Kalimantan Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing
There are more tourist attractions located around Kalimantan than you can possibly have the time explore, and so you will therefore have to choose carefully. Both East and West Kalimantan are known for there plentiful beach attractions, with the most popular beaches including Kijing Beach at Mempawah, Batu Lamampu Beach at Nunukan and both the Tanjung Gundul and Pasir Panjang - close to Singkawang.
Directly to the north of Pontianak (West Kalimantan) are some very beautiful and somewhat isolated beaches, while the coastline of the Pulau Derawan is also quite special. Outdoor tourist attractions away from the beaches include mountain trekking, white-water rafting, river cruises, wildlife parks and national parks, where native orangutans can often be observed living in natural groups.
- Kumai - serving as the main point of access to the Tanjung Puting National Park, where many wild orangutans and speedy proboscis monkeys reside, together with gibbons, wild boar, crocodiles, sun bears and clouded leopards, amongst other indigenous creatures. Guides are generally available for hire at the entrance of the Tanjung Puting National Park, for a reasonable daily charge. If you are able to visit the park, don't be in a rush, since the nightly display of fireflies is quite a spectacle.
- Muara Teweh - close to the Gunung Pacungapung and standing on the very border with East Kalimantan, Muara Teweh is located deep in the heart of Indonesia's logging country, where it is actually the very last stop for river boats heading along the Sungai Barito. Purukcahu is close by, where Dayak guides will lead tourists around the main attractions within the lush forests and the mountains.
- Palangka Raya - the 'Great and Holy Place', Palangka Raya (Palangkaraya) is a medium-sized city, with a population just topping 200,000 people. Palangka Raya is the capital of Central Kalimantan and sited at the confluence of the Kayahan River and the Sabangau River. There are lots of official buildings in Palangka Raya, such as bank headquarters and the governor's house. This is a convenient place to stop off and stay for a night, if you are passing by. There are a number of very reasonable attractions based in Palangka Raya, including the Museum Balanga, the Mandala Wisata long house. the lively Night Market (Pasar Malam), which stands on the corner of the Jalan Halmahera and the Jalan Jawa. The Kalawait Care Centre and its rehabilitated gibbons may also be of interest. If it is jackfruit season, you will find this sweet, fragrant tropical fruit everywhere.
- Pangkalan Bun (Pangkalanbun) - generally used as a stopover by tourists en route to the Tanjung Puting National Park, Pangkalan Bun really is a pleasant place to base yourself for several days. From here, tours are available to Tanjung Puting and many other attractions within Central Kalimantan.
- Sebangau National Park - a relatively recent addition to the national parks on Kalimantan, Sebangau is an attractive peat swamp forest and rich in native Indonesian flora and fauna. Wildlife lovers will find more than 100 different special of mammals, 35 bird species and over 7,000 orangutans, which is amongst the largest concentration on Borneo. The Sebangau National Park is often off-limits to tourists - contact the World Wildlife Foundation Indonesia (WFF) for further details.
- Apo Kayan - enjoying a remote setting on the highland plateau, Apo Kayan is still inhabited by Dayak tribes, who live here at the villages of Tanjung Issui and Mancong. Nearby and along the Sungai Mahakam river, the village of Tering is known for its women with long, stretched ears, which hang well below their shoulders. The Melak Village stands near to Tering and is where the renowned Black Orchid Garden is situated.
- Balikpapan - a prominent seaport city with a population now approaching 800,000 residents, Balikpapan has gained much wealth from its timber production, oil fields and mining. The city has its fair share of tourist attractions and magnets, such as the enormous Balikpapan Plaza shopping complex, at the corner of the Jalan Ahmad Yani and the Jalan Sudirman. Travel agencies are on hand, should you wish to book a cruise along the Sungai Mahajam and into the extremely scenic Apokayan Highlands.
- Berau - situated at the meeting point of the Berau River, the Kelai River and the Segan River, the town of Berau may be relatively small, but is it cram-packed with quality tourist attractions and enticing sightseeing opportunities. These include the Museum Batiwakkal at the Gunung Tabur Kraton, the Pura Agung Giri Natha Hindu temple, the Sambaliung Kraton, and the Mesjid Agung Baitul Hikmah mosque, which features a dramatic bright-green monolithic tower, clearly visible on the skyline.
- Kutai National Park - a rather underrated wildlife attraction, the Kutai National Park provides an excellent way to get up close to native orangutans and birds. It is best to enter the park with an official guide, since this really is your best chance to actually find the orangutans. The easiest way to reach this destination is to catch a bus from Samarinda to Bontang.
- Long Bawan - a truly picturesque part of East Kalimantan, Long Bawan offers a superb selection of trekking trails leading into the Kayan Mentarang National Park. This sprawling park contains the biggest remaining chunk of rainforest in Kalimantan and borders the Malaysian Serawak area, which stands directly to the west.
- Muara Muntai - a lively market town located on mud flats within the centre of the Mahakam lake country. Longboats regularly arrive at Muara Muntai from Samarinda, with this relaxing, leisurely and extremely scenic cruise taking around 12 hours.
- Nunukan - a busy town in East Kalimantan, Nunukan is to be found close to Tawau and offers some appealing tourist attractions. Particular favourites include the Batu Lamampu Beach, the Enching Beach, the Sedadap Beach, Mambunut Zoo and the cascading Binusan Waterfall.
- Pulau Derawan (Derawan Island) - a popular island resort and acclaimed dive spot, Derawan is an important marine reserve and lies off Tanjung Batu, where it is surrounded by glorious white sandy beaches. Derawan contains some truly wondrous scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities, with led dives being available from the Derawan Dive Resort. The nearby Sangalaki Dive Resort on the island of Pulau Sangalaki is also of note and features a choice of beachfront chalets, complete with individual verandahs, being elevated off the ground to permit turtles to nest underneath.
- Samarinda - capital of East Kalimantan, Samarinda lies on the far easterly side of Borneo, where is it just under 60 km / 37 miles from the actual Makassar Strait. Edged by the mighty Sungai Mahajam river, Samarinda is a trading port, whilst also enjoying much popularity with holiday makers. Tourists in Samarinda will be treated to a host of sights, including the Mesjid Raya Darussalam mosque, which rather dominates the waterfront. Also worth looking out for are the gold merchants between the Citra Niaga area and the Jalan Panglima Batur, the cottage industries in the Samarinda Seberang suburb, and the traditional ceremonies on Sunday afternoons, staged at the neighbouring Kenyah Dayak village of Pampang.
- Tarakan - near to the Sabah border, the town of Tarakan serves as a useful stepping stone to more popular tourist destinations. Tarakan was actually once something of a battlefield in WWII, between the Japanese and Australian soldiers, and a poignant memorial (Kuburan Australia) remembers those who lost their lives fighting here.
- Gunung Palung National Park - a major attraction in West Kalimantan and the home of many thousands of wild orangutans. The Gunung Palung National Park comprises areas of completely untouched rainforest, although illegal logging is always an ongoing problem here. Tourists can pay a visit to the Cabang Panti research site, where some of the wild orangutans can be clearly viewed from a network of winding trails. Wildlife is especially abundant here and you will also likely be able to spot proboscis monkeys, gibbons and colourful hornbills.
- Mempawah - formerly the capital of the Mempawah Malay Kingdom, Mempawah attracts crowds of beach-goers during the summer season, who flock to the pristine sands of Kijing Beach, where a large coconut plantation provides a very tropical backdrop.
- Pontianak - the capital of West Kalimantan and home to some of the region's best family attractions. Pontianak lies alongside the Sungai Kapuas and the Sungai Landak rivers, where relaxing cruises are often available, passing by local bathers in the late afternoon. Children will always enjoy spending some holiday time at the Pontianak Zoo (Kebun Binatang Pontianak) on the Jalan Adi Sucipto, where orangutans and other animal attractions from the Borneo jungles are on display. Of interest, Pontianak is sited directly on the line of the equator and is one of the only cities in the world with this unusual claim to fame. Landmarks in Pontianak include both the Mesjid Abdurrakhman mosque and the Istana Kadriyah, while for museums lovers, the Museum Negeri is on hand.
- Sambas - a charming city with a fascinating archaeological past, since finds indicate that Sambas once enjoyed strong links with the Sriwijaya Kingdom, as well as 6th-century India, becoming an major port city in the 13th century. Although its prosperity is something that Sambas seems to have left in the past, for tourists, the palace ruins may be of interest, such as the Keraton Sambas palace, which is often reached by hiring a canoe and paddling along the Sungai Parwan river for a short distance. Souvenirs of Sambas come in the form of 'kain songket' cloth, with golden and silver thread.
- Singkawang - a small Hakka Chinese city, which owes much of its past wealth to its former gold mines, which once extracted a staggering one-seventh of the world's entire gold supply. Today, Singkawang is known for its plentiful ceramic workshops, although it is the neighbouring beaches of Tanjung Gundul and Pasir Panjang that are the main attractions in this part of West Kalimantan.
- Banjarbaru - a large city located just over 30 km / 19 miles to the south-east of Banjarmasin. Those visiting Banjarbaru will enjoy spending time exploring the collection of Dayak and Banjar artefacts at the Museum Lambang Mangkurat. Local events are often staged at the central Dr. Murdjani Plaza.
- Banjarmasin - a big city centred around the Sungai Martapura river, with a population now exceeding 800,000 people. Canal cruises, walking tours and the lively floating markets are amongst the main attractions in Banjarmasin, although it is the grand modern mosque known as the Mesjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin that most people come to see, since it is Indonesia's second-biggest. Nearby, the long-tailed macaque monkeys on the Flower Island (Pulau Kembang) and the proboscis monkeys on the Surprised Island (Pulau Kaget) are just a boat trip away.
- Cempaka - famous throughout South Kalimantan for its diamond fields and situated close to both Banjarmasin and Martapura. Cempaka really is the place to come if you would like to see diamond and gold digs in action, often spending an entire day in the river, up to their necks in the dirty water as they search through the silt for valuable specks. There are always plenty of polished diamonds available for purchase, if you fancy splashing out on a souvenir to remember.
- Kandangan - something of a transit town in South Kalimantan, with good access to the Meratus interior, Kandangan is home to an excellent colonial marketplace and is famous for its traditional 'Dodol' (toffee and coconut cakes) and 'Ketupat' (rice dumplings).
- Martapura - a small and rather affluent town, with agate, diamond and gold mines. The busy and very colourful market in downtown Martapura is not to be missed, as is a trip to the adjacent Kayu Tangi (diamond shop / polishing factory).
- Negara - an interesting town to the north-west of Kandangan, which is basically propped up on wooden stilts, in the waters of the Sungai Negara. Boat tours of the town are the best way to see that attractions, including the wooden platforms where local water-buffalo are raised.