Monday, January 2, 2017

Images of a memorable day on the Rungan River

At the very beginning of 2017, we had an idyllic cruise downstream on the Rungan River, the heat and languid stillness of the day as it waned combined to give these memorable images.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dayak carvings in historic Bukit Rawi

The traditional sandungs or second burial houses of Dayak tribes around the Palangka Raya area, are brilliantly coloured, some with fantastic detail and finesse. The fearsome snake eater keeps troublesome spirits away. See them on our mid-week cruises. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Glassy reflections on the black water lakes

Shadowing the sweeping bends and lowland forests of the lower Katingan River, canals and rivers draining the forests and stranded river bends form a web of waterways. Stained coffee colour, the water is an almost perfect mirror, and those photographers loving the effects, and turning their photos 90 degrees, are rewarded with whimsical images of the spirits of the forest. Most of these photos were taken by Osanna Vaughn, recording our trip made in early November this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A private charter on the Spirit of Kalimantan

The Spirit of Kalimantan charter boat cruises the Rungan and Kahayan Rivers, The forested riversides and winding course of the river, create many islands, lakes and waterways. Some of these islands are pre-release refuges for rehabilitated orang-utans from the BOSF program, which guests on board can see as we cruise along. Air conditioned cabins, comfortable screened saloon lounge, open air deck with easy chairs and roof top terrace is comfortably furnished for up to 8 passengers. Food is freshly prepared on board and served in the saloon. Relax and watch the scenery slip past. We stop at villages and have some short walks and canoe rides to break up the day!

The Rungan Forests - Exploring the Natural Heritage of Ancient Borneo close to Palangka Raya

At ground level, a green and brown humid world of fallen leaves, mosses and lichens, and decaying tree trunks shelters under the towering canopy of a lowland dipterocarp forest where all living things strain for light and space. Weak sunlight mottles the trunks of the dipterocarps, the reddish bark of the galam tikus, balanced on its slender buttress roots, orchids, nepenthes or the carnivorous pitcher plants, and the local resin damar trees, to name but a few species in this richly diverse forest. 

This gem lies in a secret location, close to Palangka Raya. A primary forest long nurtured by its traditional owners, this place was protected also by its inaccessibility. Now much surrounding it has been logged and mined, and access is easier, but the forest quietly persists due to this strong traditional ownership being joined by multi stakeholder group of researchers, business, and local government. It aims to build a foundation for forest and biodiversity conservation in an area under-studied and highly-threatened which was, until recently, a conservation afterthought even though this is probably the largest relatively-intact lowland forest in Borneo having no formal conservation program.

Within an area of low hills, the original dry trails developed by villagers looking for forest resins and other natural bounty have been further developed by researchers for mapping forest types and bio-diversity. Small rivulets and soaks are damp arteries which rise and fall with the rain, quickly turning into mud baths.

I accepted an invitation - who wouldn't - to visit this remarkable forest a couple of months ago. Reaching the location by bus, boat, canoe, mining truck and finally on foot, it was a journey of about 3.5 hours from Palangka Raya. Accessing the site firstly along the course of a small river trashed by gold miners, we entered the forest. From the bleached, white sand, radiating heat, we entered the cooler world of the forest.

Our campsite, the research station, in the centre of the forest, was made of saplings with tarpaulins and rice sacks (for beds) stretched across. Basic, and all above ground to escape flooding, it included male and female dorms, a mess and meeting area. The nearby creek provided water for bathing in the temporary bathrooms.  This was built in partnership with a Palangkaraya University. Now, a community forest management unit has been established and programs of environmental education and sustainable development are being implemented. 

This is all in support of the local village’s quest to create a protected community forest. 

After a comfortable sleep, we set off on walks. These forest transects give researchers a grid to identify sites and to orientate themselves within this undisturbed forest. There are plans to open the area for some visits, during times which would not disturb ongoing research. 

If you are interested to go, ask us.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Walk in the Sebangau National Park with WOW Borneo

We're opening a new cruise route on the Katingan River from November 2016. Explore with us the Sebangau National Park, traditional Dayak communities, float over the perfect reflections on black water lakes, watch as the thorny rattan vines are woven into beautiful mats, all accessible from the Katingan River and our adventurous little boat, the Ruhui Rahayu. The Sebangau National Park is home to the largest population of wild orang-utans in the world, as well as many other endangered species such as the Malayan sun bear, gibbons, hornbills and the clouded leopard.

Be the first to experience this new route from

Thursday, September 1, 2016

August and September dry season cruising

Last year, we experienced an El Nino long dry season marked by smoke from land clearance fires. This year, with the promised La Nina weather effect, a few dry weeks in August may be giving way to an early onset of the rains. Today, as I write this, heavy rains are falling in Palangka Raya. A few days ago, I joined a cruise on board the Rahai'i Pangun and experienced the lower water levels and baking heat of the end of the dry. The clear skies and rich morning and evening light were the perfect conditions for photographs.

A special treat, in the slow, grinding heat of the afternoon, was glimpsing a family of otters on a nearby sandbank, come out of the forest for a spot of sunbathing, before skipping off in the direction of a fisherman's net. Goodluck little fellas!