Sightseeing at Balikpapan (Orangutan Sanctuary & Yummy Seafood)

25 May, 2014

Known as the oil city of Indonesia, Balikpapan is located in the eastern side of Kalimantan Island, Indonesia.  It is surrounded by untouched natural beauty from colourful marine life and coral reef, to vibrant flora and fauna.  If you want to take an off the beaten track approach to explore Indonesia (beyond Jakarta and Bali), Balikpapan is a good place to start.  Balikpapan is generally quite safe, clean, quiet and it has a lot to offer to travellers from yummy affordable seafood to even educational experiences e.g. learning about conservation efforts for Borneo’s orangutans. Balikpapan is only a short 2 hours 15 minutes flight away from Singapore.  There are many direct flights from Singapore to Balikpapan.


Manggar Beach at Balikpapan

If you are planning a trip to Balikpapan, you can consider taking the Friday afternoon flight to Balikpapan, arriving just in time to catch the beautiful sunset off the Manggar Beach.  This white sand beach which is located at about 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) from the city center, is huge at 13,000 square-meters and one of the most popular spots for locals.  Here, you can enjoy swimming, riding banana boats, sailing, playing beach volley ball or simply just relaxing by the beach.  Locals love to flock to this beach to watch the sunset over the Straits of Makassar.

manggar-beach-balikpapanPicture Credits: ndree_huh

Local Seafood at Balikpapan

You will also be in time for a seafood dinner feast.  Balikpapan is also renowned for its wide range of seafood restaurants.  Fresh or catch of the day, crabs, prawns and fishes are offered with various local sauces, such as sweet and sour, hot and sour, black pepper, “nelayan” or “rujak”, just to name a few. Also don’t miss the fried “gurame” fish or the “mud crab”.

mud-crab-seafood-balikpapanPicture Credits: Faye Yu

At Balikpapan, you can also try out a local delicacy – Amplang Kuku Macan.  It is a kind of chips made from fish – something like keropok and I think it will be an addictive snack.

Amplang-Kuku-Macan-balikpapanPicture Credits:

Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation – Samboja Orangutan and Sun Bear Sanctuary

If you are interested in ecotourism, you can explore Balikpapan’s wide green area of conservation forests on Day 2 (Saturday), where protected native animals, such as “Beruang Madu” or Sun Bears (Balikpapan’s icon) and Orangutans can be seen.

There are a number of Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation eco-lodges around Balikpapan – the nearest is Samboja.  The Samboja eco-lodge is open to visitors only on Saturday so do call ahead to confirm your visit.  To visit the eco-lodge, you will be expected to donate US$50 as contribution to the conservation cause.  The Samboja eco-lodge is about a 1 hour journey by car from the Balikpapan city centre.

At Samboja, “Forest Schools” were established to provide natural, educational playgrounds for the orangutans in which to learn forest skills. The orangutans roam freely but under supervision and are returned to sleeping cages for the night. “Orangutan islands” were created where the orangutans that cannot return to the wild (due to sickness) would still able to live in almost completely natural conditions.

balikpapan-orang-utan-bos-roger-le-guenPicture Credits: Roger Le Guen

Samboja is also home to 52 sun bears which were confiscated from the illegal pet trade or rescued from deforested areas.  The sanctuary includes a 58 hectares area put aside for the bears.

Besides roaming the sanctuary to view the wildlife in their natural habitat (no touching of the orangutans is allowed), you can also do a 2 week or more volunteering course, where you can help out with the animals.

sun-bear-bos-balikpapanPicture Credits: jandicedferret

Canopy Bridge at Bukit Bangkirai

Bukit Bangkirai is a 1,500 hectare forest that is home to the 150 year old bangkirai trees, 45 different species of orchids and 113 different species of birds.

Bukit Bangkirai is also home to the famous Canopy Bridge. It was originally built here in East Borneo for biological study of the ecosystem in the tropical rain forest canopy. It has become popular for sightseeing, allowing the public to experience the beauty of a tropical rain forest from 30 metres above the ground. The area around Canopy Bridge is also a nice spot to enjoy the nature, or to camp and watch the stars.

Bukit Bangkirai is located 58 kilometres northwest of the city of Balikpapan.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to get to this area from Balikpapan by car.

Entrance fee is Rp 2,000 (20 US cents) for adults and Rp 1,000 for children. An additional price of Rp. 15,000 for domestic tourists and Rp. 30,000 for foreign tourists applies for those wanting to go across the canopy bridge.

Bukit-Bangkirai-balikpapanPicture Credits:

Teritip Crocodile Farm

If you still have time after touring the above places on Saturday, you can consider checking out Teritip Crocodile Farm.  The Teritip Crocodile Farm is a breeding center with the highest number of crocodiles in East Kalimantan.  Currently there are more than 1,450 crocodiles are bred, consisting of estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the most dominant, and two rare species of crocodile, the freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) and crocodile chopsticks (Tomistoma segellly).

These crocodiles are bred in dozens of cages covering a 5 hectare of area. These cages are categorized into four types i.e., cubs, weigh gaining process, young crocodiles and mothers.

The crocodile feeding was scheduled only two times a week. But for Rp. 10,000, you can buy a whole chicken and directly feed it to the crocodiles and see the feeding frenzy as the crocodiles fight over the food.

The crocodile farm is open to the public every day from 8 am to 5 pm. The crocodile farm location can be reached by public transportation – bus number 7.  Entrance fee is Rp. 10,000.


Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comment (1)

  • KerstinReply

    15 July, 2015 at 5:14 am

    Hello, I plan my next journey – and kalimantan is one goal. Thanks for the information…and greetings from germany

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