Friday, March 20, 2015

A Hidden Gem of Ecotourism in W. Kalimantan


Betung Kerihun National Park

Betung Kerihun National Park is the biggest conservation area in West Kalimantan province, covering 800,000 hectares of Kapuas Hulu district.

The park is directly adjacent to Sarawak, Malaysia, and is part of a joint cross-border conservation area with Lanjak Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary (LEWS) and Batang Ai National Park in Sarawak. Embaloh and Tekelan are merely two of the hundreds of rivers flowing through the TNBK, while its vast expanse of tropical rainforests provide a safe haven for countless species of flora and fauna, including many that are endangered, such as the orangutan and black orchid.

The national park is also part of a conservation initiative called the Heart of Borneo (HoB), a program established in 2007 by non-profit organizations and NGOs from Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Visitors can reach TNBK through the town of Putussibau in West Kalimantan or Kuching on the Malaysian side. The latter route involves a five-hour drive along a smooth highway to the Nanga Badau border crossing. Putussibau is closer, but the journey takes just as long because the roads are an obstacle course of potholes and loose gravel.

The Indonesian side of Nanga Badau is littered with empty, decaying buildings that were meant to house immigration officers. However, lack of access to water has driven many of them out of the area, according to the border office.

In striking contrast, the Malaysian side of the border pass is fed by a modern highway that automatically records the number of vehicles passing through. Here, the immigration checkpoint is equipped with state-of-the-art fingerprint scanners and computers. Its Indonesian counterpart, meanwhile, still uses traditional record-keeping methods with a manual form.

Another notable difference between the individual parks that make up the multinational conservation area lies in the number of visitors.
Muhammad Wahyudi, the manager of the TNBK, says the park hosts 20 to 30 visitors each month.

The three national parks of Sarawak, meanwhile, are visited by five millions tourists every year.

The majestic beauty of Betung Kerihun National Park has sadly remained unknown to both domestic and foreign tourists. There is more to the park than its rich collection of unique wildlife and flora; the area is also home to the indigenous Dayak tribe.

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