Kalimantan is a part of Indonesia, located on the island of Borneo (by the way, it is Kalimantan in Indonesian). 73% of Borneo is covered by Indonesia, the rest is made up of Malaysia and Brunei. Kalimantan actually means “Island of Burning Weather”, derived from the Sanskrit word Kalamantana, and because it’s close to the equator, you can expect it to get pretty hot here. If you want to see the equator for yourself, head to the city of Pontianak, which is located just above the equatorial line.
The island is the third largest in the world, and here you’ll find acres of lush jungle as well as meandering rivers and rugged countryside. As you might expect, hiking and hiking in the unspoiled rainforest is a popular pastime here, where you can check out all the local flora and fauna, such as the proboscis monkeys. Of course, if you want to get back to nature and visit a less touristy part of Indonesia, then Kalimantan is an excellent choice and one of the most beautiful islands in this part of the world.
Here are the best places to visit in Kalimantan:
1. Derawan Island
Derawan Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia, located off the coast of the main island of Kalimantan.
It is part of its own small archipelago and is one of the best places to dive in and around Kalimantan.
The waters here are teeming with marine life such as blue-ringed octopuses and scorpion fish, as well as planktonic seahorses and ghost tube fish.
There is a famous rock here called the Blue Trigger Wall, which is about 18 meters long and is located 10 meters below the water surface and is one of the top diving spots in Derawan.
Located in East Kalimantan is the city of Balikpapan, where you’ll find a more modern side of the island.
So if you want to get into Kalimantan slowly, this is a good option with all the amenities and a large shopping mall where you can find out how young Kalimantan spend their weekends.
You’ll also find many museums and other attractions here, and it’s also close to more rural areas if you want to explore outside the city.
It’s also a good starting point if you want to fly within Kalimantan or explore some of the nearby dive sites.
3. Maratua Island
Maratua Island is located between Indonesia and the Malaysian part of Kalimantan and is also part of the Derawan Islands.
One of the main reasons to come here is to see the two famous lakes found in the area, namely Tanabah Lake and Hajjbang Lake.
There is a resort here that is famous for its rooms above the water, the visibility is excellent and you can see fish and turtles swimming below you.
As you can imagine, water sports abound here, you can enjoy snorkeling and jet skiing, or just rent a boat and enjoy the view from the water.
Banjarmasin is located in South Kalimantan and is where you will find the mighty Meratus Mountains.
The city is bisected by a long waterway that you can explore using small local canoes, the ideal place to enjoy the urban experience and the rich local culture and traditions.
One of the best ways to do this is to tour the canals, or you can also visit the town’s main mosque called Mesjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin to see gorgeous Islamic architecture.
5. Danau Sentarum National Park
Danau Sentarum National Park is a vast wetland covering 132,000 hectares.
Much of the park consists of low-level tropical rainforest and large peat bogs, making it the place to go if you want to find plenty of native flora and fauna in a picturesque location.
Some of the wildlife you can see here include orangutans, proboscis monkeys and crocodiles, or you can also check out pheasants and storks.
As if that weren’t enough, some of Kalimantan’s indigenous groups also live in the park, so you can visit their camp and see how people have lived on this island for centuries.
6. Kakaban Island
Kakaban is one of the most famous islands in Kalimantan and is known for its majestic lake in the center.
The lake is full of graceful jellyfish, although they are not poisonous, which means you can swim with them and see this stunning natural wonder up close.
Jellyfish are made up of two species called golden jellyfish and moon jellyfish, the only place in the world that has a similar phenomenon is Micronesia, so if you have a chance to visit Kakaban, make sure to take a trip to this amazing place Lake.
7. Kutai National Park
Another national park in Kalimantan is Kutai National Park, which is covered by pristine ironwood forests.
The park covers approximately 198,000 hectares where you will find vast mangroves and fields of colorful wild orchids.
In 1998, the park was unfortunately razed to the ground by a devastating bushfire, but now that most of it has been restored, you will be able to see it restored to its former glory.
It is also home to sun bears, slow loris, deer and orangutans.
8. Mahakan River
The Mahakam River, the longest river in East Kalimantan, is the central backbone of the community here, providing water to the area and a way to travel around the island, most of which is covered in tropical rainforest.
The river is also home to a species of freshwater dolphins known as “pesuts”, which you can come to discover these graceful marine creatures in their native habitat, as well as take a boat trip to see a host of other native species of fish.
9. Tanjung Putin National Park
Tanjung Puting National Park is one of Kalimantan’s premium national parks, where you will find the largest population of graceful orangutans swinging through the trees.
There is a conservation and research centre here, and the park is a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve.
It covers 415,040 hectares and has a sister park in adjoining Malaysia.
Some of the activities you can enjoy in the park include river cruises as well as boat trips where you can see all the local wildlife while enjoying a leisurely boat ride.
Some of the animals in the park include clouded leopards, mouse deer, sun bears and red monkeys.
Sampit is a small town on the Sampit River where you can enjoy a range of attractions.
One of the best beaches is Pandaran Beach near the mouth of the Sampit River, where you can see where the river seeps into the wider sea.
Another major attraction here is the Orchid Park at Pembuangan Hulu, a woodland that, as the name suggests, is covered with beautiful and colorful orchids.
11. White Mountain
White Mountain, known as Gunung Putih in Indonesian, is located in Bulungan Regency and is one of the most important peaks in Tanjung Palas.
The reason people flock here is to hike to the top, from where you can enjoy clear views of the surrounding countryside.
If you don’t like the idea of mountain hiking, you can explore the underground caves that are also here, which you can get there via some scenic hillsides.
You can explore the area around the mouth of the cave, which has about 42 spotlights that take you to the main room.
12. Sesayap River Conservation Forest
If you’re in North Kalimantan, don’t miss the Sesayap River Conservation Forest Tour.
The best way to appreciate the majesty of the forest here is to take a boat down the river and you can see all the beautiful scenery, but also the towering lush trees and huge flowers.
There are also monkeys, snakes and birds of different colours to see and this is a protected land area so you know the animals that live here are safe from hunting or poaching.
You can also look here for Perengat trees, which have a special acid fruit that is used in a range of natural remedies.
Pontianak, the largest city in Kalimantan, has an unfortunate name because “Pontianak” means a vampire in Malay.
However, there is no reason to panic, Pontianak sits at the confluence of two mighty rivers called Sungai Kapuas and Sungai Landak.
You can visit some of the city’s best attractions, including the former Royal Palace Istana Kadriyah and the National Museum Negeri Pontianak, a great place to learn about the history and culture of the area.
There is also an equatorial monument and a traditional Dayak longhouse.
14. Sembuku Sembakung National Park
The only place in Kalimantan where elephants can be found is Sembuku Sembakung National Park, a stunning natural forest that stretches over some 400,000 hectares.
It is one of the latest areas in Indonesia to be declared a national park and stretches along the border of East Kalimantan.
A highlight of the park is that it covers six distinct land areas, including mangrove swamps, rolling green hills and dense forests.
15. Wenyou Island
Buyu Island in Blongan, North Kalimantan is one of the best places to learn about the local culture and taste the local cuisine.
Bunyu consists of three distinct villages that are home to the indigenous Tidung tribe of Kalimantan.
The island is also known for its famous fruit salad, one of the best and tastiest native fruits in Indonesia, so be sure to try some when you visit.
Other great places to visit include the beautiful Nibon Beach, where you can also find beach clubs and even golf courses, or you can take a speedboat around the island.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Kalimantan, Indonesia
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