The 400,000 ha Tanjung Puting National Park is located in the south-western part of Central Kalimantan Province and is Kalimantan’s most famous national park. Tanjung Puting is listed as a Man And the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve.
Tanjung Puting National Park occupies most of the peninsula between Teluk Kumai and the Seruyan River and offers a varied natural landscape ranging from peat and freshwater swamp forests to lowland tropical rainforests and heath forests. Mangroves are confined to a small belt along the coastal peninsular while the sandy beaches have a typical flora consisting of Casuarina, Pandanus, Barringtonia, Podocarpus and Scaevola trees. The park is drained by several so-called black water rivers radiating from the northern and eastern parts.
Tanjung Puting National Park owes its fame to two primates: the Orangutan and the endemic Proboscis monkey. At Tanjung Harapan, Pondok Tangui, and Camp Leakey orangutans are rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Camp Leakey is also a research station dedicated to research on orangutans. Natai Lengkuas Research Station, the other research site in the park, is located at the southeast bank of Sungai Sekonyer and focuses on Proboscis monkeys, vegetation ecology, and forest restoration. Both centres can be visited.
Unfortunately Tanjung Puting has recently been invaded by illegal loggers and gold miners. Two environmental activists have been severely beaten. The two were investigating the illegal deforestation by P.T. Tanjung Lingga, a logging company owned by an Indonesian MP, whom has been identified as Abdul Rasyid. The Natai Lengkuas Field Station has been temporarily closed due to direct threats against the staff. For more information see Ecological anarchy.
To get to Tanjung Puting National Park you need time or money. First you have to go to Pangkalanbun which can be reached in several ways:
If you have money but no time go by plane. There are flights to Pangkalanbun from Jakarta, Bandung and Semarang on Java and from Palangkaraya, Banjarmasin, Sampit, Pontianak and Ketapang on Kalimantan. There are taxi’s from the airport or alternatively walk to the highway and take the minibus to Pangkalanbun.
* If you have time but no money and you’re already on Kalimantan you have two choices:
1. From Palangkaraya take a bus to Pangkalanbun. This journey can take a lot of time. Normally it takes about 8 hours but during the wet season it’s sometimes impossible to make the trip at all.
2. From Banjarmasin take a boat to Sampit. In Sampit you can board the Palangkaraya-Pangkalabun bus, if it runs.
From Pangkalabun it’s pretty straight forward:
1. Register at the local police office. Bring two copies of your passport.
2. Take a taxi or minibus to Kumai (1 hour).
3. Register at the PHPA office in Kumai. Bring two copies of your passport.
4. Take the public boat to kampung Tanjung Harapan, or hire a klotok.
Transport through the park is by boat. At the Camp Leakey camp you can hire a PKA guide and explore the park.
o Losmen Kumara
o Losmen Cempaka
* Tanjung Harapan
o Rimba Hotel
Or sleep at the hired klotok.
PHPA, Jl. H.M. Idris, Kumai.
Hire a guide at one of the camps inside Tanjung Puting National Park or a canoe at Rimba Hotel.
Tanjung Puting is one of the natural wonders of the world. You may not believe this after you have been there only one day or two days or three days, but after the fourth or fifth day something happens. You are captivated completely by the purity of the air, the openness of the night sky with the most remarkable view of the Milky Way, the magnificence and dignity of the gentle orangutans, the thundering downpours that instantly cool the air, and the clarity of the brilliant crimson sunsets. Tanjung Puting is the largest and most diverse protected example of extensive coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest which used to cover much of southern Borneo. The area was originally declared as a game reserve in 1935 and a National Park in 1982. While the Park has checkered history of weak protection, nonetheless, it remains substantially wild and natural.
Tanjung Puting is covered by a complex mosaic of diverse lowland habitats. It contains 3,040 sq km2 of low lying swampy terrain punctuated by black water rivers which flow into the Java Sea. At the mouth of these rivers and along the sea coast are found Nipa/mangrove swamps. Mangroves teem with animal life. Tanjung Puting also includes tall dry ground tropical rain forest, primarily tropical heath forest, with a canopy of 40 meters (120 feet) with “emergent” exceeding 50 meters (150 ft) in height, seasonally inundated peat swamp forest with peat in layers two meters deep, open depression lakes formed by fire, and open areas of abandoned dry rice fields now covered with elephant grass and ferns. The tropical heath forest which is called “kerangas” in parts of Borneo, is only found on very poor, typically white-sandy soils and is characterized by medium-sized trees.
The best known animals in Tanjung Puting are the orangutans, made famous through the efforts of Orangutan Research and Conservation Program, which is based at the landmark Camp Leakey research station. Tanjung Puting also boasts the bizarre looking proboscis monkey with its “Jimmy Durante” nose as well as seven other primate species. Clouded leopards, civets, and Malaysian sun bears cavort in the park as do mouse deer, barking deer, sambar deer, and the wild cattle known as banteng. Tanjung Puting hosts over 220 species of birds, including hornbills, deep forest birds and many wetland species. Tanjung Puting is well known for its “bird lakes, ” seasonal rookeries for a half a dozen species of endangered waterbirds, including the only known Bornean nesting grounds for white egrets. Tanjung Puting also has two species of crocodiles, dozens of snakes and frogs, numerous threatened species, including the fortune-bringing and highly endangered “dragon” fish also known as the Arwana (bony-tongue). Among the most flamboyant of these animals are the many species of colorful birds, butterflies, and moths found in the Park.
Tanjung Puting sits on a peninsula that juts out into the Java Sea. The peninsula is low lying and swampy with a spine of dry ground which rises a few feet above the omnipresent swamp. Towards the north of Tanjung Puting is characterized by gentle hills and gold-bearing alluvial plains. Maps of the region commonly portray a ridge of mountains coming down into Tanjung Puting. This ridge does not exist, in fact, nowhere does the altitude rise above 100 feet in Tanjung Puting.
Tanjung Puting is a veritable hothouse of ecodiversity. The diverse habitat zones shelter slightly different fauna and flora providing a great variety of microhabitats for plants and animals and thus, the opportunity for many species to be present in close proximity. In a Bornean context, tropical heath forest by itself is not representative of the largest trees, the tallest canopy, or the most diverse ecosystem.
Tropical swamp ecosystems are little represented in protected areas throughout Southeast Asia but are omnipresent in Tanjung Puting. In the peat swamp forest, many trees have stilt roots or aerial roots as adaptations to frequent flooding.
Aside from its remarkable biological attributes, Tanjung Puting is highly important for the well-being of the surrounding local human population. The wetlands provide vital ecological services such as flood control, stream control regulation, erosion control, natural biological filtration system, and seasonal nurseries for fish which are the major source of local animal protein. Many of these services have an impact well beyond the local area. For instance, the waters surrounding Tanjung Puting attract fishing vessels from many different parts of Indonesia. In addition, local people benefit from a great variety of forest products including honey, waxes, aromatic woods, fibers for ropes and cloth, medicinal plants, fuel oils, thatching materials, rattan, firewood, incense, wild rubber, edible latexes, resins, natural pesticides, fungicides and possible virocides.
For the above reasons and many other reasons not noted, Tanjung Puting is recognized as one of the most important and outstanding provincial treasures in Kalimantan Tengah. The national government has also made a strong commitment to protect the forest, its wildlife and to manage the park wisely. Tanjung Puting has increasingly gained international prestige and recognition. As a result, more and more visitors from throughout the world are experiencing a fresh new outlook on nature and an appreciation of the tropical rain forest which was humankind’s original “Garden of Eden.”
The peat swamp and fresh water swamp forest associations present in Tanjung Puting were at one time extensive along the south coast of Borneo from Banjarmasin in the east to the Kapuas River near Pontianak in the west. These swamps extended up the northwest coast of Sarawak and Brunei and as far as the Klias peninsula in Sabah. In Sarawak in general, peat swamp forests are very well developed and they are still very important there as a natural resource. In Kalimantan, however, much of the swamp habitat has been converted, both permanently and on shifting cultivation basis, to rice fields. Swamp habitats, as found in Tanjung Puting, are becoming more difficult to find. Although Tanjung Puting has suffered some encroachment from human activity, the Park area is still wild and pristine. The vegetation supports a large population of animals, making this one of the most important areas in Southeast Asia for the preservation primates, birds, reptiles and fish.