KOMPAS, Nusantara, 15 February 2009 - Exploring Kalimantan
Orangutans beside the Rungan River, a memory….
Some orangutans were sitting in the trees beside the Rungan River, their eyes gazing at us curiously. Sitting there on the wooden vessel, we captured the ancient face of Kalimantan ...
The rivers used to be important transportation routes in Kalimantan's past, but now roads are being built and land transport is used. 9 days on the Trans-Kalimantan Road starting from Nunukan in East Kalimantan, and ending in Palangkaraya, we did not meet the great jungle of flora and fauna, the old face of Kalimantan, but saw only oil palm plantations.
When we arrived in Palangkaraya we decided to stop for a while to rest and enjoy the smell of the forest and witness the local people’s activities on the river. With a vessel called the Rahai’i Pangun Jungle River boat, which is 20x6 meter, we cruised on the river to Pulau Kaja where the BOSF release orangutans after the first stage of rehabilitation. They are moved to Pulau Kaja to begin their journey to becoming independent in the wild.
Besides the sight of these orangutans, tourists are treated to river banks covered in the green jungle of Central Kalimantan and to seeing the life of local people. In the Dayak Village named Sei Gohong, for instance, many boats arrive carrying rubber to be delivered to trucks and sold in Banjarmasin. In the Rungan River, water transportation is still used by many people. At sun down, we watched people fishing on the river banks, so we waved to them as a greeting.
KTD tour operator offers a 5 Day 4 Night Jungle River Cruise where the guests relax on the viewing decks, and overnight in comfortable cabins, with bathrooms and toilets. The guests are taken to other Dayak villages upriver to see the culture and the local livelihoods. The Rahai’i Pangun’s guests come from all over the world, from America, Australia, South Africa, England and the Netherlands as well as Indonesia. If the guests want a more adventurous water experience, they can hire canoes for Rp 150.000 to 250.000 for 2 to 4 hours.
Lorna Dowson-Collins and Gaye Thavisin have been operating the cruise on Rungan and Kahayan Rivers for 2 years. They believe that the river as a way of journeying has a spectacular future for eco-tourism where it is hoped to help the local people by giving the profit and to protect the forest and its animals from damage.
This dream of Lorna and Gaye is like an oasis in the environment, where the Indonesian government and the wealthy business men are converting the forest to palm oil trees plantations! Lorna and Gaye have to work hard to make their dreams come true because the rivers in Kalimantan are being degraded as gold mining activities pollute the river water.