The best way to enjoy the company of Bornean Orangutan and visit Tanjung Puting National Park, is no doubts hiring a Klotok, a wooden traditional boat retrofitted to satisfy tourist's needs.
The accommodation is not luxurious, but really practical and at direct contact with the nature around. There is a bottom deck where the crew is working and sleeping, and a top deck where the tourists are spending their time. Here meals and snacks are served on the dining area, where there is free tea and coffee available all day long, and at night the top deck is transforming on the sleeping quarter with a king size mattress and a mosquito net.
There are no cabins and the boats are open on the sides to allow visibility towards the forest, but in case of heavy rain they can be completely closed with removable tarps. The best place to stay is probably the front "terrace", where to enjoy the show of Mother Nature passing by. A basic toilet on the back (ours was western style) is shared with the crew members and there is an Indonesian style shower with a bucket and river water.
While it's possible to arrange for a trip directly in Kumai, the easiest way is to contact in advance a local agency, guide or boat owner, that will make all the necessary arrangements and make sure that at your arrival everything will be ready: entrance permit, food for the total lengths of stay, boat crew, etc.
The most usual trip involve staying on the water for 3 days and 2 nights, but longer or shorter stays can be agreed upon according to the visitor's needs.
The facilities offered on board and the prices are really similar among the different companies, so it's better to choose according to availability and reliability. Prices might become much higher if the tour is bought abroad through a Western Agency taking an hefty commission, rather then locally.
Our tour was organized by "Borneo Wisata Permai Tours and Travel", a company from Pangkalan Bun, on the Kingfisher boat, directly owned by the CEO Mr. Hary. During our trip we saw many orangutans at the feeding stations, spotted Proboscis Monkeys and other wildlife along the river, and ate copious amount of delicious food respecting our requirements (vegetarian).
[We will soon write another article describing in detail our experience during these 3 days with a report of our visit to Tanjung Puting National Park].
Cost for hiring a Klotok
A standard Klotok tour along Sekonyer River usually include:
- Full board Meals;
- Boat hire and fuel;
- English Speaking Tour Guide;
- Cook, Captain and assistant salaries;
- Rangers fees;
- Soft drinks and Bottled Drinkable water;
- Tea, Coffee and Snacks;
- Camera fee;
- Boat Parking;
- Entrance permit;
- Transfer in and out, from harbour to guest's accommodation and viceversa (we arranged an home-stay in Kumai through our tour company).
Be careful with prices found in guidebooks like Lonely Planet and always double check them: they are not updated, as it's normal since they are published every few years. Recently the Indonesian Government decided to reduce the subsidy for the fuel, making the prices of the gasoline rise quite quickly. Better to check blog posts or recent forum discussions for updated quotes on the boat prices.
As a reference at the beginning of 2015, these were the prices offered by "Borneo Wisata":
- Boat 700,000Rp per day x 3 days
- Cook 100.000 per pax/3 days
- Food 400,000 per person
- Guide 300,000Rp per day
- Registration 250,000Rp per person per day
- Camera (one-time fee) 100.000
- Boat Parking (one-time fee) = 100,000
- Transportion 400.000 for 2 people
Consider that these prices are an estimate, and they can change according to the size of the boat hired and if the tour is organized during Low or High Season.
Route and stops inside Tanjung Puting National Park
Orangutans Tours usually starts from Kumai, an interesting town on the seaside of Central Kalimantan (South of Borneo) where visitors are welcomed and brought in the harbour to their klotok.
The trip starts on the sea, sailing to the south for 10 minutes, before entering Sekonyer River. Here sea water is ascending the flow with high tide, creating a good environment for the growth of salty water Nipa palms, that are bordering the sides of this portion of the water way, and are a good place to spend the night with many fireflies, making the sleep magical.
Going further up along the water, the first stop after about 2 hours of navigation is at Tanjung Harapan on the east bank of the river. Here was previously found Sekonyer Village, moved in 1970 and relocated exactly in front of the Rehabilitation center. In Tanjung Harapan there is an Orangutan Center and a feeding station where Orangutans and other wild guests, are usually fed at 3 PM. The village on the opposite bank is a quiet series of cottages aligned along a single road decorated with palms. Going up on Sekonyer River, the water route is bordered by many side accesses leading to palm oil plantations nearby. Napa palms start to disappear, and the vegetation is slowly turning into forest.
Next stop is Pondok Tangguy, is a newly created rehabilitation center with feeding time at 9:00 AM every day.
After Pondok Tanguy the klotok will enter on the right branch of the Sekonyer river, where the water will turn visibly color, passing from a brownish foggy color due to coal mines upriver, to a crystalline deep color.
The last and most famous station is Camp Leakey, accessible through a long and pleasant wooden board-walk passing through the flooded forest. Feeding time is at 2 PM and visitors here fill up the "audience" area, hoping to see the star of this camp: the big alpha male Tom.
This is the standard tour that every agency is offering, but it's possible to stay an extra day to visit the reforestation project in Pesalat Camp where the guest can plant a tree, or to choose an overnight stay at Rimba Lodge or to go for a night trek to see nocturnal wildlife during dry season.
While we described the stations while coming from Kumai, the tours might not follow the same order. Usually guides choose the location where to stop for the night, according to mobile network coverage in case of emergency and schedule of the next day activities.
If your priority is to see the Bornean Orangutan, then visiting Tanjung Puting National Park and hiring a klotok is the best choice you can do. It's a unique possibility to have almost 100% chances of seeing this beautiful endangered species in their wild environment in Central Kalimantan (South of Borneo). Be sure that you won't be disappointed and you'll go back home satisfied with another amazing experience to remember.
Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by "Borneo Wisata Permai Tours and Travel". While we received special conditions to take part on this fantastique tour, everything we wrote represent our sincere experience. If you also want to book a klotok tour in Tanjung Puting National Park, you can do so by contacting directly Mr. Hary or her knowledgable assistant Miss Wati.