Sunday, December 3, 2017

Orangutan islands with Wow Borneo

Orangutans! Cruises on board the Rahai'i Pangun on the Rungan River, away from the better known  tourist centre at Tanjung Puting National Park, provides an ideal opportunity to observe this beautiful and endangered species. Stay on a comfortable live aboard for a chance to enjoy the natural rhythms of forest river life. It is amazingly accessible by a short flight from Jakarta and only minutes to the boat on arrival for the trip of a lifetime.

Framed by the dense riverside vegetations, this group were observed by guests. These orangutans were rescued and rehabilitated through the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) program and are on these river islands to adapt to a more independent life before being released into the wild.

As part of the agreed guidelines for observing these magnificent creatures in the last phase of their rehabilitation, we stay 15 meters distant, do nothing to disturb them, or feed them, and by remaining quiet and still. On the beautiful river, undisturbed by crowds, is the perfect place to see them in a natural setting.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Tiwah season!

21-23 October is planned for a massive communal tiwah in the upper Rungan area in the longhouse village of Tumbang Malahoi and another in an adjacent village.

These sababuka or masked, anonymous village guardians are protecting the village of Tewang Rangas during its tiwah ritual last year. The colourful masks and imaginative costumes are part of many such rituals in Borneo in a variety of forms. I have seen guardians swathed in fresh lake weed, giants in colourful batiks and others with huge fierce masks. You could join us 21-23 October to experience the unique Rungan tradition.

Many of the activities will be centred around the traditional ironwood longhouse, where totem poles and a bone house or sandung, already stand. The ancestor bones are generally placed in family sandungs at the end of the ceremony, removed by families from the main site of the events to their own sandungs, sometimes overgrown with vegetation.

Our program will cover the 3 days, and will provide simple accommodation and food in the village. We will follow the activities as they unfold giving plenty of opportunities for learning about the meaning of each part of the ritual and for photographs. This will include animal sacrifices, communal cooking, shaman led ceremonies and parades.  Our normal village visit is covered at this link and our special tiwah event will follow a similar overall time schedule. Get more information at

Monday, January 2, 2017

Images of a memorable day on the Rungan River

At the very beginning of 2017, we had an idyllic cruise downstream on the Rungan River, the heat and languid stillness of the day as it waned combined to give these memorable images.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dayak carvings in historic Bukit Rawi

The traditional sandungs or second burial houses of Dayak tribes around the Palangka Raya area, are brilliantly coloured, some with fantastic detail and finesse. The fearsome snake eater keeps troublesome spirits away. See them on our mid-week cruises. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Glassy reflections on the black water lakes

Shadowing the sweeping bends and lowland forests of the lower Katingan River, canals and rivers draining the forests and stranded river bends form a web of waterways. Stained coffee colour, the water is an almost perfect mirror, and those photographers loving the effects, and turning their photos 90 degrees, are rewarded with whimsical images of the spirits of the forest. Most of these photos were taken by Osanna Vaughn, recording our trip made in early November this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A private charter on the Spirit of Kalimantan

The Spirit of Kalimantan charter boat cruises the Rungan and Kahayan Rivers, The forested riversides and winding course of the river, create many islands, lakes and waterways. Some of these islands are pre-release refuges for rehabilitated orang-utans from the BOSF program, which guests on board can see as we cruise along. Air conditioned cabins, comfortable screened saloon lounge, open air deck with easy chairs and roof top terrace is comfortably furnished for up to 8 passengers. Food is freshly prepared on board and served in the saloon. Relax and watch the scenery slip past. We stop at villages and have some short walks and canoe rides to break up the day!

The Rungan Forests - Exploring the Natural Heritage of Ancient Borneo close to Palangka Raya

At ground level, a green and brown humid world of fallen leaves, mosses and lichens, and decaying tree trunks shelters under the towering canopy of a lowland dipterocarp forest where all living things strain for light and space. Weak sunlight mottles the trunks of the dipterocarps, the reddish bark of the galam tikus, balanced on its slender buttress roots, orchids, nepenthes or the carnivorous pitcher plants, and the local resin damar trees, to name but a few species in this richly diverse forest. 

This gem lies in a secret location, close to Palangka Raya. A primary forest long nurtured by its traditional owners, this place was protected also by its inaccessibility. Now much surrounding it has been logged and mined, and access is easier, but the forest quietly persists due to this strong traditional ownership being joined by multi stakeholder group of researchers, business, and local government. It aims to build a foundation for forest and biodiversity conservation in an area under-studied and highly-threatened which was, until recently, a conservation afterthought even though this is probably the largest relatively-intact lowland forest in Borneo having no formal conservation program.

Within an area of low hills, the original dry trails developed by villagers looking for forest resins and other natural bounty have been further developed by researchers for mapping forest types and bio-diversity. Small rivulets and soaks are damp arteries which rise and fall with the rain, quickly turning into mud baths.

I accepted an invitation - who wouldn't - to visit this remarkable forest a couple of months ago. Reaching the location by bus, boat, canoe, mining truck and finally on foot, it was a journey of about 3.5 hours from Palangka Raya. Accessing the site firstly along the course of a small river trashed by gold miners, we entered the forest. From the bleached, white sand, radiating heat, we entered the cooler world of the forest.

Our campsite, the research station, in the centre of the forest, was made of saplings with tarpaulins and rice sacks (for beds) stretched across. Basic, and all above ground to escape flooding, it included male and female dorms, a mess and meeting area. The nearby creek provided water for bathing in the temporary bathrooms.  This was built in partnership with a Palangkaraya University. Now, a community forest management unit has been established and programs of environmental education and sustainable development are being implemented. 

This is all in support of the local village’s quest to create a protected community forest. 

After a comfortable sleep, we set off on walks. These forest transects give researchers a grid to identify sites and to orientate themselves within this undisturbed forest. There are plans to open the area for some visits, during times which would not disturb ongoing research. 

If you are interested to go, ask us.