The pristine lake under the imaginary equator line is perched at the floodplain of Kapuas River, West Kalimantan, 700 kilometers inland from the Kapuas River waterfront in Pontianak, rising to 30 meters above sea level. The fresh water lake is vast, covering an area of 1,320 square kilometer as one of the Ramsar sites, a site under an international convention regarding the usability of wetlands in line with its value on economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational for future generation. As a fresh water marsh zone, Lake Sentarum National Park was not established as a national park until 1999, and with a fully operational management in 2006. Today, some of the best captured flora and fauna photos, or riverbank community activities with vivid blue sky were taken here.
During the high tide, the depth of the lake can reach six to eight meters deep. The water slowly turns to dark red due to rich tannic acid from the dead leaves and wood barks. Some of the rivers around the world recognize the term ‘black river’ due to its rich tannin. Tannin is valuable to protect trees from fire, insects, and bacteria. During the dry season, the water from the lake flows to the brown-colored, 1,143-kilometer Kapuas River, and leaves the national park a vast parched land. Vital food chains within the national park and the outflow river have made this area an extremely indispensable as various endemic fauna and plants are totally relying on it.
Some of the endemic and existing floras from the national park are tembesu or tengkawang (Shorea beccariana), jelutung (Dyera costulata), ramin (Gonystylus bancanus), meranti (Shorea sp), keruing (Dipterocarpus sp), and ulin (Eusideroxylon zwageri). There are around 20 village enclaves within the park that accommodate around 20,000 people who have known many kinds of remedies from the protected lake, such as ambong-ambong (Blumea balsamifera), akar ara (Ficus sp), asam kandis (Garnia sp), asam tekala (Alpinia sp), aur-aur (Aneilema scaberrimun), bangelai (Zingiber pupureum), bawang gilang (Eleutherine americana), gambir (Uncaria gambir), kayu lawang (Cinnamomum sp), kunyit kuning (Curcuma domestica), kunyit putih (C. Zedoaria) nilam (Pogostemon cablin), and pasak bumi (Eurycoma longifolia).
If you are lucky enough, you can watch siamang (Hylobates muelleri) , a family of monkeys, as also bekantan (Nasalis larvatus), orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), long-tailed monkey (Macaca fascicularis), squirrel (Callosciurus notatus, C. Prevostii), giant squirrel (Ratufa affinis), honey bear (Helarctos malayanus), and leopard (Neofelis nebulosa). Several birds are bekakak (Halcyon capensis), enggang gading (Rhinoplax vigil), rangkong (Buceros rhinoceros), white-head hawk (Haliastur Indus), and Raja Udang bird (Alcedo meninting), aside to 230s bird species, 143 mammal species, and 23 endemic Borneo species, including Asian Arowana and Clown Loach Botia. Around 26 reptiles are also found here, including False Gavial and Estuarine Crocodile.
Strap your leather boots tightly and put on your adventure hat as you giddy up the long boat, cruising inland through the mighty Kapuas River. The Lake Sentarum National Park is a place you wish to exist in many places. Not only is it naturally fascinating, but it is also culturally captivating. Shake the Dayak’s friendly hands and you are truly in Borneo.
The best time to visit the national park is within the month of June to September. Go to Lake Sentarum and find a place, with the assistance of your tour guide or the boat man, called Bukit Lanjak and Nanga Kenelang. They are the best spot to view the vast lake spotted with marsh plantation and flying endemic birds from the bush. Birdwatchers are here to study each of the findings as they spend the rest of the day paddling the pristine tranquil water.
If you wish to study the species found in the national park for any cause, visit Bukit Tekenang as a scientific laboratory is there to record the living species. Six kilometers from the center district of Lanjak, there is a rumah betang, or the longhouse of Dayak Iban tribesmen who hunt for living on the north and northeast of the lake. Around 100 people live in the house and you are invited to join the crowd, or the hunting activity on Sedik River. Besides the Ibans, the Embaloh tribesemen on the east and the Kantu tribesmen on the west of the lake also live in the national park.
From Pontianak, take a rented and drive to Semitau, passing the town of Sintang. It will take you around 11 hours driving. If you are into the river, a 7-hour cruise on a longboat called bandong is an early adventure craving that you may munch through from Sintang to Semitau. From Semitau, however, you can only take a motorized boat to Lanjak, and there you are sitting before the great lake.
If you wish to get there faster, a two-hour flight by a small airplane is possible from Pontianak to Putussibau. From Putussibau, however, a 7-hour cruise again is to be taken on a longboat to Nanga Suhaid.
Putussibau is a small district in Kapuas Hulu. The distance is actually around 846 kilometers from Pontianak overland, and around 814 kilometers by the river cruise. It is by far, the closest town to the national park. Here you can find logistics and also accommodations if you wish to stay here rather than spending a night or two in the park.
You need to be well informed if not prepared that spending a night or two in Lake Sentarum National Park is most probably a bit odd than you might think. Living as a nomad on a drifting longboat called bandong is an experience you cannot forget. You cook, eat, and sleep here. Bring a mosquito net that works for you. Knot the rope securely and watch the night passing by, and expect a magnificent sunrise on the horizon. A room can also be prepared in one of the houses in nearby villages as it is much eco-friendly.
If you think that type of camping is too bizarre, In Putussibau, there are several places you might want to choose as a place to lie down. They are:
- Aman Sentosa Hotel: Diponegoro Street, no. 14
- Marisa Hotel: Melati Street No. 3
- Harapan Kita Guesthouse: Jembatan Pelita Street, No. 3
- Uncak Lestari Guesthouse on Lintas Selatan Street
TIPSBanks are only available in Putussibau. They are Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) on DI Panjaitan Street (Phone: +62 567 21020, 21177, 21866, or 21007) and Bank Kalbar on Merdeka Street (Phone: +62 567 21123, 21171, or 21585). No ATM is available, so plan your trip budget technicalities carefully.
Banks are only available in Putussibau. They are Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) on DI Panjaitan Street (Phone: +62 567 21020, 21177, 21866, or 21007) and Bank Kalbar on Merdeka Street (Phone: +62 567 21123, 21171, or 21585). No ATM is available, so plan your trip budget technicalities carefully.
Telecommunication booth is available either on Diponegoro Street no. 14 or on Merdeka Baru no. 43.
Trip package can be tailored in
- Extreme Borneo: http://www.extremeborneo.com/ for Borneo adventure package.
- Borneo Tour Gigant at http://www.borneotourgigant.com/Danau_Semantrum.html