create awareness and take action against these practices, and hopefully salvage what is left of this rare and essential environment before it’s too late.
Campaigns have been initiated to prevent illegal activities, generate agreements with palm oil plantation companies, improve the education and awareness of Lamandau communities on the importance of conserving forests, introduce agricultural practices that will support forest protection, and establish income-generating mechanisms that are compatible with forest conservation.
Considerable progress has been made with local communities learning farming practices that do not require land to be cleared. Farmers are also learning to cultivate the land, make compost, and deal with disease control. This is helping to improve the sustainable management of the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve as well as improve the livelihoods of local communities in the surrounding area.
Another main focus has been to increase the reforestation of degraded lands and enhance the natural regeneration of the area, thereby improving its capacity as a conservation area. This is extremely crucial in order to ensure the current population of orangutans and other wildlife will continue to have a steady supply of natural food. Two plant nurseries have been established, nurturing over 20 species of indigenous plants.
The majority of accommodations in Pangkalan bun are fairly basic, but there are a few nicer ones as well. Situated on a hill, overlooking the city, the Blue Kecubung Hotel is the most popular hotel in the area. Rooms are furnished with the standard amenities, and are available for single or double occupancy. The hotel’s facilities include a restaurant, Karaoke Bar, Lobby with Free WIFI, fitness center and laundry service. Orangutan tour packages are also available here. Room rates range from IDR 500,000 – 725,000 per night. Address: Jl. Domba No.1 Pangkalan Bun, Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia.
The Swiss-Belinn is the first 3-star hotel in west Central Kalimantan, and is located just a few minutes from the airport and the harbour. 93 guest rooms of contemporary design welcome travellers for leisure and business alike. Rooms include smoking and non-smoking, and special rooms designated for the disabled. The hotel’s restaurant and bar serves international and local cuisine with both a buffet and a la carte menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other available facilities are a meeting room, ballroom, fitness center and spa. Address: Jl. Ahmad Yani Km. 2, Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
Hotel Mahkota is a budget hotel on the main road of Pangkalan Bun. Rooms are simple, and staff are friendly, though English is not their strong point. Room rates start at IDR 160,000 to 360,000. Address: Jl. Pangeran Antasari No. 303, Pangkalan bun.
Explore the Kalimantan swamp lands by way of the winding Lamandau River for an unforgettable jungle experience. Your vessel of choice for this unique river cruise would be the klotok: a traditional wooden riverboat that seats a maximum of four people; though you do have the option of hiring a speedboat instead. There are also larger klotok that provide facilities for overnight passengers, including cabins with clean mattresses and pillows, restaurants with fresh food cooked aboard and simple toilets.
The twists and turns of Lamandau’s black waters will take you on a tour through Kalimantan’s jungles, exotic wildlife, and traditional Dayak villages. As you sail upstream, you may catch a glimpse of more than a few furry forest friends such as gibbons, proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaque, sun bears, wild boars, porcupines, and sambar deer. The colourful kingfisher birds and hornbills dominate the skies, with the occasional giant Bornean Butterfly fluttering past, while the false gavial fresh water crocodile may be seen lurking in the waters beneath you. Further down the river, you can stop for a short trek through the forest to visit Camp Leaky in the Tanjung Puting National Park. Camp Leakey is a center for orphaned orangutans, and visitors to the park may observe their feeding times up close.
Tanjung Puting is also the release site for rehabilitated orangutans to be re-introduced to life in the wild. While on the way to your next stop, you will pass a few logging companies going about their day to day business. Small villages are also scattered along the tree-lined riverbanks, many of which are only accessible by water. The smooth bends of the river seam flawlessly with their natural surroundings, with the added thrill of occasional rapids!
The Bakonsu village is next in our tour, where visitors receive a grand and warm welcome. Local delicacies of rice wine and beetlenut are offered, as is tradition when welcoming royal guests. Take a tour of the village for a glimpse into the daily lives and traditions of the Dayak people. You can also observe the process of extracting latex from the surrounding rubber trees. Traditional Dayak souvenirs are available for purchase, such as masks, mats and other carved artifacts. Climb the hills for a magnificent view of the fields and forests, and by this time you should be good and hungry, and ready for what the evening has to offer. As night falls, the traditional festivities are in order: a local musician will lighten the mood as a wide array of simple, yet delicious dishes are served.
Bagondang, the traditional dance, will be performed in your honour, and you can feel free to participate too! For the full experience, spend the night in Bakonsu in a traditional, wooden long-house. Most tour packages include: Pick up and return to Pangkalan Bun Airport, boat transport, English speaking guide, fresh meals, mineral water, park admission fees, and accommodations for the duration of the tour. Guests are advised to bring: sunscreen, mosquito repellent, personal toiletries and camera.
Pangkalan Bun is the capital of the district of west Kotawaringin, Central Kalimantan, and the best city to access Lamandau River and the Tanjung Puting National Park. The Iskandar airport in Pangkalan Bun is a domestic only airport with direct flights available from Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya and Pontianak with Trigana Air Service and PT. Kalstar Airlines.
From Pangkalan Bun, if you have already booked with a tour package, then you’re good to go, as a pick up from the airport is usually included.
If not, you can charter a speedboat yourself, or hop on an ojek (motorbike taxi) or even a bus if you dare. The Tanjung Puting National Park is about 30 km from Pangkalan Bun.
One important tip for travellers to Pangkalan Bun is that there aren’t many money changers, so money must be changed at a bank during the weekdays, or sorted out before you arrive.
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