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SOUTH KALIMANTAN (Kalimantan Selatan)

South Kalimantan is one of the 4 provinces in Kalimantan (formerly called Borneo). 

It is often called the Province of a Thousand Rivers. One is Barito River, the largest and the longest river in Indonesia which is more than 6,000 km long. One of its tributary rivers is the Martapura River, which in turn has two tributary rivers of its own, the Riam Kanan and Riam Kiwa Rivers. Barito connects with the Negara River which branches out into lesser rivers. 

The population of the country consists of Javanese, Maduranese, Banjau, Bugenese, Chinese and Arabs. The culture and traditions are a real mix of the indigenous Dayaks, Malays, and Javanese, together with the influence of Islam which was introduced by Arab and Persian traders. This can be seen from the people's way of life, especially in arts, such as dance and music, traditional dress, games and ceremonies. 

Handicrafts are made from local raw materials. Jewellery made of precious and semi-precious stones are mostly made and sold in Martapura. Rattan and bamboo weaving are from the Tapin district, handicrafts made of gold, silver, brass and iron are from the Hulu Sungai Selatan region. Sasirangan is a specific textile design where its dyeing is a specialty of South Kalimantan. The designs and method are different from those of other parts of Indonesia. 

The high rainfall and adequate sunshine have made South Kalimantan fertile. Extensive forests with a large variety of trees make South Kalimantan one among the largest timber producers in Indonesia. The region is well-known for its iron-wood, meranti, pinus and rubber. 

South Kalimantan is connected with cities all over Indonesia through Syamsuddin Noor airport which is 25 km from Banjarmasin. This airport serves DC-9's and smaller aircraft. Airlines serving Banjarmasin are Merpati Nusantara, Bouraq, Sempati and Dirgantara Air Service. 

South Kalimantan can also be reached through the seaport of Trisakti and Banjarmasin harbour. Plenty of good roads access towns in Kalimantan. 

If waterways are preferable, go by boat along large rivers which head in almost every direction. 


Banjarmasin and its surroundings 

Banjarmasin, which is nicknamed "river City", is the capital, and is the centre of trade and tourism. It lies at the delta of the Barito River. A number of rivers various sizes and lengths wind their way through and around the city. The major rivers are Martapura and Nagara. Local people build traditional floating houses called "lanting", along the rivers. The lanting face the rivers, and are made of wood or bamboo. Rivers have been very important for business and economic activities. This is one reason why there are floating markets everywhere. 

Making trips along the mighty Barito and Martapura rivers by "klotok boat" or river bus will provide you with a unique experience. A speedboat can be hired for longer trips. 

Banjarmasin has developed into an industrial and tourism city, and provides a number of internationally rated hotels. 

Kembang Island 

This island lies in the Barito River, not far from a floating market. It is a conservation forest of about 60 hectares, inhabited by tame monkeys found only in Kalimantan, one of which is known as "bekantan" (nasalis larvatus). The island is mostly visited by Chinese Indonesians, as there is a small offering temple where the monkeys are fed. It is believed that feeding the monkeys will bring good luck an fortune. 

Kaget Island 

Like Kembang island, Kaget island also lies in the Barito River. From the centre of Banjarmasin it takes about 1 1/2 hours by klotok boat or 1 hour by speedboat to get there. This island is another forest conservation area and is also inhabited by the "bekantan" monkeys and the Lutung (prebitis orisate), as well as a wide variety of birds. 

Diamond Digging at Cempaka & Martapura 

Cempaka is a small village 10 km from Banjarbaru, and 45 minutes from Banjarmasin. It is an old site of traditional diamond digging using very simple equipment. The digging is a collective work by a group, usually consisting of one family and its close relatives. 

In 1985 a large raw diamond of 116.7 carats was found in a 15 metre deep mine shaft. 

Martapura is a finishing centre for diamonds and precious stones, and is also the centre of diamond marketing. The town is 40 km from Banjarmasin. The polishing work uses traditional as well as modern equipment. 

The diamonds an other jewellery is marketed at Martapura Plaza. Stone-craft of various origins and forms are easily found in the markets of Martapura. The price of jewellery ranges from as little as Rp.500, up to millions of rupiahs. 

Takisung Beach 

Takisung Beach lies about 10 km West of Pleihari. Folk entertainment is available, and there is a hotel and a play area for children. 

Hulu Sungai Tourist Resort 

Hulu Sungai is a vast region in the northern part of the province. Most areas here are swamps, but the eastern part is mountainous. 


Loksado is at the South Hulu Sungai district whose capital is Kandangan, and lies about 3 hours by car from Banjarmasin. The road is good, however, from Kandangan to Loksado, the road goes as far as Halunuk, a small village. Then the trip continues by motor cycle which takes a single passenger over a narrow foot-path. 

The natural surroundings of the hilly region provide attractive sights for those who enjoy hiking and mountaineering. On the way, meet the local people with their original ways and cross the river on a suspension bridge. 

Adventure River Rafting 

The Amandit River which originates at Meratus runs through Loksado and meets the mighty Barito River further down. 

Visitors usually use the river to get back after visiting Loksado. Those who enjoy rafting may venture the trip through numerous rocky rapids by traditional rafts made of bamboo or by rubber rafts. The river trip starts at Loksado, 45 kilometres from Kandangan. If a motorcycle ride is preferred, it takes about 4 hours. Those who enjoy trekking through the forests of the hill, the trip takes 8-10 hours. 

If you want to take a river trip, start from Loksado to Batu Laki which is 56 km away. The trip can be made in two stretches. The first is from Loksado to Muara Hatip. The second is from Muara Hatip to Batu Laki. 

The first stretch is not very challenging because the rapids are not very strong and ranks as grade 1 to 2 1/2. On the second one, the level of difficulty increases, while the rapids are higher and stronger at grade 3, such as Hawangan and Kandihin at the mouth of the river Muara Haring. The panorama along the river is fascinating. 

WEST KALIMANTAN (Kalimantan Barat)

One of the main attractions of West Kalimantan is the culture of its Dayak ethnic groups. 

Most Dayaks live in long houses along rivers which criss-cross the land. This province covers an area of 146,807 square km. Its low plains are swampy with more than 100 rivers playing a vital role in communications and the economy. 

Scattered across the swamps are several lakes and villages, often linked by bridges. The provincial capital, Pontianak lies exactly on the Equator. It is a fast growing city divided into three parts by the Kapuas and Landak Rivers. Pontianak is the main gate to enter this province through Supadio Airport, 18 km from the city. 

The Kapuas River, about 1143 km, is one of the longest river in Indonesia, connecting Pontianak with the Sanggau, Sintang and Kapuas Hulu Regencies. Among the branches of the Kapuas River are the Landak, Kubu, Punggur, Melawi and Sekayam Rivers. 

The population of West Kalimantan consist of the Dayaks, Malays, Chinese and some other Indonesian ethnic groups. 

Dayak dances express respect, heroism, welcome and cure. It is recommended to take a river trip and make overnight stops at villages where dance performances are organized on advance notice. 



As the capital of West Kalimantan, there are some interesting places to visit, among others the Equator Monument, Kadariah palace in Kampung Dalam, the State Museum, the Kapuas and Landak Bridges with a river view and floating market. You can also simply relax in the recreational park Tirta Ria. The beach resort of Kijing and Temajoh Island are good places for diving, fishing and sailing. 

Betang (Longhouse) 

On the outskirts of Pontianak is a Dayak traditional long house at Saham village, 158 km from Pontianak. The longhouse is huge - 186 m long and 6 m wide, and is inhabited by 269 people! There is no tourist accommodation available here. 

Pasir Panjang 

It lies 17 km from Singkawang in the Sambas regency. There is a beach resort, ideal for swimming. Comfortable cottages are available equipped with a tennis court. In the vicinity of Singkawang, the Gunung Poteng hill resort with its fresh air is a good place for nature lovers. 

National Park and Nature Reserve 

The Gunung (Mount) Palung National Park located in the Ketapang regency is home to miscellaneous flora and fauna. The Raya Pasi mountain located in the Singkawang regency is also an interesting place to visit in order to see the Rafflesia. 

Singkawang is also a nature reserve. The forest of Sanggau is worth a visit where hot springs, lakes and caves can be found. The other nature reserves are the forests of Baning and Kelam Hill in the Sintang Regency. While in Kapuas Hulu, there is the Bentuang 


West Kalimantan has recently been developed for tourist traffic, however, Pontianak has two three-star hotels, each with modern amenities and also facilities for conventions. 

EAST KALIMANTAN (Kalimantan Timur) A major producer of oil and timber, East Kalimantan is at present the most industrially advanced province of Kalimantan. Its population is less than two million, and the density figure of seven people per kilometre is among the lowest of Indonesia, although relatively high for Kalimantan. More than 80 percent of the area, or over 17 million hectares is covered by forest. This is where the "Black Orchid" and many other orchid varieties grow within the sheltered confines of nature reserves. 

The Banjarese and Kutainese are mostly the coastal population, living in towns and cities. The Dayak peoples form the overwhelming majority of the population of the hinterland, who live in longhouses called umaq daru. It is customary for one whole extended family or even one clan to occupy one long house. Each family is given a separate compartment with the chief of the clan occupying the central chamber. Guardian statues are normally placed in front of the long house to protect it against evil spirits who bring disease and bad fortune. Such longhouses, however, are gradually disappearing and many have been converted into meeting halls or stages for dance and music performances. The Dayaks are also known for their artistry, making beautiful cloths and ornaments for their traditional houses. The Tunjung Dayaks still make a kind of cloth called doyo, which is woven from certain plant fibres, used in the past in rituals. These are now offered for sale to visitors. Oil and natural gas are found along the entire east coast, with refineries centred at Balikpapan and Bontang



Samarinda is known for its fine sarong cloth. The city shows some signs of being the capital of a prosperous province. New government offices and public buildings are rising everywhere. Samarinda has a number of modest but comfortable hotels. 


Balikpapan, the centre of Kalimantan's oil industry is also the gateway to East Kalimantan with air and sea connections to Jakarta and other major points in Indonesia. Even the trip to Samarinda, begins in Balikpapan. Living up to its importance, Balikpapan has a number of good hotels, including one of international standard, as well as recreation facilities. It has the second busiest airport in the nation after Jakarta, due to its strategic position. 

Berau and Marine Tourism on Derawan island 

Found here are the remains of a king called the Keraton Gunung Tambur and The Keraton Sambaliung. Historic objects can be seen here. Derawan island is about 3 hours by a long boat from Tanjung Redep (The Capital of Berau Regency) or via Tarakan. 

There are many rare animals such as the green turtle, the scarlet turtle, star fruit turtle and sea cow. Also of interest are rare species of marine plants, coral reefs, iguanas, sea birds, crab and the location for pearl diving. 

It is also good for scuba diving, fishing, swimming, and other water sports. 


Located in the regency of Kutai with an area of about 200 000 ha, Bontang has rare flora and fauna. The Kutai National Park near Bontang is worth visiting for the wonderful scenery, especially at Beras Basah. 


Bulungan is the place for the adventure-seeking visitor. You will also find ancient remains, art collections and traditional ceremonies, with a background of beautiful panoramas of the jungle and mountains. 

Tanah Merah Indah - Lempake 

This is a recreational park called Tanah Merah Indah-Lempake with a waterfall, located about 16 km from downtown Samarinda. It can be reached by car or public transport. 


Tenggarong, up the Mahakam river from Samarinda, is the capital of the Kutai regency and was once the seat of the Kutai sultanate. The Sultan's palace on the riverside is now a museum where the old royal paraphernalia are kept, as well as an excellent collection of antique Chinese ceramics. Dayak statues can be admired in the yard. A curious thing about the royal paraphernalia is that they display a strong resemblance with Java's court traditions. 

Each year on 24 September, the former palace becomes a stage of dance and music performances given to celebrate the town's anniversary. 

Tanjung Isuy 

This little settlement around Lake Jempang in the lake-studded East Kalimantan hinterland, has a traditional Dayak longhouse which has been turned into lodges for visitors. The grave of a Benuaq Dayak chief lies aside the hamlet's only road. Visitors are usually given a traditional Benuaq Dayak welcome. The trip to Tanjung Isuy over the Mahakam River is long, but interesting, passing floating villages and forests. With luck, you can watch a belian, or witch doctor, dressed in his skirt of leaves, cure his patients at night by performing the rites prescribed by ancestors, to the frenzied accompaniment of gongs and drums. Many Benuaq Dayaks still prefer the old cures to the modern ones at government public health centres which are nearby. 

Melak - Kersik Luway 

Melak is a little village further upstream on the Mahakam River in the heart of the land of Tanjung Dayak. Not far from the village is the Kersik Luway nature reserve, where the "Black Orchid" grows. 

Muara Ancalong - Muara Wahau 

Dances of the Kenyah Dayak are often performed here for visitors at a traditional longhouse. Also various handicrafts can be viewed and purchased. 


For centuries Central Kalimantan was under the rule of Banjarmasin which had been an Islam Sultanate since 17th century.

The Banjarmasin of that time was developed with the government structure, complete with the legislation which applied to the entire Sultanate. The rulers of Banjamrsin were, therefore, very powerful on the island of Borneo, while the original inhabitants of Kalimantan (Borneo), the 'Dayaks', lived in small communities in rural areas of the island.

In 18th century, between the years 1841 and 1848, a Dutch Geologist,by the name of Schwaner, was involved in the exploration and mapping of the Central Kalimantan region, and travelled along the Barito, Kahayan, Kapuas, and Katingan Rivers. At the same time, he also collected data on the locations of the villages and small communities of the 'Dayaks' along the rivers.

To express their gratitude to the Geologist, the mountain range that separates Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan was then named after him, "Schwaner Range".

Some time later, between 1880 and 1890, for political and economic reasons, the Dutch Colonials built five canals which link the Kapuas, Barito, and Kahayan Rivers. The purpose of this was to speed up the communications of the area as well as river transportation from rural areas to the terminal at the South-Eastern area of the island.

At the end of the 19th century, Central Kalimantan, according to the Dutch Colonials, was included in the residence of South Kalimantan. At that time, South Kalimantan consisted of the Afdeeling Kapuas Barito (Dayak Besar) and the Swapraja which is called the Sultanate of Kotawaringin. The division of the smaller areas was based on the pattern of the rivers which flow through Central Kalimantan. This land division is possible because the villages are usually located on the banks of the rivers which divide Central Kalimantan.

In carrying out governmental duties at the lower level they use the traditional governmental systems.

Based on the system mentioned above, the Dutch used the traditional local leader to carry out the law, especially the laws which are related to money in the villages, such as taxes. The Dutch also used people as free labor or slaves, called Rodi, for the benefit of the Dutch, for example, the making roads, tunnels etc.

In every river system and particular villages, there were a few Demang (Kepala Adat). The job of the Demang was to lead several kampoongs along the river and region which was the responsibility of that Demang, This region is called Kademangan. Besides the Demang, who was responsible for those Kampoongs, there was a Kampoong chief, called Pambakal, who was elected by the people. He had important duties and a great responsibility. His main job was to delegate the tasks ordered, or forced by the colonials, to the people

After the Dutch left the area, the position was replaced by the Japanese. In this period, Kalimantan became a province, called the Borneo Minseibu with a governor named Cookan. The capital was Banjarmasin.

Central Kalimantan was a part of the larger province of Kalimantan. The division of the government was not changed more than that of the previous one. However, the top rank down to the sub-district leadership of government, were governed directly by the Japanese.

In 1945 the Japanese Occupation was ended by the arrival of the Allies (Australia) in Central Kalimantan. They wanted to remove the weapons from the Japanese troops. At the same time the NICA troops were also on their way.

The last Japanese troops in Central Kalimantan were caught by the Allies on September 27, 1945. They were sent back to Japan from Kumai and Banjarmasin. . Automatically, the regions left by Japanese were controlled by the local people, and directly under the Republic of Indonesia, which was proclaimed on 17 August 1945.

The largest problem in Central Kalimantan at that time, was its size and the difficulties in communication. The prime reason is the equipment which is being used is very simple and traditional.

After Indonesia proclaimed its independence in 1945, the carrying out of the Government in Central Kalimantan was still controlled from Banjarmasin, but gradually there came the inspiration and ideas of the people to establish a separate province as an autonomous Region.

The inspiration and ideas were based on the fact that most of the economy and trade development in this region was supported by crops and natural resources of the region which were primarily transported using the rivers.

After some great effort and hard lobbying, Central Kalimantan was officially declared by the first President of Republic of Indonesia, Prof. Ir. Soekarno, on 23 May, 1957, to be an autonomous province in Indonesia with 'Pahandut' at the confluence of the Rungon and Kahayan Rivers, as the capital city.

The name 'Pahandut' was later changed to 'Palangkaraya' which means 'Sacred Place', Honorable and Great; with Tjilik Riwut as the first-governor.

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Much of the Information on this page, including photographs, has been derived from information supplied by Liono Setiowijoso, and is used with his kind permission. For further information about travelling in Indonesia, refer to the Travelling in Indonesia site, maintained by Liono
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Last Update: 17/04/2005
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