Earlier this year my husband and I made a resolution that we should travel around Indonesia more. OK, we had been to Toraja, Lombok, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Bromo – Malang and many times to Bali, but that’s pretty much it. So last weekend my husband and I decided to join the Rahai’i Pangun Jungle River Cruise and Orang-utan tour for 3 nights, located at Central Kalimantan. But usually we will travel and stay in nice villas and 4 or 5 start hotels, so we were a little bit dubious about sleeping on a boat – and a little paranoid about mosquitoes (Dengue, malaria etc.).
We also knew that we would be sharing a 19 metre by 6 metre boat with a bunch of strangers for 72 hours. So already committed and in the spirit of adventure we packed our bags and left home at 430am to catch the 6am Garuda flight to Palangkaraya (which was planned and built by President Sukarno in the 1960’s, which he intended to become the next capital of Indonesia, Palangkaraya is now the business base for the development of the Province’s wealth of natural resources). The flight from Jakarta is only 90 minutes so it wasn’t long before we arrived at Palangkaraya. Our guide met us at the airport along with another couple and a family with 3 children. We then had a 30 minute drive to the port where our boat trip would start from and we stopped along the way to pick up snacks and some beers for our journey.
The boat ‘Rahai’i Pangun’ is an old traditional Kalimantan river boat (known as Rangkan) which had been converted by a French marine architect and British boat builder to a luxurious cruise boat. It has 5 cabins and a large open upper deck where the meals are served and guests can enjoy the panorama around them. Morgan – one of the owners was there also to greet us when we arrive and prep us about the boat.
So after settling into our cabin, off we went gently cruising down the river. During our trip we discovered very interesting villages, beautiful scenery, and of course an up-close view of orang-utans living in a natural habitat. We also tried all kind of different transportation (small canoe, local mini speed boat, row boat, etc).
Along the journey we played board games, relaxed and enjoyed the passing scenery which is mostly untouched wilderness. Along the way you will see many gold dredges operating pumping sand from the riverbed in the hope of finding traces of gold. You can also sit on deck and try to spot wildlife and birds (it’s a good idea to bring binoculars).
We did see quite a few Brahminy kites (Elang Bondol) which we found out are the official mascot of Jakarta and is considered endangered. It is also recognizable as the official logo for the TransJakarta busway (carrying snake fruit – salak). The mosquitoes were not as bad as we expected and certainly less than we experience here in Jakarta. Even so, mosquito repellent does come in handy. Before sunset each evening the boat would tie up alongside the riverbank and after watching the spectacular sunsets, we would shower and prepare for dinner.
We also enjoyed the company of the other guests, all of whom were from Jakarta. We started the trip with strangers and finished with some new friends, who we will definitely catch up with in Jakarta.
There were 5 crew members plus a tour guide with us the whole time. They are very friendly and helpful the whole time. Everyone was also very satisfied with the quality of the breakfast, lunch and dinner that we were served onboard each day. Even our new friend’s children were impressed!
All in all it was a wonderful experience and highly recommended. Thank you so much Morgan and your staffs!
1. Don’t forget to bring snacks/soft drinks/beer/alcohol for 3 days supply. They do make a stop at the mini market before we start the cruise but they only sell beers.
2. Don’t forget to bring mosquitos repellent, hat, trekking shoes and a binocular! Also bring some reading books and board games, though they do have some board games onboard already.
3. We visited a few villages and they are pretty poor. One of which did not even have electricity connected! So you are welcome to bring: children’s books and clothes, and other second hand stuff to give away to the locals and kids.
4. Bring sweater and rain coat just in case it’s get chilly and rainy.
By Deisy Wong Will
Travel date: March 2013