Three friends from Kalimantan Tour Destinations share their journey towards their dream of ecotourism in Central Kalimantan’s rainforest…
It was the beginning of 2008 and we were at last open for business! The three of us shared a dream to develop and promote ecotourism to protect the important areas of rainforest in Central Kalimantan whilst improving the livelihoods of local communities. Our vision was a simple one, to enable our guests to experience the natural environment and the Dayak communities in a eco-friendly way.
Developing our vision took patience and perseverance; we developed a business plan that was chosen In September 2006 as a winner in the Business in Development Challenge sponsored by the Netherlands government. This provided KTD with €6,000 prize money, important advice from a number of entrepreneurs, a network of contacts and a business plan that was able to attract additional investment from our own private funds.
Rehabilitation of a boat began in 2006 with a team of local boat builders, the demands of creating a boat with comfortable cabins, electricity, flushing toilets and flowing water proved to be too challenging. We suspended work on the boat and searched for a qualified boat designer and architect. By the end of 2006 we had found a British boat builder who was teaching boat building at the Surabaya Technical University and a local carpenter, who was contracted to complete the redesign.
In 2007, we chose the occasion of Central Kalimantan’s 50-year anniversary celebrations to name our boat and the Rahai’i Pangun was formally named in a Dayak Kaharingan ceremony. We wanted our boat to have a Dayak name that would resonate with local people so we approached Bapak Lewis, an elder of the Dayak Kaharingan religion for advice, who proposed the name ‘Rahai’i Pangun’. Rahai’i Pangun literally translates into English as ‘big development’ and was the name of the boat of a former prince (bandar) who sailed to China and other countries bringing many great treasures to Kalimantan from his travels. Bapak Lewis hoped that the new Rahai’i Pangun would also bring prosperity to the villages she visits.
Final work on the boat was completed and the Rahai’i Pangun was moved from Kereng Bangkirai on the Sebangau River, where she was remodelled and constructed, travelling out to sea and back up the Kahayan River for a final fit out ready to start operating.
In February 2008 the Rahai’i Pangun was launched by the Governor of Central Kalimantan, Bpk. A.Teras Narang, and embarked on her first overnight maiden voyage.
We worked with the community to establish self-managed community entrepreneur groups to work with providing host services to visitors. This helped to create alternative incomes and support the life and growth of the local culture. We also worked closely with our local stakeholders to share our learning (government, private sector, NGOs and communities) to promote ecotourism as a way of protecting the environment and creating alternative livelihoods.
Our eco-tourism business was taking off and we were invited to share our experiences, our capacity building approach to build boats paid off as we renovated our second boat the Spirit of Kalimantan and built another boat the Ruhui Rahayu, and two more boats were built by the government by the boat builder we had trained, in two different districts.
This Forest known as Kalawa has an area of about 7,025 hectares and is under serious threat from oil palm interests and seasonal fires. Within the villages that have rights to the forest, the communities are split into different interest groups. Some want to log it before it is lost to forest fires. A palm oil company trying to gain rights to the land surrounding the forest is creating a further threat of encroachment. Some welcomed the oil palm and others were firmly against it.
We partnered up with local NGO YCI Yayasan Cakrawala Indonesia and a local adventure company Jurang Batu to work together with the villagers in developing a plan. An initial survey was carried out with the villagers to survey the forest, the team came across orangutan nests, evidence of the honey bear and interesting bird life but the forest was already under severe threat with many trees marked for felling.
The villages had plenty to interest the traveller, a long house and sandungs or bone houses used as a part of an elaborate ritual for the dead to be released to travel to the next world. The earliest missionaries came into Kalimantan and the twin graves of a husband and wife demonstrated how in those early days the missionaries risked losing their heads.
Buntoi chosen as a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions through Avoiding Deforestation and Devastation) demonstration village will shortly celebrate the opening of The Climate Communication Centre for information and learning on environmental conservation and enhancement.
We facilitated a 3 day workshop to raise the awareness of the participants about the potential of managing their forest in a sustainable way and the consequences of the loss of the forest to their way of life. The workshop had been a great success with the different factions united under a shared vision to become an example of conservation and sustainability and to attract outsiders to share learning in the continuing challenge of climate change by regaining their cultural wisdom that once kept the balance between the need to sustain their lives and the forest life.
In September the villagers will have their first guests, a group of six from Switzerland providing them with a real experience to try out their planned itineraries. This is a first step on a long road and we aim to keep building on this enthusiasm by continuing to work with them on implementing their plans and attracting tourists to be part of their challenge in saving a small bit of forest that means so much for these 4 villages.