Senin, 09 Februari 2015

Betung Kerihun; Wonders in the Heart of West Kalimantan

Riam Bakang, Kapuas River
Those in search of clear waters and pristine tropical rain forests amid the chirps of birds and the hoots of orangutan can find a piece of heaven in Betung Kerihun National Park, deep in the heart of Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan.
Betung Kerihun takes its name from Mount Betung in the west and Mt. Kerihun in the east. The park is a highland zone, part of the Muller mountain range and bordering on Sarawak, Malaysia.

Djohan Utama Perbatasari, runs the 800,000-hectare park. He cites four areas as ripe for ecotourism: the basins of the Embaloh, Kapuas, Mendalam and Sibau rivers. 

The basins offer river cruises, chances to see exotic flora and fauna, treks to waterfalls, fishing, body rafting and more, he says.

Also a favorite for the adventurous is cruising along the Kapuas River to visit the Nanga Bungan and villages populated by members of the Punan Hovongan Dayak community. 

Traveling by longboat allows views of traditional farms, meranti forests, gold mining as well as Dayak and Malay settlements. Over ten rapids can be seen on the way to the estuary of the Nangan Bungan. 

Bungan Jaya sits near the confluence of the Kapuas River and the Bungan River, its tributary. 

Unlike the muddy situation found downstream, water from the Bungan is clear and lush vegetation can be seen on both sides of its banks. 

“It’s part of the [park] and is in the upper reaches of the Kapuas,” said Johardy, a Bungan-Lokang ranger. A dense, pristine rain forest flourishes in the area, with green hills in the morning engulfed in mist. Local residents sell Dayak bead handicrafts and mandau traditional daggers.

is located deeper in the park, about a three- to four-hour journey from Nanga Bungan by longboat. Travelers must also take a 10-minute walk along the river’s banks and cross a wooden bridge over , which are too hazardous for navigation. 

During the dry season, boats attempting to travel the rapids can be dashed against the many rocks and boulders visible in the stream. 

When the river is at its highest, the truck-sized boulders cannot be seen. “When it’s very dangerous, we carry the boat and cross the wooden bridge,” said Simon, a longboat skipper. 

The nearby Homatop rapids, however, can still be enjoyed before arriving in . Rafters looking for an adrenaline rush can try the Lapan and Matahari rapids, with even more extreme surface conditions. 

The residents of don’t live in typical Dayak longhouses, although they do offer tourists durable homemade woven handicrafts. They also stage traditional dances and music, especially during the gawai, or harvest, in April or May.
Tanjung Lokang
Spelunkers and rock climbers take note: Four hours’ walk from the village leads to a cave where edible swallows’ nests can be found. Several tembawang “holes” are there containing the remains of the Dayak’s ancestors. In the Liang Kahung tembawang, for example, bones and skulls can be seen. 

Off the beaten track is rarely visited Embaloh, to the west of Putussibau, the regency capital. The area has been served by boats from the nearby tourist village of Sadap since 2011. 

The Iban Dayak who live in Embaloh have renovated their community longhouse with wooden pillars, bamboo walls and wooden shingle roofs. Its 27 rooms are occupied by 47 families. During the day, women can be spotted weaving cloth and crafting utensils on the building’s terrace.

The green waters of the Embaloh River mark the entrance to the park proper. At the end of the river, which runs 1 to 2 meters deep along its 168-kilometer length, is Tekelan, reachable in three hours by longboat. 

Nature lovers will be amazed as they enter the rain forest, where orangutans, deer, lizards and birds such as oriental darters, raja udang and white-beaked hornbills await. 
Ensurai trees thrive along the riverbanks, despite the strong currents, while in the interior of the forest, meranti trees dominate. The waters, however, are pristine, allowing views of the river bed and swarms of fish.

 According to Irawan, the head of Sebabai Resort, 103 fish species live in the Embaloh River and its tributaries, including semah fish, whose sweet taste commands prices upwards of Rp 800,000 (US$70) per kilogram. 

“This is a fishing paradise,” Irawan said.
Raja Brook Butterflies, Mascot of BKNP

Nanga Tekelan Camp near the Tekelan River, one of the Embaloh’s tributaries, has a camping area complete with bathrooms, toilets and clean water. 

“The water has the same quality as drinking water, as a German surveyor once indicated here,” Irawan said. The forest behind the campground offers light trekking paths, while the river’s rocky banks are broad enough for relaxation — and for enjoying bonfires at night. 

Swimming, however, is limited to the area near the shore due to the river’s string current.

Further down river is Derian Camp, the starting point for those seeking to climb Mt. Betung. It takes just half a day to scale its summit, compared to three days up and one day down for Mt. Condong. 

Orangutan dens lie along the ascending treks. There’s also a trail from Derian leading to Pajau Cave, home to different wildlife species, notably rhino hornbills. 

The Naris rapids, difficult to pass by boat, are not far from Derian. 

In the dry season, tourists can see semah fish teeming in the pond-like river between the Naris and Pajau rivers — or can don some safety equipment and go board or body rafting to Derian.

Many waterfalls, such as the Dajo and Laboh, can be seen cascading along the Embaloh River. Tourists can walk along its shallow tributaries for a few hundred meters to reach the falls. 

Ecotourists may also be interested in the oldest betang (longhouse) owned by the Tamambaloh Dayak in Sungai Uluk Palin, North Putussibau. 

Situated in the Sibau River basin about 45 minutes from Putussibau, the century-old building is 240 meters long, 18 meters long and 8 meters high. 

Even though the longhouse has been reduced from an initial height of 12 meters, it remains the longest and tallest in West Kalimantan with ironwood foundations. It houses 137 families in its 53 rooms and residents sell their handmade woven handicrafts and bead accessories. Staying with the Taman Dayak group can be a memorable experience.

The Baligundi longhouse in Sibau Hulu village offers rooms for guests. While not as large as the Sungulok Apalin longhouse in North Putussibau, the Baligundi is still huge: 150 meters long and with 23 rooms.

It’s a place where visitors can experience some (equally large) hospitality, as well. 

— Photos by Lily G. Nababan - 
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