Betung Kerihun National Park is a wide area of wildlife sanctuary which is located at the province of West Kalimantan. At this park, tourists are able to explore the nature and do many activities.
Not only nature adventure, but tourists can also explore the cultural living of the native Dayak sub-tribes. This national park consists of four regions of watershed. Each region has complete set of natural and cultural exploration. One of the regions is Mendalam Watershed. This region is located at the center of the national park.
Mendalam Watershed is famous for its fantastic contour which is dominated by hilly topography. The area is centered at Mandalam River which has challenging rapids perfect for whitewater rafting and kayaking. The combination of the ecosystems also provides scenic panorama. If you like photography, Mendalam Watershed is probably the best choice of region that you must visit in Betung Kerihun National Park.
The cultural tourism of Mendalam Watershed is interesting as well. At this region, there are several villages where different sub-tribes live. Although they came from the same root, each sub-tribe has different customs and traditions.
Mendalam River is about 30 kilometers long. This river is perfect for many water adventures such as kayaking and whitewater rafting. Both side of the river is dominated with thick tropical forest, offering a great view to see during your adventure. Going through this river, you will have the chance to see many kinds of animals. Mendalam River is the main source of water for almost every animal around this region. Every once in a while, animals would visit the river to have a drink. Some animals are even hunting for fish at this river.
A few years ago, Mendalam River became a site for illegal logging. This crime caused a flood that disadvantage the local people. The criminal act was stopped immediately. From this incident, the local people learned a lesson to never let anyone damage their environment. Since then, they always fight hard if they see anyone trying to do illegal logging or other kinds of act that could damage the environment. If you visit this river now, you will see that the nature is beautiful and well taken care of around the river.
From Mendalam River, you can also have an extreme trek called Mendalam – Kapuas Trek. This trek goes from Mendalam River in Nanga Hovat village to Kapuas River in Metelunai Village. This long trek has a complete package of adventure including going through rivers and rills, climbing up and down the hills, and crossing over the wild forest. Along the way, there will be plenty species of flora and faunas to be seen. A strong local Dayak people could finish this track in one day. But mostly, tourists would need about three or four days to finish it.
With wonderful formation of nature in Mendalam Watershed, it would be very interesting to have a camping at this region. To that, a camping site called Camp Mentibat is provided. The camping site is located at the borderline of the area. This location is the starting point of several adventurous tracks and observatory tracks. That is why, there are many researchers and tourists who like to have a stay at this camp.
About one kilometer away from this site, there is a track for observatory and research purpose. The track offers a chance to see many exotic tropical species of flora such as Bengkirai (Shorea leavis), Red Meranti (Shorea lamelata), Kempas (Kompassia excelsa), Kapur (Dryobalanops aromatica), Night Wood (Diospyros sp.), Blue Leaved Palm (Licuala borneensis), Pandan (Pandanus sp.), etc.
At this track, you also have the chance to see some wild animals such as kelampiau primate (Hylobathes muellerii), mouse deer (Tragulus napu), and wild boar (Sus barbatus). On a dry season, about twelve sepans are available for tourists who wish to observe big mammals.
There are several villages of sub-ethnic live on this region. The first village you would visit when entering this region is Nanga Sambus Village. The village is the settlement area for Malay Tribe, a Moslem native tribe of Borneo. The village can easily be accessed from Putussibau for only 15 minutes. You can get there by land using motorcycle or by the river using machined longboat. Both mode of transportation would take the same amount of time.
At the village of Nanga Sambus, tourists can enjoy several performances of art. The art of Malay Tribe is very unique as it is the result of acculturated culture between Islamic art and native Borneo culture which is similar to Dayak culture. Some of the wonderful performance to see is the Jepin Dance, Tar Musical Art, and Tambourine Performance.
From Nanga Sambus, take a longboat trip ahead for 20 minutes. There, you will get on a Semangkok Village, where the Dayak Taman sub-tribe lives. Just like other Dayak people, Dayak Taman people also live on Rumah Betang, a traditional Dayak longhouse. There are three Rumah Betang at this village where each is occupied about 12 to 16 families. Tourists are allowed to have a stay at one of those houses as homestay.
Visiting the Dayak Taman sub-tribe, you would be surprised by the traditional ceremony they hold for welcoming tourists. This ceremony is called Potong Umpang. This sub-tribe also has their own unique healing treatment using stones. Other unique thing about this sub-tribe is the cemetery of Kulambu. At the past, dead people of Dayak Taman weren’t buried. Instead, they were put in a stone coffin with the shape similar to a house called “Lungun”.
Other sub-tribe living at this region is the sub-tribe of Dayak Kayan. They live on Tanjung Karang Village and Padua Village. Both villages are located at the side of Mendalam River. To access this location, you can ride a motorboat through Mendalam River from Putussibau for about one hour.
The people of Dayak Kayan have unique festival called “Dange”. It is a celebratory festival towards the harvesting season. At the festival, there would be a feast where all the traditional foods and beverages of Dayak will be served. Traditional art performances will also be practiced to jazz up the heat. At this festival, you can also buy several crafts and unique items of Dayak such as sculpture and mandao sword. You can also get a traditional tribal tattoo of Dayak.
The last village to visit at this region is Nanga Hovat village. It is where the Bukat sub-tribe lives. The people of Bukat are different than other sub-tribe of Dayak. While most of Dayak people practice agriculture and breeding to support their lives, people of Bukat are still hunting for animals and collecting foods from the forest such as leaves and sagoo.
They also don’t live on Rumah Betang like the rest of Dayak people. It is fun to join them in traditional hunting act called Ngasu. While hunting, they always use traditional blow-pipe gun called Sumpit to shoot their prey. At Nanga Hovat, there is also a homestay for tourists owned by regional government.
Mendalam Watershed is very interesting to visit as this region offers ultimate adventure experience in both natural and cultural tourism. Don’t forget to read our other articles regarding Betung Kerihun National Park of West Kalimantan as the park also has other wonderful region worth exploring.