Central Kalimantan, one of the provinces located in the heart of Borneo Island in Indonesia, is a fantastic destination with its rich history, breathtaking landscape, unique wildlife, and vibrant culture.
Exploring Central Kalimantan can take you on a journey through time, immerse you in the beauty of nature, and introduce you to local traditions and authentic ways of life. Let’s take a closer look at what Central Kalimantan has to offer:
The Rich History of Central Kalimantan
Central Kalimantan has a long and diverse history, with different cultures and kingdoms leaving their mark on the land. One of the most significant influences has been the indigenous Dayak people, who have inhabited Borneo for thousands of years. They have a rich culture, with unique customs, traditions, and beliefs that are still important to the people today.
The Indigenous Dayak People
The Dayak people’s way of life revolves around their close relationship with the land and the spirits that inhabit it. They have developed a deep knowledge of the forest, its resources, and its ecology. The Dayaks have a complex social structure, with different tribes or sub-tribes, each with their own language and culture. Their art and craft are renowned, including their intricate wood carvings, textiles, masks, and jewellery. Visiting a Dayak village is a unique experience, where visitors can learn about their rituals, dances, and way of life.
The Dayak people have a rich oral tradition, with stories and legends passed down through generations. One of the most famous is the story of the hornbill, a bird that is sacred to the Dayak people. According to legend, the hornbill played a crucial role in creating the first Dayak man and woman, and it remains an important symbol of fertility and prosperity.
The Dayak people also have a unique relationship with death, which they view as a journey to the afterlife. They believe that the spirits of the dead continue to live among the living, and they hold elaborate ceremonies to honour their ancestors and ask for their blessings.
The Influence of Hindu-Buddhist Kingdoms
Before the arrival of Islam, Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms ruled Borneo Island, leaving behind impressive ruins and artefacts. Central Kalimantan has several significant historical sites, such as the Muara Teweh Megaliths, Batu Banama Temple, and Bukit Batu Mountain. The architectural and artistic legacies of these kingdoms showcase their remarkable accomplishments in art, architecture, and spiritual beliefs.
The Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms also had a significant impact on the Dayak people, who adopted many of their beliefs and practices. For example, the Dayak people incorporated Hindu-Buddhist elements into their animistic beliefs, creating a unique syncretic religion.
Dutch Colonial Era and Independence
Central Kalimantan was once a part of the Dutch East Indies, and some colonial landmarks still remain in the province. The era of colonialism ended with Indonesia’s independence, and Central Kalimantan played a pivotal role in the country’s struggle for freedom.
The province has several historical sites dedicated to this era, such as Bukit Batu Museum and Palangka Raya’s Kebun Raya Garden, dedicated to noted independence hero Dr Tjilik Riwut.
After independence, Central Kalimantan underwent significant development, with the government investing in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. However, the province still faces challenges, such as deforestation, land disputes, and poverty. The Dayak people continue to fight for their rights and cultural heritage while embracing modernisation and globalization.
Breathtaking Natural Landscapes of Central Kalimantan
Central Kalimantan’s natural beauty is awe-inspiring, ranging from lush rainforests to mountainous terrain and winding waterways. One of the most significant natural attractions is Tanjung Puting National Park.
Tanjung Puting National Park
Located in the southwest of Central Kalimantan, Tanjung Puting National Park is one of the best-known orangutan rehabilitation centres in the world. The park is home to three orangutan species, the Bornean orangutan, the Sumatran orangutan, and the newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan, as well as other wildlife, such as macaques, gibbons, and hornbills. Visitors to the park can witness the orangutan feeding process and learn about their behaviour and habitat.
Sebangau National Park
Sebangau National Park is a vast peatland forest that is a crucial carbon sink, preserving the world’s climate. It is also home to orangutans, probosci’s monkeys, and other rare species, such as the Bornean bay cat and the clouded leopard. Exploring the park’s extensive network of boardwalks and trails is a unique experience that immerses visitors in the forest’s tranquillity and majesty.
Rungan River and Kahayan River
The Rungan River and the Kahayan River are two of Central Kalimantan’s longest waterways, winding across the province and providing spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. They are also perfect for river cruises, birdwatching, and fishing.
Unique Wildlife of Central Kalimantan
Central Kalimantan’s ecosystem supports a unique array of wildlife, some of which are only found on this island.
Orangutans and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Orangutans are the most iconic animals of Borneo Island, and Central Kalimantan is home to some of the most successful orangutan rehabilitation centres. These centres rescue, rehabilitate and release orangutans back into their natural habitat. The centres offer visitors a chance to learn about the conservation efforts to protect this critically endangered species and see them up close in their natural habitat.
Proboscis Monkeys and Other Primates
The proboscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo Island and can be seen in Central Kalimantan’s forests and wetlands. They are known for their large noses and distinctive calls. Other primates that can be spotted in the province include macaques, gibbons, and slow lorises.
Bornean Sun Bears and Clouded Leopards
Bornean sun bears, the smallest bears in the world, are another unique species found in Central Kalimantan. These bears are known for their playful and curious behaviour and can be seen in their natural habitat at the bear conservation centres. The clouded leopard, another elusive and rare species, can be found in the province’s forests and seen in the conservation centres that aim to protect them.
Cultural Experiences and Local Traditions
Central Kalimantan’s cultural richness is as intriguing as its natural attractions. The province offers a unique chance to experience the local traditions and learn about the daily lives of the people.
Traditional Longhouses and Village Life
The Dayak people live in longhouses, communal dwellings where many families live together. These traditional homes are an architectural marvel, with intricate carvings and elaborate décor. They offer visitors a chance to observe the daily life of the people, learn about their customs, and participate in activities such as traditional cooking and farming.
Dayak Dance Performances and Music
The Dayak people are also known for their colourful and traditional dances and music. Visitors to Central Kalimantan can witness these vibrant performances in the villages and learn about the significance of these spectacular displays.
Handicrafts and Souvenirs
Central Kalimantan is known for its exquisite handicrafts, such as wood carvings, textiles, and jewellery. These handicrafts reflect the province’s rich culture and heritage, and visitors can purchase them as souvenirs or mementoes of their journey.
Exploring Central Kalimantan is a journey through time, where visitors can immerse themselves in the province’s fascinating history, breathtaking landscape, unique wildlife, and vibrant culture. It is a destination that offers something for everyone and is an unforgettable experience, whether for adventurers, nature lovers, or those seeking a cultural experience.