Kalimantan Map & General Info

Kalimantan Map, kalimantan, map, borneo, dayak,


Car license numbers:
KB: Kalimantan Barat ( West).
DA: Kalimantan Selatan ( South )
KH: Kalimantan Tengah ( Central ).
KT: Kalimantan Timur ( East ).

Introduction to Kalimantan

Borneo has always been very interesting to the West. Humid and exotic, densely forested and inscrutable, it used to be a traditional oposite to the rational and orderly Europe. Old travel reports tell about almost naked ‘wild humans’, which decorated their bodies with feathers and tatoos and whom high graded warriors kept themselves busy with creating heads from a log, which were used as sacrifice to the gods. The message, that the mysterious Dayaks sometimes lived in big groups of over one hundred people in houses on pawls, was received with disbelieve and dismay in the Victorian Western Europe.
About other island people, the forest nomads of the hinterlands, where were even more fantastic stories if possible. They should have lived in trees and should have been able so smell people upto a kilometer away. Above all people in Europe were convinced that these Punan people had some tailish like thing into the late 19th century.
However these stories were overdone and are dated at this moment, the island keeps on stirring our imaginations. Especially the Dayak population still has a firm impression on the West. Travellers do best not to blind themselves on the small aspects of their culture. Most Dayak nowadays wear regular clothing and headhunters only exsist in rytes and stories. Not only the softening influence of Christianity didn’t touch the rich culture of the Dayak. However, it is possible to bring a visit to a traditional longhouse. These often richly decorated houses on pawls with a length of several hundred meters, had to protect them from enemy headhunters. With a little luck the tourists can see the traditional agricultural ritual, or a traditional reburial, where they used to sacrifice slaves earlier. Of maybe you can see a belian (sjaman) at work, which sings or makes animal sacrifices while healing an illnes or sacres a new house.
Most tourists will hurry temselves to the hinterlands of the Dayaks and totally forget about the islamic coastal areas, which are inhabited by Malay, Chinese and some Jawanese, Madurese and Buginese. The nice, old mosques are worth a visit and this is also the fact with the old mosque in Banjarmasin. People who are interested in history can enjoy bringing a visit to palaces and gravetombs of sultans, and of source, a number of museums. You can try to see a circumstantion or marriage, events which are regularly decorated with beautifull costumes, original dances and gamelan-music.
Land of sago
The local population used to name Borneo Kalimantan. The name is probably defused from lamantaKalamantan is the area of the lamanta). Another possible explaination is in the Jawanese Kalimanten (‘River of the jewels’), which points at the wealth of gold and gemstones on the island.
In the West, Kalimantan is only the Indonesian part of Kalimantan, which consists 2/3 of the island, which is the third biggest – after Greenland and New Guinee – in the world. With a total surface of 746.309 sq.km Borneo is 20 times the size of the Netherlands. The northern part of the island concludes Sarawak (the former empire of the ‘White Raja’ James Brooke) en Sabah, both belonging to Malaysia, and the minute oil state Brunei (this name was the initial name for Borneo when the first people from the West entered named the big island.
Borneo is simply split in two parts by the equator. The coastal planes are very humid and hot, upto 37°C. Inland the temperatures are around 25°C. In the mountainous inlands it can even be colder above 700 meters. The overdone rainfall -on average 2500 mm every year along the coast and 4500 mm in the inlands – makes Borneo into one of the most wet places on the planet. The wet season lasts for a long eight months, from October until June, and there is no real dry season.

The threathened rainforest

The high humidity causes the tropical rainforest to grow, which covers most parts of the island. It’s this location where the most popular forest-inhabitant of the world lives, the orang-hutan, which can only be seen in the wild when you are lucky, because the huge but shy primate lives in an healthy distance of humans. The area still houses much more strange creatures.
Feared is the king-cobra, a five-meter-long monster, which is not scared to attack humans. A natural miracle is the Agrus feasant, related to the peacock and just as beautifull. It’s only one of the over 600 kinds of birds which live in between the more than 2000 kinds of trees on the island. The most interesting is the rhinoceros-bird, which plays an important role in local myths. It has an very peculiar sound, scratching, followed by a horn, getting louder and lower, which ends in laughter.
Remarkable is the (male) nosemonkey, blessed with an overdone nose. Not to tell anything about the shooting fish, which can take out insects from the air on two meters above the water with it’s perfect beam of water. Some animals have developed flying or floating powers to escape from preditors: there are flying lizards, frogs, squirrels and even three kinds of flying snakes. Very good camouflaged insects, which are sometimes poisonous as well, are giving birds a hard time.
Seventy-meter-high trees, flesheating flowers, glowing mushrooms and many refined colored orchids – it’s just a small gift about the many unique kinds which live in this rainforest. Or better, still has, because the rainforest has been chopped down in a rapid speed over the last 30 years. The hunt for the ‘green gold’ means an ecological disaster of the first order. When chopping continues in this pace for another few years, there is no rainforest left in about a decade. The huge problems which that causes for the climate is getting to be a bigger problem for the world only now. The deforestation also causes big problems for the people who live in those rainforests are also comming out, but they are not seen as a big problem at all, unfortunately.
Visit Kalimantan
Kalimantan is split in four provinces: Kalimantan Timur (the eastern part), Kalimantan Tengah (the central part), Kalimantan Selatan (the southern part) and Kalimantan Barat (the western part). The names are abbreviated most of the times, so you will get to see Kaltim, Kalsel, Talteng en Kalbar. In total, they consist of 549.032 sq.km., or 28 per cent of the entire land mass of Indonesia. Though, only five per cent of the total Indonesian population lives on this island.
Kaltim is the best province to visit. This is well-known because sometimes tourists are queueing to see the traditional welcome-dance in Tanjung Isuy. The airport of Balikpapan is one of the busiest of entire Indonesia. The city houses one of the handfull international class hotels in Kalimantan. The Mahakam and the side-rivers are important traffic routes, which connect the inland Dayak villages with the coastal areas. Travelling to Apokayan and to Long Segar and the environment of Kedang Kepala, give a clear impression of the live of the Dayak population. The Kutai Besar reserve provides a chance to see orang-hutans, but the fascilities are not too good.
Kalsel also offers place for visitors. Banjarmasin, the only city on Kalimantan which is worthwhile bringing a visit, has an interesting floating market, and is the starting point for excursions to Loksado Dayak.
Kalteng is least visited by tourists. Palangkaraya, the caital, has decent accomodation; furthermore there are not too much fascilities. One thing you can do in this area is making wonderfull tours upstream. Many Dayak, somewhere else converted to Chrisitanity or Islam, here still practice traditional kaharingan religion. The spectacular burial rytes, which can last several weeks, can be seen, but visit is only allowed for visitors whith a big interest in their culture, and who are willing to adapt to local habits and circumstances. The fairly good reachable Tanjung Puting reserve can be visited to see orang-hutans.
Kalbar and the capital Pontianak are not popular among travellers, partially because the lack of information about this area. Organised tours mainly visited the coastal areas, but slowly they are starting to visit the inlands as well. You can take a plane from Pontianak if you chooce a good seat, but you can also go by boat over the Kapuas river.
Wealth of unique spiecies
The nature on Kalimantan knows an exotic beauty, but unfortunately the special environment hides most of the rare animals and plants. The nature reserves do hardly have any facilities, and an expedition to the hinterlands demands a good organisation and the intent to spend a number of days in the jungle. Over there is seems that the leech (Haemadipsa zeylanica) is the only animal available. At that’s a pretty tough one as well.
Many animals live high above the ground, almost invisible in between the dense canape. Brightly colored birds fly along and over the rivers. The rivers hold many spiecies of fish. In the downstream of the Mahakam, near the lake district, there are some groups of freshwater dolphins.
Rare nose apes
A strange animal, which can only be found on Borneo, lives in the mangrove-flood forests. The nose of the male nose-ape (Nasalis larvatus) can be as long as 15 cm. This extra-large nose serves as attractiveness to get a female (with a small nose). The nose ape likes to swim, this in contrary with othre primates. When in danger, but sometimes also just for fun, the apes jump in the fresh water from a reasonable height.
Nose apes have a red back and almost white belly; their face and butt are light brown. Nose apes are herbivores, they can be watched best at dawn and dusk, when they are looking for water between the mangrove trees. Tanjung Puting and the river islands near Banjarmasin are the most favorable places.
Threathened forest people
The orang-hutan, Indonesian for ‘forest person’still exsists on Sumatera and Borneo, but they are very rare. 1000 years ago there were more orang-hutans than people on Borneo; about 500,000. Around the 1960’s where were no more than a few thousand left on the entire world. Now deforestation destroys the natural habitat of the orang-hutan, the existance of the animal is very precarious.
Besides that – against all laws – mother apes are still killed to sell the youngsters. The Indonesian government has a special emergency shelter in Kalteng where the young animals learn to adapt themselves to the jungle again.
For a orang-hutan, environment is very important. As the biggest fruit-eater on the planet, an adult needs about 500 hectares to fullfill it’s needs. The fruit trees in the rainforest are scattered over great distances, reason why the animals do not live in groups: this would exhaust the trees at once. The animals add bark, flowers, some insects and honey to their daily meal. Becauce of their enormous weight – males can weigh upto 80 kg – orang-hutans usually don’t walk more than 400 meters a day.
Other inhabitants
However nose apes and orang-hutans are usually invisible, other apes are good to look at, or in any case to hear. Male and female gibbons make duets and normal makakes search the river banks for a nice lobster. The slow lori lives in the trees and is a night animal. Their eyes are huge in comparison to their body. Another small ape can turn it’s head 180°, which is usefull during hunting.
The armadillo (Manis javanica) is describes as a ‘small armed dinosaur’. This anteater breaks open ant-structures with his paws and licks around for his meal. To store some lunch, the animal puts some ants between his scales, which he can eat when it’s bathing. The ants will float around him, so they can be sucked up easily.
Birding in Kalimantan
Armed with binoculairs and the classical Birds of Borneo of Bertram E. Smythies, a bird-watcher can identify about 600 different birds in Kalimantan. Birds are important in the faith of sings of the Dayak. Even now the hunting can be postponed, because a bird flew in the ‘wrong’ direction. The rhinoceros-bird has a prominent role in the mythology of the Dayak. It’s heavy wings create a noise which most looks like that of a steam engine of a train.
Nine spiecies can be recognised instantly because of the nice horn which is on top of the beak. The horn of the Rhinoplax vigil, the horn is solid and extraordinary fancy. The ivory of the birds was worth trice as much as that of the elephant, and even now it;s used among the Dayak to create nice earrings.
The female rhinoceros-bird breeds her eggs in a nest in a hollow tree. The entrance is closed with a gum-like substance up by the male partner, only a small hole is left for the beaks. They are fed this way until the chicks can fly. When her partner died, his tasks are taken by another male; an extraordinary thing in the animal world.
The most bird of the island is undoubtly the Argus feasant ( Argusianus grayi). This bird is very shy and that’s why there is not much know about it’s habits. The rear feathers are decorated with hundreds of shining ‘eyes’ and are used for traditional Dayak costumes.
The salangan Collocalia sp.) is very important from economical point of view. The sticky saliva which they use to build their nests, is also the base for Chinese soup. This gelatin does not have much taste, but is said to have a good influence on your potency. To get a nest like this, high against the walls of deep limestone caves, is kind of dangerous.
Wealthy green carpet
Borneo has a wealthy green flora. Inside an area of 10 hectares, 780 different spiecies of trees were counted. For a comparison, England only has 35 different trees.
Characteristics for the coastal areas are mangrove forests, palms and inferious deciduous forest. Futher inland, especially in Kalsel and Kalbar, are the lower hills and alluvial plains. Deeper in the inlands the tropical rainforest starts, which gets more dense when you get on higher altitudes. Here the Dipterocarpacea rules, which formes a dense canape on twenty to fifty meters above the ground. Occasionally you will find an ironwood or ebony tree. The upah produces a deathly poison. Gigantic tapang-trees, with bright white, bald stems, rise high above the average canape with their 70 meters. Epiphytes, among them a large number of orchids, decorate many trees.
There are over 11.000 kinds of flowering plants on Borneo, among them the rafflesia ( Rafflesia arnoldii), which has the biggest flower in the world. The fleshy flower can be as wide as one meter and weigh upto eight kilograms. The rafflesia spreads an odour of rotting mead, meant to attract meat-eating flies.
The flora in Borneo’s large rainforest, the biggest after the Amazone, produces many expensife products: damar-raisin, rubber, ratten and palm sugar. Borneo also produces a good quality kampher, discovered as raisin inside the rotten heart of the kampher-laurel, Drylobalanops aromatica). Another remarkable odourous product is gaharu or aloe-wood. This originates from the damages Aquilaria malaccensis). A kilogram of gaharu can bring up as much as a couple of hundred dollars.
Mighty rivers and resources
Kalimantan is bordered by the Sulawesi Sea in the northeast, due south this is Selat Makassar (Makassar Strait). South of the island is the Jawa Sea. The South China Sea separated Kalimantan from mainland Southeastern Asia. Kalimantan doesn’t have any good harbours; big parts of the island are barely above sealevel, and the tides influences the hight of the rivers far inland.
Borneo came above the sealevel a few milion yeras ago. By the sometimes high and low water levels during and between the Ice Ages, the island was regularly flooded or dry, and then it was one big island with Jawa and Sumatera and the peninsula Malaysia. Still there are remains of big rivers on the ocean floor which flowed from the mountains in Sumatera and Malaysia to Borneo, the lowest point. On the climax of the last Ice Age, the waterlevel dropped about 150 meters. Borneo and Sulawesi were no more than 40 km from eachother. When the climate warmed up again the ice melted and the sealevel rose; all life moved to the inlands. Now there are identical freshwater fish on Sumatera and Borneo, but they can’t be found on Sulawesi.
Mountains and rivers
Because of movements in sedimentary rocklayers during the Ice Ages the highest mountain ranges were formed in the inlands. The highest is roughly located in a north-south line from Sabah to the heart of Borneo, where it splits. Most peaks are lower than 1500 meters, but the black-granite Kinabalu in Sabah with it’s 4100 meters is the highest point in Southeastern Asia. In West-Kalimantan are the remarkable, almost vertical, limestone formations. Because of the rough and spooky look, the population thinks that spirits house here. The Mulu is the highest point in Sarawak with 2377 meters.
From the central mountain range, rivers run to the sea into every direction. Along the shores of these rivers with heavy traffic, trade is concentrated. The biggest part of the population lives here. Most rivers can be entered from the sea until the rapids which are the border with the highlands. These rapids often have to be passed over land. Beyond that, the rivers are usually accessible again for transport. The rapids used to offer protection against the headhunters from the coastal areas; now they raise the price of petrol and trade goods in the hinterlands drastically.
In the north, the rivers are only slowed down by the very small coastal area. The most wide part is place for the biggest rivers: de Mahakam which runs towards the east, and the Kapuas – the longest river of Indonesia – which streams towards the west. In the south there are dozens of rivers which linger through the endless lowlands.
Rich natural resources
Borneo has a rich environment with natural resources, of which many are untouched as yet. In the neighborhood of Banjarmasin, diamont is mined in primitive mining shafts. The diamonts are also split, cut and polished in the same old-fashioned way. The diamont harvest, which made Borneo known in the West, was followed by the Chinese gold rush on the alluvial siltlayers of Kaltim. The most important gold deposits are in the earliest deposits in the mountains. Due to erosion, the rock was formed into gold clay, which is taken downstream by rain. Locals sift the silt for the smallest grind of gold. Hard labour pays, because the gold is almost as pure as you can get, 23 or 24 carat. Nowadays gold mining is an international business.
At the end of the 19th century, coal was mined on a large scale, followed by the raise of the oil-industry; Eastern Kalimantan has been an oil-producer ever since the beginning of the 20th century and the small oil-state of Brunei along the northern coast has the highest income per head of the population in the world.
Recently, uranium was discovered in Kalimantan. The indonesian treasury was funded by the export of LNG (liquid natural gas) to Japanese power producers.
Communal houses
Besides the headhunting, there was nothing as shocking for the Europeans as the communal living habits of the Dayak: the remarkable long houses on pillars, which house entire villages of bees, were seen as obscure places of promiscuous and loose sexual behaviour.
Nothing was less true. However the rules for what sex concerned were more strict in the Victorian world than among the Dayak, all communities knew rules for the intercourse between men and women, and there was nothing live promiscuity. And some houses huaranteed a maximum of descrecy during nightly visits becayse of the thin wooden walls and creaking floors.
Almost all Dayak lived in longhouses (from the English literature). The houses on pillars, sometimes called betanglamin, offered shelter to a village of a couple of hundred people, but sometimes also to a few families. The Ngaju and related populations for example, lived in big houses (umah hai) in which the family only lived with relatives.
The houses, sometimes over one kilometer long, offered maximal protection against attacks. Besides that they guaranteed a big social intimacy, however all families had their own room. The daily life mainly took place on the communal veranda, a wide, covered space which stretched over the entire length of the house. This ‘village street’ was home to playing children, baskets were made, chains made and meetings were held. These things from the daily life often took place at the same time.
Social organisation
Architecture and construction of a longhouse mirrored the social structure of the community. So it was that the longhouses of the Iban didn’t look very stable. The Iban were more like nomads. Every once in a while they left their house in the search for new fields and hunting grounds. The yield of new fields justified all the work what had to be done because of this.
The Iban-longhouse was ‘communal possession’. Every family built it’s own room frome very material which they thought was enough. The Iban-houses usually were not too far above the ground, and rested on thin pillars. Light wopod, bamboo, bark and leaves were commonly used construction materials.
No Kenyah or Kayan with just a little self-respect would ever enter such a longhouse. Their longhouses were built with an eye on durability. They were high above the soil, on massive ironwood pillars. Ironwood is very labour-intensive, but it doesn’t decay and is very resistant against bugs. Walls and floors were at least as good. The craftmanship of the Kayan and Kenyah is very clear: cracks between the sometimes 60 meter long ang 90 centimeter wide floor boards are very hard to see. The wood of the floor has been polished by several generations of bare feet.
The roofs of these longhouses were covered with ironwood carrier-beams, strong enough to withstand a heavy monsoon storm. Long ironwood stms with chopped steps served as a stairs. Usually there was a woodcarved dragon-head, meant to scare the bad spirits.
The massive houses of the Kayan show the low mobility of these people. The division of the houses furthermore show that the population was layered. The long veranda was a communal area, but in the division of the rooms show big differences between noble people and the normal people and slaves. The central room was the place for the leader. It was bigger and often higher than the neighboring rooms of other noble families. The village leader and the noblemen had the right to decorate their rooms with special motives. Along both sides of the rooms were the rooms for the normal people. The rooms of slaves were on the outskirts of the longhouses, the most vulnerable spots in case of an attack.
After the independence of Indonesia, the government had the heavy task to create unity in the country, with a communal, Indonesian way. Soon, the Jawanese way was almost forced all over Indonesia. The longhouses didn’t match the Jawanese moral and were concidderred unhygenic.
However there was no formal policy from the Jawanese rulers of Kalimantan that said the Dayak had to leave their longhouses, living in ‘normal’ houses was encouraged in several ways. Which ways depended on local circumstances and the tolerance of the rulers.
This development was part of the ‘civilization offensife’, aimed at the ‘isolated populations’, or the Dayak and Punan. It was meant to be the connection between the ‘retarded bush people’ with the modern life (schools, hospitals) and a civilized behaviour (fixed housing, permanent agriculture, religion, more clothing). By the so-called ‘resettlement projects’, families and sometimes entire villages were forced to move. The bush people were well-known with their civilization-lag, and thousands decided to live somewhere else. This cleared the road for the forestry companies which chopped down big parts of the tropical rainforest, which also paid for these movements.
Over the last 30 years, the government has become increasingly sensitive for the cultural diversity of the country and it’s population. They know the political and economical favours of a more loose pose (tourists are interested in the traditional cultures). The pressure on the Dayak has gone, and is replaced by the maintainance of the longhouses. With a view on tourism, the government of kaltim has used development money (and Dutch support) to rebuilt a longhouse in Mancong.
The big numbers of Kenyah which left Apokayan over the last 40 years, have – partially because of the government policy – not rebuilt their longhouses in their new villages. Instead richly decorated communal houses were built, but they are not used for living and that was a demand of the government.
In Apokayan, the private house is liked, but still many people live in longhouses. The design of the longhouses is changing as well: they have less rooms and are just above the soil. They still have a veranda, decorated with hallucinating paintings and woodcarvings. This also shows that times are changing: the images wear short pants and watches.
Tattoos, earrings and penispins

However dozens of western visitors were impressed by the natural beauty of the Dayak, they didn’t stop there, but they reached a hand to nature. Men and women decorated their bodies extensively with tatoos, pierces their ears and stretched their earlobes to wear as much earrings as possible. Men used the famous penis pin or palang for enlarging the possibilities of the penis.
The stretching of earlobes with the used of heavy metal rings is no longer seen as beautification. In the past the earlobes of women were pierced and loaded when they were very young. During growth, more rings were added and adult women sometimes wore over a hundred earrings. The discomfort – half a kilogram per ear – was of no importance against the impression it made on men. An ethnograph which visited Borneo in the early 20th century, reported that the rupture of an earlobe was seen as a big disgrace. A damaged ear was hidden under the hair of a fabric sheet.
Men also wore a diversity of eardecorations, as well as in stretched earlobes as in holes tghat were made in the upper part of the earshell. A big diversity of objects was put in their ears: from decorated products from rhinocerosbird-ivory and – only for the successfull headhunters – nails and teeth of leopards and bears. Facial hair was seen as improper, even unmale. Dayak men still have the habit to depilate their facial hair.
Tattooing of the body was especially popular among aristocratic men and women. Some tattoes were meant to protect the person from illness, others were signs of proven courage. Among some populations, men who headhunted successfilly, were allowed to wear a tattoo on their throat. The tattoo was painfull, but is raised their status more than the pain could do bad. The motives were printed with a needle on a wooden handle; the most difficult prints needed about 600 hours of work. As color, damar and soot.
The chains and beads raised the status as well. Especially old beads were seen as very precious. A report written around 1930 reports a chain of Venetian beads, property of the Suldan of Kutai, which is said to be worth ‘an entire Dayak-principalty’. The most precious beads, called lukit segala by some Dayak, were round and black, with a white and orange painting.
Penispins Raises Pleasure
The male decoration number one was – and still is in a certain way – the palang. The most simple description of the phenomenon makes clear what it is all about: ‘The Kenyah, a number of Kayan and the Katingan mutilate the male organ by piercing the entire organ and put a piece of copper wire in it.
In the lively ‘Into the Heart of Borneo’, informs Redmond O’Hanlon in his guide about the how and why of the penis pin: ‘When you are twentyfive, too old and not good enough anymore, and your wife has had enough of you, you go to the river early in the morning, and you stay in the water your javelin is really small. Then, the tatto-guy comes and puts a nail in your javelin. Then he puts a pin into it. Sometimes you get big spots, very painfull, an inflammation. Then you will die.’
Already around 1830, John Dalton, tradetraveller in Kaltim, reported the penis pin. Depending on your wealth, a golden, silver, copper or bamboo pin was used. The object was especially popular among the Kenyah in Dutch Borneo, but also got fashionable elsewhere on the island. In Sarawak, the penispin was a fairly modern appearance in 1944, Tom Harrisson reported.
Harrisson was the first palang-expert. He managed to get an uncensored manucript from Pigafetta, the writer from Magellan, from 1521. He expresses his disbelief and contempt of it: ‘I have asked many, young and old, if I could see their penis, because I could not believe it… They say their wifes want it this way and if, they didn’t do it, they didn’t want to have intercourse. When men have intercourse with their wife, they never do it the normal way, but very slowly… When it is inside, they take their normal position and it stays inside until it’s soft again, otherwhise they can’t get it out. The people use this because they have a wear character.’
Harrisson, which slowly admitted he had done the operation himself, continued: ‘The operation on it’s own is nothing more than making a hole in the end of the penis. The hole is filled with bone, bamboo oe other material, so it won’t close again. When the aparatus is taken into use, the owner places the pin. To do that, there is a wide range of objects, pig hair, pieces is metal, seads, beads or broken glass. The purpose is to enlagde the size of the penis in the vagina.’
However these words, the whole palang operation is dangerous, which is done volunteerly with the meaning to raise the sexual pleasure of the woman. This is in sharp contrast with the forces clitorectomy and the closing-up of the vagina, operations which are somewhere else practiced on women.

Kalimantan Eight Museums

West Kalimantan
* Pontianak Museum Negeri
* Pontianak Sintang Dara Juanti Museum
* Kadriyah Palace Museum
Central Kalimantan
* Central Kalimantan Balangga Provincial Museum
South Kalimantan
* South Kalimantan Lambung mangkurat  Provincial Museum
* South Kalimantan Waja Sampai Kaputing Museum
East Kalimantan
* East Kalimantan Mulawarman Provincial Museum
* East Kalimantan Gunung Tabur Museum

West Kalimantan

  Pontianak Museum Negeri

A comprehensive collection of Dayak tribal masks, weapons and musical instruments. The museum lies 1.5km south of the town centre on Jalan Jend A Yani.and tempayan : ceramics (mostly water jugs) from Thailand, China and Borneo dating from the 16th century.

Just round the corner from the museum, on Jalan Sutoyo, is an impressive replica of a Dayak longhouse , over 50m long and 15m high, where you’re free to wander around.

Pontianak Sintang Museum

Dara Juanti Sintang Museum which is the former palace of Sintang kingdom, built in 1937 by Panembahan Raden Abdul Bahri Danu Perdana. The kingdom’s symbol, in the shape of an eagle, is preserved in the museum today together with seven cannons.

Besides the museum, there is also Batu Kundur or Lingga, a monument from Hindu period. Also of interest is a bronze statue or Putung Kempat (Gusar) which is to be found in Pari Empahan, 64 kilometers from Nanga Sepuak. The Dara Juanti Museum lies at the north side of the town. Dara Juanti or Dewi Juanti is the name of a woman descendant of the Raja Sintang Dayak tribe who founded the kingdom and moved the capital from Sepuak to Sintang. She took control of the kingdom after her elder brother, Demang Nutup, titled Sultan Jubair II, was captured and imprisoned on a trip to Majapahit, named Patih Logender. The remainders of the kingdom, including a kris from Majapahit, a sheet of cindai cloth called Gerising Wayang, and the statue of an eagle, are preserved in this museum.

Pontianak Kadriyah Palace Museum

Kadriyah Palace and Sultan Abdurrahman Jami Mosque
The city of Pontianak was founded on 23rd October 1771 by Sultan Syarif Abdurrahman Alkadrie. Some historical inheritances of Pontianak Sultanate are Kadriyah Palace and Sultan Abdurrahman Jami Mosque. Both are located in Dalam Bugis Subdistrict, East Pontianak. It is about 1 km from downtown, and it can be reached overland or through waterways of Kapuas River.

Central Kalimantan

 Balangga Provincial Museum

The Palangka Raya Museum Balanga is laid out in such a way that the visitor moves one by one from the artifacts and customs of birth, childhood, and marriage to death. There are carved birthing stools and inclined benches, slings and hammocks for babies and the delicatedly sequined backdrops and clothing for weddings. An intriguing miniature collection of sandung or bonehouses flanked by their attendant carved guardians is next to the rows of gongs and musical instruments that always accompany traditional rituals. A stunning series of tall, weathered carvings stand together in a group around a Kaharingan altar, an integral part of the faith of the indigenous Dayaks. Collections of masks, mandau or swords and highly prized traded procelain pots and vessels make this small collection a fascinating insight to the unique local culture.

Lambung mangkurat  Provincial Museum

Located In Kotip Banjarbaru, 36 km from Banjarmasin. This Museum is the one museum, which stay in South Kalimantan Province. In this museum we can see the historical objects of the empire omissions of Banjar like traditional custom and decorative wedding-bed of Banjar couple, jars, antique saucers and the other objects history, and it also on file Al Qur’an that written by a famous scholar Moslem hand, late Sheikh Muhammad Arsyad Al Bajari (1710 – 1812 M).

South Kalimantan

Waja Sampai Kaputing Museum

The museum is located at the edge of the river, side by side with kokohnya a bridge that long again large, called the Bridge on May 17, or in more familiar with the bridge Banua Anyar.

In the museum, inaugurated on 10 November 1991, there are more than 400 historical objects in the War of Independence

Mulawarman Provincial Museum

East Kalimantan

The collection of the Mulawarman Museum is not what it used to be. A big number of nice objects has been replaced to the Museum Nasional in Jakarta. Another part has been given to high political leaders. Still, the museum has several things to offer. An example is the high, nicely decorated Dayak totem (belawang) near the entrance, with on top a rhinoceros-bird. The museum contains regalia from the former sultan, among that gamelan-instruments, sacred kris (knives) and nice pieces of clothing. The objects with beads in the royal sleeping room is very special, as well as the chairs made from deer-horn, with images of mythological animals. Furthermore interesting things are the oldest known writings in Indonesia. The texts were written in Pallawan. They tell good about king Mulawarmans generosity during a ritual sacrifice. You should know that the tablets on display are made from paper-mache. The stone originals from the 4th century are in the basement.

The museum contains several examples of Dayak handworks, but best Dayak art is located in a hard-to-find location along the outskirts of the city. There you can also see nice woodcarvings, especially related with the burial-culture of the Benuaq and Tunjung. Behind the garden of the museum is the royal funeral site of the sultans of Kutai. Because islam forbids display of humans and animals, the scene is decorated with flower patterns as well as geometrical patterns and calligraphed quran-texts.

The Mulawarman Museum is opened daily from 10 to 14, but closed on Mondays (as is common in Indonesia). If it is closed during normal times, you can ask for information at the tourist office (office hours) along Jl. Diponegoro 2. A fee will open up the museum for you, also on Mondays.
The beautifull collection porcelain from the former sultan – estimated at US$450,000 in 1910 and inhertited by the museum – can only be seen on Sundays. On other days, the guard can open up for you as long as you pay him to do so. In the main room of the museum, dances can be performed on Sundays. A show can be arranged when paid for, and arranged a few days in advance.
Passenger boats which stop in Tenggarong, will not stop long enough to bring a visit to the museum. Who wants to have a decent look will have to break the trip. With complete packages, a visit is included.

Gunung Tabur Museum

Gunung Tabur Palace now functioning as museum, which is containing of various monarchic relics like chair an empire, bed, ceramic that is including a cannon being found in forest by the first king of Gunung Tabur Palace.

Apokayan Trekking

Duration 14 Days / 13 Nights
Starting every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
Upon arrival at Sepinggan airport in Balikpapan meeting service then transfer by Bus / minibus to Samarinda, check in at Mesra International hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to Long Ampung. On arrival at Long Ampung cruise Kayan River by motor canoe to Lidung Payau. On the way stop at Long Uro to observe Dayak longhouse. Meals and overnight at local house.
After breakfast, start between 5 – 7 hours trekking to Sungai Barang to observe Dayak Kenyah, with the long ears and traditional way of life. All meals provided at long house.
After simple breakfast early in the morning, by motor canoe up river sungai Barang afterwards trekking through the rainforest of the Apokayan to the Boh River . All meals provided, overnight at base camp in the forest.
After breakfast, downstream Boh River to Mahakam River passing rapids, meals on the way, overnight at local house.
After simple breakfast by Longboat downstream Mahakam River passing rapids. On the way you will see fascinating rocks, mountain and prime forest along of the river. Meals provided enroute and overnight at Local house.
In the morning by boat downstream Mahakam River to Tering, Arrival at Tering direct transfer by car to Barong Tongkok. Overnight at Losmen.
Early in the morning drive and visit Eheng Long house, afternoon proceed to Melak and take Long Boat downstream to Kota Bangun. Overnight at Losmen.
In the morning drive to Tenggarong to visit the former palace of Sultan Kutai Kertanegara. Where you will see the Sultan’s impressive collection of heirlooms, ceramics, Dayak’s art and culture items. Afterwards continue drive to Balikpapan . Overnight at Mutiara Hotel.
Breakfast, free at leisure until departure time then transfer to Sepinggan airport for your flight next destination.


Duration 18 Days / 17 Nights
Upon arrival at Sepinggan airport in Balikpapan meeting service then transfer by Bus / minibus to Samarinda, check in at Mesra International hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to Long Ampung. On arrival at Long Ampung cruise Kayan River by motor canoe to Lidung Payau. On the way stop at Long Uro to observe Dayak longhouse. Meals and overnight at local house.
After breakfast, start between 5 – 7 hours trekking to Sungai Barang to observe Dayak Kenyah, with the long ears and traditional way of life. All meals provided at long house.
After simple breakfast early in the morning, start trekking through the rainforest of the Apokayan to the Boh River . All meals provided, overnight at base camp in the forest.
After breakfast, downstream Boh River to Mahakam River passing rapids, meals on the way, overnight at local house.
After simple breakfast full day trip by long boat cruise up Mahakam River through the rapids. On the way you will see fascinating rocks, mountain and prime forest along of the river. Meals provided enroute and overnight at Local house.
After breakfast, short sightseeing in Tiong Ohang Village , afterwards cruise the river proceed to Long Apari. On the way you will see beautiful flora & fauna at both sides of the river. In this remote area you may see some of the Dayak people with long ears. Meals provided enroute overnight at local house.
Day 12 & Day 13: LONG APARI, Surrounding, Long Pahangai (BLD)
Early morning after breakfast, whole day trek to the prime forest & hunting with the Dayaks, Late afternoon return to the village for overnight. The next day downstream Mahakam River by motor canoe / long boat to Long Pahangai, arrive in the afternoon, meals provided, evening free at leisure, overnight at local house.
After simple breakfast in the morning by Long boat downstream Mahakam River passing rapids. On the way you will see fascinating rocks, mountain and prime forest along of the river. Meals provided enroute and overnight at Local house.
In the morning by boat downstream Mahakam River to Tering, Arrival at Tering direct transfer by car to Barong Tongkok. Overnight at Losmen.
Early in the morning drive and visit Eheng Long house, afterwards proceed to Melak for downstream to Kota Bangun. Overnight at Losmen.
In the morning drive to Tenggarong for visit the former palace of Sultan Kutai Kertanegara . Where you will see the Sultan’s impressive collection of heirlooms, ceramics, Dayak’s art and culture items. Afterwards continue drive to Balikpapan . Overnight at Mutiara Hotel.

Apokayan Hinterland Duration : 6 Days / 5 Nights

Day 1: Balikpapan, Samarinda (D)
Upon arrival at Sepinggan airport in Balikpapan meeting service then transfer by Bus / minibus to Samarinda, check in at Mesra International hotel.
Day 2: Samarinda, Long Ampung, Long Uro, Lidung Payau (BLD)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to Long Ampung. On arrival at Long Ampung cruise up Kayan River by motor canoe to Lidung Payau. On the way stop at Long Uro for sightseeing and observe their traditional activities, longhouse, etc. Meals and overnight at local house.
Day 3: Lidung Payau, Sungai Barang (BLD)
After breakfast, hiking between 5 to 7 hours to Sungai Barang to see the long ears Dayak Kenyah, their traditional houses and their way of life. All meals provided at longhouse.
Day 4: Sungai Barang, Lidung Payau, Long Uro, Long Ampung (BLD )
Early in the morning, return to Lidung Payau through prime forest, upon arrival continue by motor canoe cruise Kayan River to Long Ampung. Meals and overnight at local house.
Day 5: Long Ampung, Samarinda (BLD)
After breakfast, explore the village until departure time to Samarinda, Check – in at Mesra International Hotel.
Day 6: Samarinda, Balikpapan (B)
Breakfast, free at leisure, until departure transfer to Balikpapan Airport for your next destination.

Tanjung Isuy & Mancong Tour

Duration : 4 Days / 3 Nights

DAY 1: Balikpapan, Samarinda, Mahakam ( LD)
Upon arrival at Balikpapan airport, meeting service and transfer to Loa Janan, to board houseboat for exciting adventure on Mahakam river. Meals provided and overnight on houseboat.
DAY 2: Muara Muntai, Tanjung Isuy, Mancong (BLD)
Jempang Lake to Tanjung Isuy by motor canoe. Arrival at Tanjung Isuy welcomed with a traditional ceremony by the Dayaq Benuaq. Afterwards by motor canoe to Mancong. During the cruise you could see wildlife at Ohong creek like monkey’s and birds. Afternoon return to Tanjung Isuy for Overnight at Longhouse.
DAY 3: Tanjung Isuy, Tenggarong, Samarinda (BLD)
Early in the morning downstream by houseboat to Tenggarong. Arrive at Tenggarong, visiting the former palace of Sultan Kutai Kertanegara. Where you will see the Sultan’s impressive collection of heirlooms, ceramics, Dayak’s art and culture items. Afterwards return to houseboat for downstream to Samarinda, check in at Mesra International Hotel.
DAY 4: Samarinda, Balikpapan (B)
Breakfast, free at leisure, and enjoy the hotel atmosphere, soaking up the pool until departure transfer to Balikpapan Airport for your next destination.


Nice villages visit along the way from Loksado to Haratai. Can mingle with locals who take doggies and piggies as pets. Locals addressed piggies as gunik. And greenery forests during trekking. Tropical and rainforest vegetations along the way. Loksado is a small town about 5 hours ride from Banjarmasin, the capital city of South Kalimantan. Or about 3 hours from Marabahan. From Loksado, travelers can start trekking to Meratus Mountaineous Range with itinerary Loksado-Malaris-Haratai. With additional attraction bamboo rafting in Amandit river. Trekking from Loksado to Haratai is nice, especially if the time close to sunset and evening. Passes wooden bridge and forests and small rivers and several villages. And the evening sky showing thousand stars that feel so close to the earth. And in Haratai, you can stay with locals. If you’re lucky, you can witnessing the locals who are still have Hinduism beliefs [called Hindu Kaharingan] arrange a ceremony called Jujuran. A pre-wedding procession where both sides of bride and groom doing Beruji in Indonesian so called pantun or poem in English] for a dealing about expenses should be paid for the wedding ceremony. This Jujuran can take all night long! With intermission traditional music and song using drums in trance conditions. This event will be held in a communal house, which connected with several families’ houses from the same ancestor.
4 Days / 3 Nights Day 01 :
Meet at Banjarmasin. Free at own leisure.
Early morning, leave to floating market, then proceed to Cempaka village to see traditional diamond mining and polishing, next proceed to Loksado to visit village and longhouse of Meratus Dayak. overnight at lodge. (B, L, D)
Going to forest to cut bamboos and set the bamboo raft with villagers, then do the bamboo rafting crossing mount Kantawan and tropical forest on riverside. The bus will wait on the downstream to transfer to Banjarmasin. Overnight at hotel.(B, L, D)
Transfer to airport. Tour end. (B)


7 Days / 6 Nights
Meet at airport. Free at own leisure.
Early in the morning leave to floating market to watch people trading boat to boat, then proceed to Cempaka village to see traditional diamond mining and polshing. Next, visiting Pandak Daun village to see water buffaloes return to the stall. Afterwards, leaving to Loksado. Overnight on lodge.(B, L, D)
Trekking to Loksado crossing secondary forest, then continue trekking to Pamandian Anggang waterfall crossing forest, hanging bridges, longhouses and farms. overnight in bivouac.(B, L, D) Day 04 : WATERFALL – KADAYANG VIRGIN FOREST
Trekking to Waja village passing waterfall, farms, rivers. Next continue trekking to Masiban virgin forest crossing rivers, suspended bamboo bridges, longhouses, forests and hills. Overnight in monitoring tower at the virgin forest (b,l,d)
Exploring the forest, then proceed to Kadayang village, then return to Loksado through different trail., Afterwards, proceed to lodge by bamboo rafting for 2,5 hours approximately.(B, L, D)
Get the bamboo rafting crossing Mount Kantawan and tropical forest on riverside, the bus will wait on the downstream to transfer to Banjarmasin. Overnight in hotel (B, L, D)
Transfer to airport for next destination. (B)

7 days Gunung Palung National Park

Day 01 : Pontianak – Arrival (D)
Upon arrival, meeting service and then transfer to your hotel. Dinner at local restaurant. Accommodation at hotel.
Day 02 : Pontianak – Ketapang – Telok Melane (BLD)
Early in the morning depart to Ketapang by flight , the on to Teluk Melano by coach. Overnight at a simple accommodation.
Day 03 : Telok Melane – Gunung Palung National Park (BLD)
Depart to Semanjak by motorized boat, then by rowing boat along Meandering river to Gunung Palung National park. Stay at the base camp depend on river condition.
Day 04 : Gunung Palung National Park
Jungle trekking, birds watching, seeing different types of ecosystem with different flora and fauna (see orang utan if we are lucky).
Day 05 : Gunung Palung National Park – Melano (BLD)
Depart early morning same route to Telok Melano (the return journey will be faster following the stream). Late afternoon, take a long boat to Kampung Baru to see proboscis monkeys soaring on trees by the river. Stay overnight at Telok Melano.
Day 06 : Telok Melano – Pontianak (BLD)
Take an express boat to return to Pontianak. Transfer to hotel.
Day 07 : Pontianak – Departure (B)
After breakfast transfer to the airport for your next destination flight.


Depart from Balikpapan 09.,00 leaving for Loajanan for boarding the house boat for exciting Mahakam river. Lunch, dinner and overnight on boat.
dayak longhouse, mahakam river, borneo
after breakfast on boat stop at Muara muntai for observing the way of the people life at wooden village then continue the trip by motorized canoe over Jempang Lake and passing a beautiful views along the river for reaching Tanjung Isuy and continue by motor for Mancong for grand long house. On arrival welcome ceremony will be performed by Dayak Banuaq tribe in front of their Long house and return to the house boat cruise up for Melak. Lunch box, dinner and overnight on boat.
Breakfast on your boat then fullday excursion by car for visiting Eheng village for old communal long house , and then you may have oppurtunity for jungle trekkng to observe the huge trees, the return to KersikLuway for Black Orchid forest waterfall then back to the boat down river. Lunch , dinner and overnight on boat.
Breakfast on your boat then visisting to the Museum and Royal cemetery at Tenggarong then down river for Loajanan and proceed to Balikpapan .
Breakfast at hotel then transfer to the airport for next destination.

Mount Kelam Expedition Tour

07Days / 06Nights
Day 01 : Pontianak – Arrival (D)
Upon your arrival at Supadion airport of Pontianak (West Borneo – Indonesia), our local representative will meet and greet you at the airport. Transfer to your hotel for accommodation check in. All your meals provided. Rest of your day free at leisure.
Day 02 : Pontianak – Sintang (BLD)
Assemble at the lobby, then depart for Sintang by small aircraft, Cesna 02 engines with maximum capacity of 9 pax. From the air you can see the Kapuas River criss-cross through the green sprawling landscape. On arrival, you will be transferred to a simple hotel. Sintang is a small town divided into three parts by Kapuas River and Melawi River, Sintang town-Shopping area, Sintang Tanjung Puri-Government area and Sintang Kampung Raja-now used as the Dara Juanti Museum. Dinner will be provided at local restaurant.
Day 03 : Sintang – Kebiau River (BLD)
Today we take a small boat to go upsteam the Kapuas River enjoying the water traffic and the scenic river. The trip will take full day to arrive at a small river of Keliau and set up a tent to stay overnight.
Day 04 : Kebiau River – Sabang Laja – Ensait (BLD)
Today we continue our boat trip to Sabang Laja Village and then on foot following tracks to Ensait Panjang. There are two Ensait Long-houses : Ensait Panjang and Ensait Pendek, situated at a distance. We pass through Ensait Pendek and stay overnight in Ensait Panjang. Dinner will be served together with the community and hospitality with the chief. Here we can see how they traditionally weave clothes, plait baskets, etc. and how the natives live in harmony.
Day 05 : Ensait Panjang – Bukit Kelam (BLD)
Taking an “oplet” (public transport) to Kelam Hill. The peak of Kelam Hill can be reached within 05 hours’ climb. Overnight at the peak and for those who cannot climb they can stay overnight at the foot of the hill.
Day 06 : Kelam Hill – Sintang (BLD)
By public transport we return to Sintang to relax after a few days tiring trips. In the evening, farewell with the guides.
Day 07 : Sintang – Pontianak – Departure (B)
Transfer to airport for departure to your next destination via Pontianak

Serimbu Rapids Adventure 6D/5N

Day 01 Airport – Kampung Saham – Longhouse (L-D)
Meeting service upon arrival at the Airport, transfer to the Longhouse located at Kampung Saham Approximately 2,5 hours drive. Overnight stay in the longhouse. The natives entertain us with their traditional meals and drinks. Meanwhile, the cultural dances will be performed and we may listen to the songs and typical sound of drums.
Day 02 Kampung Saham – Ngabang – Temoyok (B-L-D)
After breakfast, depart for Ngabang then go upriver by motorboat through challenging rapids ; Riam Pulau. Feel the thrills as our boat is being tugged by other motorboat to enable us to pass through the rapids. We will encounter another more challenging rapids: Riam Panjang where we have to get off boat and pull the boat across the rapids with all our might . Stay overnight in the Temoyok village to relieve our tiredness and gain strength for the next days challenge (it depends on river condition, if it is not possible then we have to stay overnight at Kuala Behe).
Day 03 Temoyok – Serimbu (B-L-D)
After breakfast , going upriver by our motorboat to continue our rapids adventure, along the way we can see the natives are seeking for diamonds/golds in the river in a traditional way. By permission, you may participate to pan gold by the river, After that ride along the most challenging and the most feared rapids; Riam Jambu before we arrive at a little village ; Serimbu. Stay overnight .
Day 04 Serimbu – Malanggar Waterfall – Serimbu (B-L-D)
After breakfast, a two-hour boat ride along a tiny shallow meandering river full of pointed rock will lead us to a starting place for our jungle trekking. Trek through the jungle and stop by Malanggar waterfall where we take rest . After lunch we continue our jungle walk through a steep hill where we have to climb up with the only rope available. It takes another one-hour walk to a place where our boat is waiting to take us back to Serimbu.
Day 05 Serimbu – Ngabang – Pontianak (B-L-D)
Early morning we return to Ngabang using our motorboat. Feel the different excitement as we go down stream passing through the rapids we encountered the previous day. On arrival at Ngabang we return to Pontianak by coach.
Day 06 Pontianak – Departure

National Parks

Go to my site Indonesia National Parks

Illegal Mining Kalimantan

Illegal Mining, Kalimantan

Illegal Mining, Kalimantan

Illegal Mining, Kalimantan

Traditional miners pan for gold at a mine in Hampalit, Central Kalimantan

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 9:48 AM MINING GOLD:
. A gold miner stands waist-deep in a polluted pond, dumps a capful of mercury into a bucket of ore and mixes it in with his bare hands.
The darting liquid metal wraps itself around the gold to form a silver pellet the size of a marble. The use of mercury in gold mining is illegal in Indonesia because it is toxic to both human health and the environment. But the price of gold has tripled since 2001, and mercury is the easiest way to extract it.

“Of course I’m worried,” said miner Handoko, 23, a grim man in a baseball hat who goes by one name. “But this is the job.”

Tens of thousands of remote mining sites have sprung up mostly in Asia, Latin America and Africa, using as much as 1,000 tons of mercury each year. The mercury ravages the nervous system of miners and their families. It also travels thousands of miles in the atmosphere, settling in oceans and river beds in Europe and North America and moving up the food chain into fish.

Small-scale gold mining is the second-worst source of mercury pollution in the world, after the burning of fossil fuels. And Indonesia ranks behind only China in the use of mercury in gold mining.

Mercury’s impact is evident in mining regions like Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. Acres of tropical forest are now virtual desert. Villagers say fish populations have dropped by 70 percent. The Galangan gold mining site stretches several miles, stripped of trees and dotted with mercury-laced ponds.

“This area is finished,” said Fauzi Achmad, a gold shop owner, as he drove past the moonscape-like dunes and abandoned mine sites.

Despite the hazards, buying mercury at gold mining sites is as easy as purchasing toothpaste. The international trade in mercury is largely unregulated. And most of the 55 countries where small-scale gold mining is rife lack the political will or capacity to prevent the toxic metal from falling into the hands of 10 to 15 million poor miners.

“The continued use of mercury in gold mining threatens millions of people all over the world, since mercury is a global air pollutant,” said Michael Bender, a coordinator for the Zero Mercury Working Group, a coalition of 40 groups worldwide that campaigns to reduce mercury use. “We’re talking about a neurotoxin that science clearly shows threatens pregnant women, their fetus and those who eat large amounts of fish.” –

TOWING A GOLDEN BOAT: A traditional gold miner tows a boat at a mine on Takaras river in Kasongan, Central Kalimantan. AP/Dita AlangkaraTOW, ROW YOUR BOAT: A traditional gold miner tows a boat at a mine on Takaras river in Kasongan, Central Kalimantan. AP/Dita Alangkara
The use of mercury in gold mining goes back thousands of years. The Romans forced slaves and criminals to extract gold and silver with mercury.

By the 20th century, mining companies had abandoned mercury in favor of chemicals like cyanide. But small-scale miners like it because it’s easy to use, fast, cheap and leaves the gold cleaner than traditional panning.

“The miner cannot be separated from the mercury,” said Achmad, the gold shop owner, who has campaigned to persuade miners to use less mercury. “With mercury, it makes the work fast.”

Traders once relied on mercury from Spain, Algeria, China and Kyrgyzstan, but most mines are now shut and China only supplies its own market. So mercury comes from the leftover stockpiles of shuttered mines or the dozens of companies in Europe and the United States that recycle the metal from old light bulbs, batteries or industrial waste, according to the U.N. and the Zero Mercury Working Group.

Flasks of mercury worth hundreds of dollars are sold into an opaque and largely unregulated network of brokers who crisscross the globe, according to Peter Maxson, a Brussels-based expert on the trade. They divert mercury supplied for legal purposes to the gold mines instead, where it can fetch prices 10 times higher than on the global market, he said.

“Countries import several hundred times the mercury they need for dental and other legal uses,” said Pablo Huidobro, project manager for the U.N. Industrial Development Organization’s Global Mercury Project. “The excess makes its way to the miners through the black market.”

Maxson and other experts said it can be almost impossible to track the liquid metal as it passes through brokers and even criminal gangs on its way to a gold mine. A flask of mercury can originate in Spain, be sold to brokers in India, go on to popular transit points like Singapore or Vietnam and then get dumped in Indonesia.

The United States alone exported nearly 498 tons of mercury in 2007, up from 378 tons in 2006. It mostly was sent to Canada, Suriname, Hong Kong and Mexico, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The whole trade has gone underground in the last five to 10 years. It’s very secretive,” Maxson said. “The companies dealing mercury won’t tell you who their customers or even who the end users are.”

Experts in the trade say D.F.G. Mercury Corp. and Bethlehem Apparatus are among the top suppliers of mercury worldwide. Robert Goldsmith, president of D.F.G. Mercury Corp. of Evanston, Ill., said he sells his mercury domestically but acknowledged it can be difficult to determine what happens to it. Bruce Lawrence, president of Bethlehem Apparatus in Hellertown, Pa., declined to discuss the trade. On its Web site, Bethlehem describes itself as a global supplier of prime virgin and high purity mercury.

Mercury traders say it’s unfair to blame them for what happens at gold mining sites.

“If people don’t want mercury to be used in artisanal gold mining areas, particularly in China, Indonesia and Souh America, then they should stop importing it,” said Howard Masters, the managing director of Lambert Metals International, a British company that sells 25,000 to 30,000 flasks of mercury yearly worldwide.

“It is up to the governments themselves, as all imports into these countries are only allowable undr license,” he said. “But don’t stop genuine consumption of mercury around the world, where it has very good uses and is not an environmental problem when used correctly.”

Marc Claushuis, director of the Dutch firm Claushuis Metals, which sells 200 tons of mercury each year to Latin America, Africa andEurope, expressed frustration over his inability to control its use.

“Of course, I feel unhappy … You send your end product to countries where you know it gets a lot of pollution,” he said. “There is not so much you can do.”

Once in Indonesia, mercury is trafficked through chemical shops in big ities like Surabaya or Jakarta and transported to mine sites in energy drink and vitamin bottles to avoid detection. It ends up beind the counters of gold shops in Central Kalimantan, Papua and North Sulawesi.

Indonesia periodically tears down illegal gold mining camps and slapped a ban on mercury use in mining three years ago, but mercury prices then doubled. Irwanto Thomas, a government environmental official in Central Kalimantan,acknowledged that mercury is widely used and will remain so until miners have better opportunities.

“They ask what job we can provide them,” Thomas said. “Until now, the government has not provided them with an answer.”

TOILING UP A GOLD LAND: Traditional gold miners use a high-pressure water jet to blast through soil at a mine in Hampalit, Central Kalimantan. AP/Dita AlangkaraTOILING UP A GOLD LAND: Traditional gold miners use a high-pressure water jet to blast through soil at a mine in Hampalit, Central Kalimantan. AP/Dita Alangkara


The dusty main street of the Indonesian gold mining town of Kerengpang is lined with dozens of gold shops. It takes only a gentle inquiry to send a shop owner scurrying to a back room for the mercury.

“Sometimes, I sell mercury to the miners or just give it to them for free,” said gold shop owner Rachmadi, who also trades gold for mercury.

Mercury is easily found at mst mining sites worldwide. In Africa, miners buy it in small plastic bags stored in Tupperware containers or Vitamin C tubes. In Peru, it is sold in dental shops.

In gold mines, as much as one to three grams of mercury are lost for every gram of gold produced. But mercury is a slow and silent killer, so miners scoff at health concerns. They recall how they breathed mercury fumes or handled the toxic liquid for years with no problems. Some Indonesian miners have even smeared mercury on their skin in the belief it will make them stronger, according to a U.N. report.

“Sometimes the gold and mercury gets into my mouth,” said Sumardianto, a jovial 36-year-old miner who has dug for gold in Central Kalimantan since 1996 and lives in a tented camp with his wife. “I’m OK. I don’t have any illnesses. I don’t worry about using mercury.”

Numbers of people killed or disabled by mercury are impossible to nail down, experts say. But tests on miners in Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia, Guyana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Brazil found mercury levels up to 50 times above World Health Organization limits, according to a 2006 U.N. report. Symptoms such as reduced motor skills, fatigue and weight loss are routine at mining sites, the U.N. said. Gold shop owners also breathe the mercury vapor they burn off.

The U.N. has spent $7 million in six countries, including Indonesia, to educate miners and gold shops about mercury. The European Union agreed earlier this year to ban mercury exports from 2011. And President George W. Bush signed a bill in October sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama, now president-elect, that bans all elemental mercury exports by 2013.

Mercury recyclers argued that bans would promote the mining of more mercury and shift the export trade from Western countries to developing nations like India.

Already, 83 percent of mercury in the U.S. is believed to come from abroad, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and 44 states have issued health advisories about eating contaminated fish.

“What is motivating governments at the highest level is a strong recognition that mercury is a global pollutant,” said Kevin Telmer, an expert on small-scale mining at the University of Victoria in Canada. “It’s clear that small-scale mining is adding to the global mercury problem.”

Associated Press writers Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta, Jorge Sainz in Madrid and Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

Illegal Mining Has Reached Unprecedented Levels

Illegal mining has reached unprecedented levels, harming legitimate companies and putting the economy and environment at risk
Issue cover-dated July 13, 2000
THEY COME EQUIPPED with scores of excavators and more than 500 trucks. Their backers have wealth and influence. They have been known to cajole and threaten. Over the past two years they have taken illegal mining to an unprecedented level, pillaging three million tonnes of coal alone from the two South Kalimantan concessions run by Australian mining company Broken Hill Proprietary. BHP is the biggest but by no means only victim of a phenomenon that has swept Indonesia since the economy nose-dived three years ago. The government estimates there are 62,000 illegal miners across the country, twice the number working legally. Mines and Energy Minister Bambang Yudhoyono told parliament recently that annual losses amounted to 30 tonnes of gold, four million tonnes of coal, 2,800 carats of diamonds and 3,600 tonnes of tin concentrate. Even without tax and royalties, the export value is more than $150 million. Government officials are frank about the problem. They acknowledge that miners are being funded or backed by local and regional financiers, military officials, bureaucrats and other powerful interests–and supported by a network of international buyers. Organized illegal operations are meanwhile being passed off as “indigenous mining,” providing a veneer of legitimacy that distracted environmental activists are willing to accept. Meanwhile, Jakarta seems unable to act against newly emboldened regional power-holders who collude with the illegal operators and criticize central government for siding with foreign mining companies. As with illegal logging, which costs Indonesia $2 billion in lost revenue a year, the benefits are shared by a few.

These developments bode ill for the spread of local autonomy.  Short-sighted provincial officials scrambling to line their own pockets ignore the damage to the economy and environment of their provinces. “The political and bureaucratic elite join together with the private elite; they get power and they can do what they like,” says the government’s director-general for mines, Surna Djajadiningrat. State-owned mining businesses are also affected. In West Sumatra, coal-miner Bukit Assam recently expelled thousands of industrially equipped miners from its Ombilin mine. In West Java, Aneka Tambang says it has whittled down the number of illegals at its Pongkor gold mine to 1,000. On Bangka and Belitung islands, off Sumatra’s southeast coast, tin giant Tambang Timah has a different problem: Singaporean buyers, working for Malaysian smelters, try to undercut the prices the company pays to its 300 contractors.

Elsewhere, authorities in Central Kalimantan have finally cleared illegal miners from Aurora Gold’s Mount Muro mine–two months after President Abdurrahman Wahid issued a decree instructing officials to deal with illicit mining “in a functional and comprehensive manner.” But another 5,000 miners and migrant ancillary workers still occupy the company’s promising gold deposit east of the North Sulawesi capital of Manado. Until the local administration expels them, the mine can’t open, executives say.

Government officials, industry experts and researchers agree that illicit mining is most serious in South Kalimantan, where it involves official connivance in everything from the falsification of documents to the protection and sanctioning of the mining and transport of coal. Researchers say some of the excavators and trucks come from former President Suharto’s failed $3 billion rice-growing project in Central Kalimantan. Other equipment belongs to the regional government or to
scores of small-time construction contractors whose businesses have been left idle by the economic crisis.

Along the banks of the Barito River, where it flows through the canal-laced South Kalimantan provincial capital of Banjarmasin, mounds of illegally mined coal lie on giant 5,000-tonne barges and in dockside stockpiles. Coal looted from BHP’s Satui and Senakin pits is shipped out from Sangai Danau on the eastern coast, and even through a state-owned
port lying next to BHP’s Pulau Laut coal terminal. Barges lug the coal to South Sulawesi and Java, or transfer it to ships anchored off the coast for delivery to overseas markets.

Officials and experts say the illegal operators use falsified quality and export documents from firms that own barren concessions far away from where the coal is actually mined. Some companies engaged in the illegal trade hold permits that allow them to sell only bulk samples–which in some cases are as big as 100,000 tonnes. Many firms are licensed for exploration, not exploitation.There’s no way to stop it,” sighs Satui mine boss Sumarwoto, unfolding a map showing 81 illegal mining sites along the remaining half of BHP’s 14-kilometre coal seam. “Everybody shifts responsibility to someone else. We have enough regulations, but not enough enforcement.” Not only has the expected life of the Satui mine been slashed by five years but also the illegal operators are damaging the environment. And they play havoc with the mine by stripping off the top 10 metres of coal–the only part their equipment can reach–and leaving the hole to fill up with water.India, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines are the main overseas markets, accounting for about 80% of the illegal coal, which sells for as much as $8 less than the market price of $19 to $20 a tonne. Domestic customers include state enterprises, as well as dozens of private companies. Surna, the mines director-general, says he has written to the state-owned Paiton power plant and a South Sulawesi cement factory warning them not to use illegally mined coal. But he and others acknowledge that because of falsified papers, firms aren’t always aware of the origins of the coal they buy.New to the job, Surna is candid in acknowledging the role of the cash-strapped Indonesian military. He recalls being telephoned by three-star generals asking him to go easy on this or that company. Sometimes callers warn him to be careful. “I ask them to come to my office to talk to me face to face, but they never come,” he says.Researchers from the privately funded National Academy of Technical Development say individual military officers protect the enterprises rather than get directly involved. They trace the history of the problem back to the mid-1990s, when illegal miners forced Taiwanese firm Chung Hwa off its deposit near Binuang, across the Meratus mountains from Satui. When that mine started to run out, operations moved into BHP’s area and later accelerated.Thus far there are no answers to the problem. President Wahid’s decree calls on the police chief and attorney-general to take “stern legal action” against anyone involved in illegal mining–“both government apparatus and community members.” But it also seeks to recognize the rights of indigenous miners and calls on legal mining firms to provide more help to local communities. In South Kalimantan and other areas, however, the hard part is going to be cutting the umbilical cord between the miners and their influential backers.


Mercury Timebomb


An ecological disaster looms over North Sulawesi’s Minahasa Peninsula. Rampant illegal gold mining is pouring hundreds of tonnes of mercury into the environment. The deadly flow threatens to undermine the economy, contaminate food crops and leave a horrifying health problem for future generations.

Driven by populism and greed, local officials either turn a blind eye to the problem or play an active part in its making. Researchers have identified a police officer as the owner of one of hundreds of crude mills, or trommels, that use mercury to separate gold from ore.The head of the government’s North Sulawesi environmental bureau merely distributes posters showing how to handle mercury, which attacks the central nervous system and causes appalling genetic disorders.

Preoccupied with foreign mining firms, Walhi, the country’s largest environmental group, pays scant attention to the issue. The one organization that does, tiny Manado-based Yayasan Bina Cipta AquaTech, puts the number of illegal miners in North Sulawesi at 22,000, spread over five or six different sites. Among them are 1,500 working on Australian mining company Aurora Gold’s Talawaan gold concession, where more than 100 trommels are in operation. Samples from the Talawaan River–used by residents for domestic purposes and fish-ponds–show mercury levels 70 times higher than the internationally accepted limit for drinking water.

YBCA co-director Inneke Rumengan says miners complain of trembling and stomach and head pains: “They know the mercury is bad for them, but they don’t know how bad.” Robert Lee, of the overseas-based Wildlife Conservation Society, says miners in parts of the Bone Dumogg National Park are letting mercury-tainted water seep into the Gorantalo city catchment area.According to the Bureau of Statistics, mercury imports reached 62 tonnes last year, up from five tonnes in 1996. But people familiar with mining and environmental issues say illegal mining consumes as much as 200 tonnes of mercury annually in Talawaan alone.

That compares with the 60 tonnes of methyl mercury dumped between 1920 and the mid-1960s in Minamata, Japan, scene of the world’s worst case of mercury contamination. Methyl mercury is more easily absorbed than metallic mercury, but the effects are the same, particularly if trommel operators breath in the toxic fumes during the final burn-off. Says a metallurgist: “They simply have no idea how dangerous that is.”Miners get little reward for their huge risks. They use mercury during initial crushing to extract about 35% of the gold from each 20-kilogram load of ore. When the miner has gone, the trommel owner draws out the rest.

—– End of forwarded message from Nabiha Zain Muhamad ——–

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