Sebangau National Park: Where Orang Utans Roam Free in the Wild
Spread out between the Katingan and the Sebangau Rivers, just at the outskirt of Palangkaraya, the Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan is one of the last remaining peat swamp forests in Borneo. The vast national park covering approximately 568,700-hectare is home to over 6,000 orangutans, forming one of the world’s largest populations in the wild. Aside from its rich biodiversity, the forest is also known for its special ecosystem: that of the black water ecosystem. This particular ecosystem was created from decomposing organic matter living in these peat swamps, resulting in the blackened water and the unique variety of organisms.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia campaigned to establish the park, which was gazetted in 2004, and the organizaton remains at the forefront at involving nearby residents in low-impact logging, home industry, reforestation and ecotourism. Thus, providing balance harmony between the preservation of Orangutan and the community.
Latest developments based on genetic research by Zhang (2001) and Taxonomy by Groves (1999) revealed that the Borneo Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, is of a different species from the Sumatran Pongo abelli. The Borneo orangutan has a distinctive body shape with very long arms that may reach up to two meters in length. They have a coarse, shaggy reddish coat and grasping hands and feet. They are highly sexually dimorphic, with adult males being distinguished by their large size, throat pouch and flanges on either side of the face, known as cheek pads. The Borneo orangutan travels on the ground more than its Sumatran counterpart. It is theorized this may be partly because herethere is no need to avoid large predators as found in Sumatra including he Sumatran Tigers.
Aside from being the home of huge communities of orangutans, the park is also habitat to 35 species of mammals, 116 species of Borneo typical birds, 36 species of fish, and about 166 species of flora. Some of the particular animals that roam freely in these forests include: orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), Southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina),kelasi (Presbytis rubicunda), proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) , Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus), Forest cats (Felis bangalensis), Chipmunks (Exilisciurus axilis), hornbills or enggang gunung (A. undulatus), enggang gading (Buceros vigil), enggang badak (Buceros rhinoceros), Swamp Heron (Ciconia stormi), pecuk ular (Anhinga melanogaster), cangak merah (Ardea purpurea), cangak laut (Ardea sumatrana), Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis), Catfish (Clarias sp.), papuyu (Anabas testudineus), kakapar (Belontia hesselti), and sambaling (Betta sp). Among some of the flora found in the park are: jelutung (Dyera lowii), belangeran (Shorea belangeran), pulai (Alstonia angustifolia), ulin wood, Deer Horn orchids and black orchids.
Amidst the peat swamp forests, the National Park also offers beautiful scenery of pristine hills. From the top of Bukit Batuor Rock Hill, one overlooks the Sebangau National Park and all its fascinating scenery. The hill is also the perfect spot for bird watching since white Herons, swallows, Green Cucaks, Keruang, Kepodang, and Bald Eagles are among some of the exotic birds that nest here on the hills. A long and challenging trek is available at Bukit Bulan or the Moon Hill. As trekkers make their way up the hill, they will be presented with refreshing trails along the Sungai Bulan, or Moon River. A unique ecosystem of peat swamp and granite rocks is observable at Bukit Kaki or Foot Hill. The granite rockz cause a dry environment, and thus the trees are different from those in the surrounding environment.
In the Sebangau National park are also crystal clear, refreshing, fresh water lakes. These lakes are also habitat to various species of fish and other distinct flora and fauna, and are the best place to watch nature‘s process at its finest. These magnificent lakes are known as Bulat Lake (Round Lake), Punggualas Lake, Jalan Pangen Lake, and Panjang Lake (Long Lake).
Along with Tanjung Puting, the Sebangau National Park is a perfect representation of the pristine tropical forests of Central Kalimantan. Guarded by endless preservation efforts and the ancient local wisdom of the Dayak, these tropical forests form an important part of the world’s environment, supplyig vital oxygen for the entire planet.
The Tjilik Riwut Airport in Palangkaraya serves flights from and to Jakarta and Surabaya. Currently flights to Palangkaraya are served by Batavia Air, Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia and Sriwijaya Air. Once you reach Palangkaraya, you can use land transportation or rented cars which take about 20 minutes to Kareng Bangkirai (the Entrance to the Sebangau National Park), alternatively you can take the Katingan river entrance, which is a 90 minutes’ drive from the airport. Keep in mind that public transportation may not be as many as those found in other parts of the country. So make sure you’ve made your travel arrangements prior to arrival.
As a national park, there are certain procedures that you must comply with for your visit to the Sebangau National Park. Here are the procedures as quoted (and translated) from the park official website:
- Bring personal identification (Passport, Visa, other IDs.)
- Every visitor must pay entrance fee and other optional fees upon entering the Sebangau National Park. Fees in Sebangau National Park are: Visiting Fee, Research Fee, and Picture Taking Fee
- Report to the officer in charge upon arrival and departure
- Visitors must comply with all rules, regulations, and guidance from the field guide/officer
- Conduct tourism activities, recreation, or research according to rules and regulations.
- Receive courteous service from the officers.
- Request for information to officers in charge
- Give suggestions or complaints for the improvement of the national park.
- Visitors are prohibited from carrying firearms or tranquilizer guns, sharp weapons, pets, seeds, biochemical, liquors, or illegal drugs.
- Visitors are not allowed to play music or any loud noises such as playing guitars, tape recorders, and other musical players or instruments that can disturb the animals.
- Visitors are prohibited to behave in such a way that can damage the integrity of the area and all its inhabitants (flora and fauna)
- Visitors are not allowed to hunt, catch, and take animals or any part of them, dead or alive, unless for approved research purposes.
- Visitors are not allowed to harm or kill animals, unless their life is threatened.
- Visitors are not allowed to tear down, cut, or take plants or any part of them, dead or alive, unless for approved research purposes.
- Visitors must dispose of their garbage at designated facilities only
- Visitors must not conduct activities outside designated areas.
- Visitors are only allowed to light a fire at designated areas.
- Visitors must use available routes/treks and are prohibited to open new routes.
Sebangau National Park Official Website: http://tnsebangau.dephut.go.id/
Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and Ministry of Forestry, Republic Indonesia