For the adventurous, exploration could continue deep into Kutai National Park and adventure cruises on the Mahakam, a river that flows nearly 1,000km from the Gunung Cemaru highlands to the Makassar Strait. Home to critically endangered Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins and breeding ground for hundreds of species of birds. Navigating the Mahakam on a houseboat is the only practical way to explore the rainforest region that traverses some of the world’s richest wildlife and the planet’s most remote tribal villages.

Getting to know the Dayak Kenyah tribes is the highlight of any trip to East Kalimantan. At Lekaq Kidau and a few other cultural villages in Kutai Kertanegara, the indigenous population of former headhunters perform ritual music and dance while educating visitors about their unique customs and ancient knowledge of the surrounding jungle. There you can also see traditional community houses, large wooden structures built on stilts, sometimes up to hundreds of meters long, housing dozens of families, with common areas for cooking, shoeing, and ritual ceremonies.

Throughout the province, some prominent jungle destinations are open to passionate travelers and conservationists at heart. Wehea Highland Forest located in East Kutai Regency is a great example of a successful restoration project. Rewarded with a Kalpataru trophy, Indonesia’s highest environmental honour, Wehea was originally reclaimed from illegal loggers and poachers and has now become a 40,000-hectare flagship reserve managed by a local Dayak tribe. The Kersik Luway Nature Reserve is also notable, as a paradise for hikers and orchid lovers, with hundreds of species growing there, including the mysterious Black Orchid (Coelogyne Pandurata).

In addition to jungle adventures, East Kalimantan also offers a secret underwater treasure: world-class diving in a Derawan archipelago known for its rich coral reefs and marine life. Take a boat trip to Maratua Island and meet squadrons of manta rays, go to Sangalaki and witness giant sea turtles nesting, or head to Kabakan for its unique jellyfish lake.

“East Kalimantan is a haven for ecotourism, but its rainforests and wildlife must be sustainably protected as precious heritage. Tribal communities also deserve our respect as their culture and traditions highlight the diversity of our Indonesian nation. We invite BBTF delegates to find out more about this amazing destination,” said I Putu Winastra, BBTF 2023 committee chair and president of the Bali chapter of ASITA travel association.

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