Borneo Overview

Central and East  Geography

Central Kalimantan is one of the four provinces in Kalimantan known also as Indonesian Borneo. The capital of the province is Palangkaraya Central Kalimantan is the 3rd largest Indonesian province by area with a size of 153,800 km2, about 1.5 times the size of the island of Java. It is bordered by West and East Kalimantan provinces to the north, by the Java Sea to the south, by South and East Kalimantan provinces to the east, and by West Kalimantan province to west.The Schwaner Mountains stretch from the north-east of the province to the south-west, 80% of which is covered in dense forest, peatland swamps, mangroves, rivers, and traditional agriculture land. Highland areas in the north-east are remote and not easily accessible. Non-volcanic mounts are scattered in this area including Kengkabang, Samiajang, Liang Pahang and Ulu Gedang.The centre of the province is covered with tropical forest, which produces rattan, resin and valuable timber such as Ulin and Meranti. The southern lowlands are dominated by peatland swamps that intersect with many rivers. Sebangau is a protected peatland area internationally acknowledged as sanctuary for the endangered Orangutan.

East Kalimantan is the second largest Indonesian province covering an area of about 245,237.80 km2. The resource-rich province has two major cities, Samarinda (the capital and a center for timber product) and Balikpapan (a petroleum center with oil refinery). Ever since Indonesia opened its mineral and natural resources for foreign investment in 1970s, East Kalimantan province has experienced major boost of timber, petroleum and other exotic forest products. The state-owned petroleum company Pertamina has been operating in the area since it took control oil refinery from the Royal Dutch Shell.

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Borneo is very rich in biodiversity compared to many other areas (MacKinnon et al. 1998). There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo (MacKinnon et al. 1998). It is also the centre of evolution and radiation of many endemic species of plants and animals. The remaining Borneo rainforest is the only natural habitat for the endangered Bornean Orangutan. It is also an important refuge for many endemic forest species, as the Asian Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Bornean Clouded Leopard, and the Dayak Fruit Bat. The World Wildlife Fund divides the island into seven distinct eco-regions.
The Borneo lowland rain forests cover most of the island, with an area of 427,500 square kilometres (165,100 sq mi). Other lowland ecoregions are the Borneo peat swamp forests, the Kerangas or Sundaland heath forests, the Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests, and the Sunda Shelf mangroves. The Borneo mountain rain forests lie in the central highlands of the island, above the 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) elevation. The highest elevations of Mount Kinabalu are home to the Kinabalu mountain alpine meadow, an alpine shrubland notable for its numerous endemic species, including many orchids. The island historically had extensive rainforest cover, but the area shrank rapidly due to heavy logging for the needs of the Malaysian plywood industry. Two forestry researchers of Sepilok Research Centre, Sandakan, Sabah in the early 80’s identified four fast-growing hardwoods and a breakthrough on seed collection and handling of Acacia mangium and Gmelina arborea, a fast growing tropical trees were planted on huge track of formerly logged and deforested areas primarily in the northern part of Borneo Island. One half of the annual tropical timber acquisition of the whole world comes from Borneo. Furthermore, Palm oil plantations are rapidly encroaching on the last remnants of primary rainforest. The rainforest was also greatly destroyed due to the forest fires in 1997 to 1998 which were started by people and coincided with an exceptional drought season of El Nino. During the great fire, hotspots could be seen on satellite images and a haze was created that affected Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. In order to combat overpopulation and AIDS in Java, the Indonesian government started a massive transmigration of poor farmers and landless peasants into Borneo in the 70’s and 80’s, to farm the logged areas, albeit with little success as the fertility of the land has been removed with the trees and what soil remains is washed away in tropical downpours.
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Central Kalimantan, the province has a population of 1.9 million according to year 2007 cencus. The population grew 2.7% annually between 1990 and 2000, one of the highest provincial growth rates in Indonesia during that time. Far more than other province in the region, Central Kalimantan is dominated by the Dayaks, the indigenous inhabitants of Borneo. Banjarese people domintaed the population of central Kalimantain (about 24 %) then followed by Javanese (18%), Ngaju (18%), Dayak Sampit (10%) and Bakumpai (8%)
The population of East Kalimantan totalled 2,750,369 data of cencus 2004, is a mixture of people from the Indonesian archipelago with Dayaks and Kutai as indigenous ethnic groups living in rural areas. Other prominent migrant ethnic groups include Javanese, Chinese, Banjarese, Bugis and Malays, who mostly live in coastal areas. Comparison of the ethnic group living in East Kalimantan; Javanese (30%), Bugis (18%), Banjarese (14 %) and Kutai (9%).

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Wet seasons in Borneo are sometimes variable. In Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), a long wet season generally occurs November through March and is characterized by steady winds and heavy rains from the north-northeast. A short dry monsoon season generally occurs June to September with light winds from the southeast. These winds are dry and produce hot weather, but during this time cyclones in the South China Sea create westerly winds from the Indian Ocean bringing unsettled weather with sporadic thunderstorms.
The inter-monsoon seasons are characterized by light winds and localized weather. The April/May monsoon transition is short and unpredictable in timing, duration and rainfall. A longer, more predictable dry season from July through September precedes the wet monsoon. During this time there are fewer rainy days and less precipitation compared to other seasons. There is also a daily cycle to rainfall in Borneo. Typically, clouds form in the late morning and early afternoon hours. Then by 2 to 4 p.m., the hottest time of day, convectional thunderstorms form and rain begins to fall. Often these late afternoon thunderstorms are brief and intense, dumping up to an inch of rain then clearing by sunset.
Annual rainfall across Indonesia ranges from 70 to 125 inches per year in the lowlands, with some mountain regions receiving up to 240 inches per year. In Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), annual rainfall is about 106 inches.
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How to get there

There are two entry-points to Central Kalimantan / Tanjung Putting National Park, through Semarang and Pontianak. But an overnight stay in Semarang and Pontianak might be required as a same-day connection to Central Kalimantan’s Pangkalan Bun might be risky.
Balikpapan is the gateway to East Kalimantan,Garuda Indonesia fly from Kuala Lumpur to Balikpapan via Jakarta. Balipapan can be reached by flight directly from Jakarta, Manado, Surabaya as well as Tarakan

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Best time to travel

Between June and September when rainfall tends to be marginally lower