You may not believe this after you have been there only one day or two days or, but after the third or forth day something happens. You are captivated completely by the purity of the air, the openness of the night sky with the most remarkable view of the Milky Way, the magnificence and dignity of the gentle orangutans, the thundering downpours that instantly cool the air, and the clarity of the brilliant crimson sunsets.
Tanjung Puting is the largest and most diverse protected example of extensive coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest which used to cover much of southern Borneo . The area was originally declared as a game reserve in 1935 and National Park in 1982. While the Park has checkered history of weak protection, nonetheless, it remains substantially wild and natural. Tanjung Puting is covered by a complex mosaic of diverse lowland habitats. It contains 3,040 sq km2 of low lying swampy terrain punctuated by blackwater rivers which flow into the Java Sea . At the mouth of these rivers and along the sea coast are found Nipa/mangrove swamps. Mangroves teem with animal life.
Tanjung Puting also includes tall dry ground tropical rain forest, primarily tropical heath forest, with a canopy of 40 meters (120 feet) with “emergents” exceeding 50 meters (150 ft) in height, seasonally inundated peat swamp forest with peat in layers two meters deep, open depression lakes formed by fire, and open areas of abandoned dry rice fields now covered with elephant grass and ferns. The tropical heath forest which is called “kerangas” in parts of Borneo , is only found on very poor, typically white-sandy soils and is characterized by medium-sized trees.
The best known animals in Tanjung Puting are the orangutans, made famous through the efforts of Orangutan Research and Conservation Program, which is based at the landmark Camp Leakey research station. Tanjung Puting also boasts the bizarre looking proboscis monkey with its “Jimmy Durante” nose as well as seven other primate species. Clouded leopards, civets, and Malaysian sun bears cavort in the park as do mouse deer, barking deer, sambar deer, and the wild cattle known as banteng.
Tanjung Puting hosts over 220 species of birds, including hornbills, deep forest birds and many wetland species. Tanjung Puting is well known for its “bird lakes, ” seasonal rookeries for a half a dozen species of endangered waterbirds, including the only known Bornean nesting grounds for white egrets. Tanjung Puting also has two species of crocodiles, dozens of snakes and frogs, numerous threatened species, including the fortune-bringing and highly endangered “dragon” fish also known as the Arwana (bony-tongue). Among the most flamboyant of these animals are the many species of colorful birds,butterflies, and moths found in the Park.
Tanjung Puting sits on a peninsula that juts out into the Java Sea . The peninsula is low lying and swampy with a spine of dry ground which rises a few feet above the omnipresent swamp. Towards the north of Tanjung Puting is characterized by gentle hills and gold- bearing alluvial plains. Maps of the region commonly portray a ridge of mountains coming down into Tanjung Puting. This ridge does not exist, in fact, nowhere does the altitude rise above 100 feet in Tanjung Puting.
Tanjung Puting is a veritable hothouse of ecodiversity. The diverse habitat zones shelter slightly different fauna and flora providing a great variety of microhabitats for plants and animals and thus, the opportunity for many species to be present in close proximity. In a Bornean context, tropical heath forest by itself is not representative of the largest trees, the tallest canopy, or the most diverse ecosystem.Tropical swamp ecosystems are little represented in protected areas throughout Southeast Asia but are omnipresent in Tanjung Puting. In the peat swamp forest, many trees have stilt roots or aerial roots as adaptations to frequent flooding.
Aside from its remarkable biological attributes, Tanjung Puting is highly important for the well-being of the surrounding local human population. The wetlands provide vital ecological services such as flood control, stream control regulation, erosion control, natural biological filtration system, and seasonal nurseries for fish which are the major source of local animal protein. Many of these services have an impact well beyond the local area.
For instance, the waters surrounding Tanjung Puting attract fishing vessels from many different parts of Indonesia . In addition, local peoplebenefit from a great variety of forest products including honey, waxes, aromatic woods, fibers for ropes and cloth, medicinal plants, fuel oils, thatching materials, rattan, firewood, incense, wild rubber, edible latexes, resins, natural pesticides, fungicides and possible virocides.
For the above reasons and many other reasons not noted, Tanjung Puting is recognized as one of the most important and outstanding provincial treasures in Kalimantan Tengah. The national government has also made a strong commitment to protect the forest, its wildlife and to manage the park wisely. Tanjung Puting has increasingly gained international prestige and recognition. As a result, more and more visitors from throughout the world are experiencing a fresh new outlook on nature and an appreciation of the tropical rain forest which was humankind’s original “Garden of Eden.”
The following global information about The Park
Excerpts from A Guidebook to Tanjung Puting National Park , Kalimantan Tengah ( Central Borneo ), Indonesia , by Dr. Biruté M.F. Galdikas and Dr. Gary L. Shapiro, published by PT Gramedia Putaka Utama and the Orangutan Foundation International, 1994. © All Rights Reserved. The book is currently out of print and unavailable.
Area: 3,040 sq km- the largest single protected forest in the province of Kalimantan . It is one of the largest protected area of tropical heath forest and peat swamp forest in Southeast Asia .
Altitude: 0 – 30 meters (0-90 feet)
Temperature range: 16-35°C (62-95°F); average daytime temperature: 30°C (85°F); average night time temperature [dry season: 26°C (77°F); wet season: 27°C (80°F)]. Rarely falls below 21° C (69°F).
Humidity: average Daily Range: 80-100%
Rainfall: average 2,000-3,000 mm/year Rainy Season Time of Year: October-April “Dry” Season: May-September (even during the “dry” season months, some rain usually falls)
Flora: more than 600 species Orchids: over 200 known species (the most beautiful orchids are often hidden in the canopy of the forest)
Birds: over 220 known species with 5 endemic to Borneo (many more species endemic to the Sunda Islands).
Primates: 9 species including one great ape, the orangutan; one lesser ape, the gibbon; five monkeys, one slow loris and one tarsier.
Mammals: 28 species of large mammals including bears, cats, pigs, and deer. A number of bats are found in the area including the famous “flying foxes.”
Tanjung Puting is distinguished by the following:
blackwater rivers with high acidity (pH 4.0 or less)
pockets of alluvial gold dust – major populations of wild orangutans, gibbons, dolphins and dugongs (manatee-like animals that served as the source-material of mermaid stories) in Kumai Bay
major populations of refuging monkeys, proboscis monkeys and macaques which come to the river to sleep in the trees at night
large populations of hornbills, primarily including the rhinoceros, pied and black hornbills which are the most commonly seen
rookeries containing thousands of breeding wetland birds including darters, night herons, white egrets, and lesser adjutant storks
only known populations of wood ducks in Kalimantan
major populations of pheasants including the Argus, black, and the crested and crestless fireback pheasants major populations of birds of prey including the crested serpent eagle, Brahminy kites, and falconettes
major populations of the endangered Dragonfish or Arwana, a “living fossil” which supposedly brings good luck to its owners