Hidden Borneo

Kalimantan offers an insight into Borneo that few people experience. Whilst headhunting traditions and mysterious jungle creatures still entice adventurous travellers, this trip takes you out onto Kalimantan’s rivers to witness the conservation efforts of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. The chance to see rescued and rehabilitated orangutans is an emotionally uplifting yet sobering experience.

We start our journey in Tumbang Malahoi, where we are welcomed into the home of a Dayak Ngaju tribe, and look out for hornbills and wild orangutans. Cruising on the river allows us to see the forest from a different perspective as we float by small villages, keeping our eyes peeled for proboscis monkeys and Brahminy kites.

Heading upstream along the Rungan River, we leave our beautiful cruise boat for motorised canoes, which transport us to the orangutan pre-release islands managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. We learn about their vital work and spend some time watching the orangutans. Next we cruise to the tiny riverside village of Kanarakan, home to the Dayak Ngaju tribe.

Lake Tahai is the perfect spot for canoeing and early morning bird watching. Sei Gohong is the next village on our route, where our exploration of the traditional cultures of Kalimantan continues and we meet the local medicine expert. Our last few days are packed full of activities as we visit Samboja Lestari, the site of the first BOSF orangutan introduction programme.

Whether you want leisurely nature walks, a hike deep into the rainforest or a trip with a local fisherman, there is plenty on offer for everyone. The real highlights at Samboja though are our visit to the orangutan island, a natural, semi-wild home for orangutans that cannot be released. The visit to the sun bear sanctuary is also a highpoint.

Rugged Kalimantan translates to ‘River of Diamonds’, so what better way to explore this tropical wonderland, than via the river.

Hidden Borneo


  • Learn about traditional Dayak culture
  • Stay overnight in traditional longhouses
  • Cruise on jungle waterways
  • Get up close to orang utans
  • Look for wildlife at Samboja

Day 1 - Jakarta

Arrive in Jakarta and transfer to your hotel. Overnight FM7 Hotel or similar.

Day 2 - Palangkaraya – Tumbang Malahoi

Fly to Palangkaraya and then drive to Tumbang Malahoi, where we stay in a traditional Dayak longhouse. In the evening, we join the family of the longhouse for dinner and talk with the elders about everyday life here and their culture and traditions. Overnight simple longhouse. (BD)

Day 3 - Tumbang Malahoi

Accompanied by a local guide we hike in the surrounding forest, learning about local agriculture and how rubber is tapped from the trees. In the afternoon, we visit a Kaharingan (the Dayak traditional religion) temple and then in the evening see traditional Dayak dances. Overnight simple longhouse. (BLD)

Tumbang Malahoi

Located in the upper reaches of the Rungan River, around 122km north of the provincial capital Palangkaraya, is Tumbang Malahoi. This Dayak Ngaju village is home to many traditional craftspeople and is decorated with carved ceremonial poles called ‘sapundu’ and also existing here, are large numbers of ossuaries or ‘Kaharingan sandung’. Tumbang Malahoi is best known for its well-preserved longhouse or ‘betang’ in the Dayak Ngaju language, the construction of which was completed in 1869 after a year of work by the community and the founders of the village, the Toyoi family.

The longhouse has housed many generations of the Toyoi family, who originally came from west Kalimantan near the headwaters of the Melawi/Malahoi River. Wanting to retain their connection to their ancestral homelands, they named this village aptly and even brought some soil and water with them to maintain the link. The main builder of the longhouse was Bungai Toyoi, who was a friend and supporter of the Banjar Sultan Muhammad Seman (1862-1905), who fought and lost against Dutch colonial forces in the Barito War.

An alliance such as this was not uncommon at the time and during the struggle for independence from Dutch rule in the 1940s, the longhouse at Tumbang Malahoi was actually used as the regional headquarters for the ‘Indonesian People’s Revolutionary Movement’ or ‘Gerakan Revolusi Rakyat Indonesia’. This longhouse, with its interesting history is now a peaceful place run by a warm family who are descendants of Bungai Toyoi himself.


The inland tribes of Borneo – generally categorised as Dayaks – have long fascinated explorers and continue to entice travellers today, due to their striking artwork, stilted longhouses and their history as fearsome headhunters.

The name ‘Dayak’ is derived from the words meaning ‘upriver’ or inland’ peoples. All Dayak religions focused on attracting good spirits and chasing away the evil ones, and a freshly severed head was a crucial component towards gaining spiritual power. Headhunting was believed to ward off disease, ensure good crops and to bring general success to a village.

The Dayaks still prepare their fields using the slash-and-burn method, an ancient technique, and they wear traditional garments at times of celebration. Many still live in longhouses – originally used to prevent inter-village conflict and slave raiding – and in most Dayak areas, the belief in the world of spirits is still very much alive.

The largest group of Kalimantan’s Dayaks is the Barito River group and their lands cover the south of the island. The groups of this area, including the Ngaju, follow death rituals including the sacrifice of a water buffalo. In some of these areas there is a secondary funeral in which the bones or ashes are placed in mausoleums.

Day 4 - Palangkaraya

Drive back to Palangkaraya. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight Swiss Belhotel. (B)

Day 5 - Palangkaraya

Travelling across the black Sebangau Lake and Sebangau River by speedboat, we reach the start point of our trek. The trek takes us into the peat swamp forest of Sebangau National Park to see endemic vegetation and to spot wildlife such as hornbills, wild orangutans and monitor lizards. Overnight Swiss Belhotel. (BL)

Day 6 - Palangkaraya

We depart from Palangkaraya for our river cruise. We pass stilt and floating houses and continue along the forested river, passing various villages. In the evening, we canoe through the shimmering black water lake and make a stop for a short stroll around Kalaweit island, keeping an eye out for proboscis monkeys, hornbills and Brahminy kites. We return to our cruise boat in the evening for a quiet dinner in the midst of the forest. Overnight cruise boat. (BLD)

Day 7 - Bapallas Island - Kanarakan – Tahai

Continue upstream along the Rungan River. At Bapallas Island, we travel by boat to observe orangutans on the pre-release islands of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. We then cruise to Kanarakan and explore the village, home gardens and rubber fields, as well as visiting a local home. Returning to our boat we continue to Lake Tahai. Overnight cruise boat. (BLD)

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

BOSF, established in 1991, is an Indonesian non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of the Bornean orangutan and its habitat, in cooperation with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, international partner organisations and local communities.

BOSF Pre-Release Islands

There are many lessons that rehabilitated orangutans need to learn before they are ready for release into the wild. The final step of the whole rehabilitation process at BOSF takes place on the three pre-release islands: Kaja, Bangamat and Palas. These islands are managed by an experienced team and are used to accommodate orangutans who have successfully completed their time at ‘forest school’ and so need to complete several months on the pre-release islands to ensure their skills are completely adequate, before being released into the wild.

Day 8 - Tahai – Sei Gohong – Bapallas and Muara Rungan

Optional early morning birdwatching, then visit the village of Sei Gohong where we will meet an expert in traditional medicine and walk to the nearby forest to find several plants that are used as traditional medications by the Ngaju people. We board the boat and cruise downstream to Muara Rungan passing Bapallas Island to spot more orangutans. Overnight cruise boat. (BLD)

Day 9 - Palangkaraya

We cruise to the village of Tanjung Sanggalang on the Kahayan River and then drive to Bukit Rawi and Sigi, where we will see ancient Dayak painted sandungs and watch a traditional dance. We cruise to Palangkaraya in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day at leisure. Overnight Swiss Belhotel. (BL)

Day 10 - Balikpapan – Samboja

Fly to Balikpapan and transfer to Samboja Lodge, situated on the Samboja Lestari Reforestation Estate. Overnight Samboja Lodge. (BD)

Day 11 - Samboja

There are two daily activities at Samboja that we can join. The first is a visit to one of the six man-made orangutan islands that are a short walk from the lodge. The island that can be visited is home to orangutans that cannot be released into the wild due to handicaps and behavioural issues. There is a two-metre wide canal around the island from which we can view the orangutan from a safe distance, ensuring their well-being is protected. We may see the workers bringing over all kinds of fruits, vegetables and leafy branches and our guide will explain all about the project. The second is a visit to the sun bear sanctuary and there is a bridge over the enclosure from which we can observe the sun bears’ behaviour. Overnight Samboja Lodge (BLD)

Day 12 - Samboja

We have a full day to explore the Samboja area and there are optional excursions available. You could opt for a 2-hour nature walk to try and spot a variety of wildlife including blood pythons, red leaf monkeys and a variety of birds, or you may want to go on a more challenging hike in the protected forest area of Sungai Wain in hope of spotting female orangutans and their babies. Alternatively, you could choose to go on a boat ride with local fishermen along the Sungai Hitam or ‘black river’ to search for highly endangered proboscis monkeys. Overnight Samboja Lodge. (BLD)

Samboja Lestari

The Orangutan Reintroduction Programme at Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan, was the first orangutan reintroduction programme established by the BOSF in 1991, with specific aims to provide care and rehabilitation for orphaned and displaced orangutans, rescued from areas of habitat loss. The project was formerly known as Wanariset, but the project was relocated in 2006 due to insufficient space and was renamed Samboja Lestari.

The land at Samboja Lestari is owned by the BOSF and is the location of their forest rehabilitation programme. Their main activities include orangutan rescue, translocation of orangutans from areas of conflict to areas of protected and secure habitat, the provision of healthcare and welfare, rehabilitation, reintroduction and forest restoration.

In addition to the rehabilitation and reintroduction of orangutans, Samboja Lestari also manage a sun bear sanctuary which is currently caring for around 50 sun bears. The BOSF believe that conservation of habitat and wildlife can only be achieved by working together with local communities and other stakeholders, so in all areas of their work they engage with local communities and schools on outreach conservation education and community development activities. They also work in collaboration with the East Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Authority.

Sungai Wain

The protected forest area of Sungai Wain was the first release site of the BOS Foundation, where 75 orangutans were released between 1992-1998. Several female orangutans and their babies have been spotted on previous visits.

Day 13 - Jakarta

Fly to Jakarta and spend the rest of the day at leisure. FM7 Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 14 - Jakarta

Transfer to the airport for your onward or homebound flight. (B)

Orang utan with baby - Borneo holidays
Elephants in Borneo rainforest

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    Please note: Single supplements are not applicable to the cruise boat. Aboard the cruise boat, there are a variety of cabins of which the sizes and facilities vary. While some have ensuite bathrooms, others have shared facilities and while some cabins have air conditioning, some are cooled by fans only.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • Airport taxes

    If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.


British citizens don’t need a visa to visit Indonesia if staying for a period of up to 30 days. Visas for longer stays must be obtained before you travel. You can also obtain a visa on arrival at a cost of US$35. This type of visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended once by applying to an immigration office within Indonesia. Travellers from 60 other countries can also visit for up to 30 days, obtaining a free visa on arrival. Feel free to contact us if you are unsure.

With regards to all of the above, visa regulations can change and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.


It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.


The currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah or ‘IDR’. Money changers and banks accepting foreign currency can be found in most cities and towns and major credit cards are accepted in a wide variety of hotels and shops. In Kalimantan, change as much money as you will need, in any of the provincial capitals. You will not be able to change any money in the interior. You will usually get a better rate changing money in Indonesia than you would changing it before you travel, so it is advisable to bring a small amount of IDR and then change the rest of your money (e.g. GBP) into IDR in Jakarta or Palankaraya.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the moment, the FCO doesn’t advise against travel to any parts of Malaysian Borneo, that we visit on this trip.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Malaysian Borneo. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Updated July 2023

Orang utan with baby - Borneo holidays
Elephants in Borneo rainforest
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
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Date -
10 February 2024
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Date -
08 February 2025
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