Mahakam River

The Mahakam River in East Kalimantan is nearly a thousand kilometers long. Along its shores are primeval rain forests where one can spot some unusual animals like the long-nosed monkey and colorful kingfisher birds. I went up the river with a guide and a fast long-tail boat to see what nature has to offer, and the various villages by the locals, immigrants from Java and Sulawesi, and native Dayak tribes. The Dayak used to be headhunters, but no more, I was safe.

The water level changes during the seasons, so all the villages are on really tall stilts, both the buildings and the streets. It’s all made of the hardwood that grows here. The river villages are very simple, no luxuries like electrical power or running water. These people lead a very simple life. The first night I stayed in a losmen, a kind of simple guesthouse. Cold showers (actually, a small plastic bowl to pour rainwater over your head) are not very cold in the tropics…

A guide is important here. Nobody speaks English and there is a lot to arrange: permits, boats, accommodation, and access to native villages. A day with a guide is worth three days without, at least. Not all guides and organizers are honest (DeGigant seems to be an especially bad offender), but I had a recommendation for Rusdy from Rimba Borneo Kalimantan that I’ll pass on gladly:, +62542738569. Very friendly guy, speaks very good English, knows everything and everybody, and is a brilliant cook on top.