The great Mahakam River is the third longest river on earth. It cascades down from the highlands and is a crucial channel between the coast and the vast hinterland. The Mahakam River attracts tourists who want to travel deep into the jungle. The indigenous Dayak settlements along the Kayan and Bahau Rivers are perfect for exploring the intriguing Dayak culture, where village elders practice traditional medicine and mark their status with intricate body tattoos and remarkably heavy ear adornments. You are warmly welcomed in their traditional longhouses.
East Kalimantan’s dense jungle and wide terrain of wetlands have traditionally kept the region isolated from all but the adventurous travelers. Apart from a unique culture, Borneo also offers an enormous diversity of exotic fauna and flora, such as black orchids, freshwater dolphins and orangutans.
We have created this 8-day Mahakam River rainforest tour for those who want to learn about the traditional Dayak culture and experience the deep dense jungle and its rare plants and animals. Although this trip is a memorable experience, it is designed for those who are adventurous in body and spirit. Join us on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
Day 1: Balikpapan – Samarinda – Mahakam River
Upon arrival at Balikpapan Airport, you are welcomed by your guide and transferred to Loa Janan.
In Loa Janan, you board the houseboat for an exciting adventure on the Mahakam River.
Meals are provided and overnight stay is on the houseboat.
Day 2: Muara Muntai – Mancong – Tanjung Isuy – Muara Pahu
You start the day with a short sightseeing tour at the wooden village of Muara Muntai, before crossing Jempang Lake by motorized canoe towards Mancong. During the cruise, you can see the rainforest and wildlife at Ohong Creek.
Upon arrival at Mancong, you are welcomed with a traditional ceremony. In Dayaq Benuaq, you can admire one of the oldest Dayak longhouse of East Kalimantan.
In the late afternoon, you sail by motorized canoe to Tanjung Isuy for sightseeing and continue your trip on the houseboat for dinner and overnight stay.
The houseboat will cruise further up to Muara Pahu.
Day 3: Muara Pahu – Bolowan River – upstream Mahakam River
In the morning, you arrive at Muara Pahu and cruise up the Bolowan River by canoe. Along the river bank, you can see the exotic Kutai culture collide with nature.
After a while, you pass the island of the proboscis monkeys; you can try to spot these rare red endangered long-nose monkeys.
Then you move into the black water peat swamp forest land near Semayang Lake, with opportunities to spot freshwater dolphins in the Bolowan River.
In the late afternoon, you continue upstream to Melak aboard the houseboat.
Day 4: Melak – Eheng – Ombau Asa – Tering
Upon arrival in Melak, you drive to Eheng by 4WD or minibus, passing the beautiful highland to reach the old longhouse of Dayak Tunjung.
Afterwards, you visit Kersik Luway and explore the forest. If you are lucky, you can spot the famous black orchid.
In the afternoon, you head to the Ombau Asa waterfall, an exciting place for swimming.
Return to the houseboat and continue upstream Mahakam River to Tering (if the water level allows this).
Day 5: Tering – Rukun Damai
After breakfast, you cruise up the mighty Mahakam River. The river narrows as you cruise towards Rukun Damai. This village is a Dayak Kenyah and Kayan settlement with a longhouse, artistic statues and totems. The traditional culture with the tattoos and long ears, surrounded by tropical forest is something that makes a big impression.
Lunch and dinner are served at the local restaurant and overnight stay is at a guesthouse in Rukun Damai.
Day 6: Rukun Damai – Data Bilang
Breakfast is served at the guesthouse, before you sail downstream to visit the village of Data Bilang. This is a Dayak tribal community of the migrated Dayak Kenyah in the isolated Kayan region. They are known for their colorful longhouse and mystic believe of Kaharingan; this is a mix of Hindu religion with natural spirits. The Data Bilang district is also home of the native Dayak Bahau tribe, famous for its Hudoq mask ceremony when harvesting and planting.
Overnight stay is at a guesthouse in Data Bilang.
Day 7: Data Bilang – Tenggarong
After breakfast at the guesthouse, you go on a short sightseeing tour at the Data Bilang village and its surroundings.
You cruise downdstream the Mahakam River to Tenggarong.
Meals are served en route and overnight stay is on the boat.
Day 8: Tenggarong – Balikpapan
Upon arrival in Tenggarong, you visit the former palace of Sultan Kutai Kertanegara. Here, you can admire the Sultan’s impressive collection of heirlooms, ceramics, Dayak’s art and cultural items.
Afterwards, you are transferred to Balikpapan airport for your flight to your next destination.
Transfer from Balikpapan to Samarinda Harbor
Transfer from Tenggarong to Balikpapan
All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Water, coffee and tea
5 nights on a houseboat
1 night at a guesthouse in Rukun Damai
1 night at a guesthouse in Data Bilang
All accommodation is based on a twin share
English speaking guide
Entrance and donation fees
Dayak ceremony at Mancong/Tanjung Isuy
Soft and alcoholic drinks
Airfares to and from Kalimantan Airport
Insurance and healthcare expenses
Everything that is not mentioned in the program
What to bring
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to do this trip on another day.
The rate for this trip is based on 2 people. A discount is applicable for larger groups. Please contact us at email@example.com for more details.
Minimum group size
The minimum group size for this activity is 2 people.
My daughter and I recently took an 8-day, 7 night boat trip up the Mahakam River in East Kalimintan. We booked our trip with Didier Waegemans, a Belgian who is a partner Mundooz Borneo Adventure Tours. Didier was very knowledgeable and helpful and promptly responded to my inquiries throughout the planning process. He arranged the tour with De gigant Tours Borneo out of Samarinda, and fixed us up with an excellent, well-regarded guide named Jailani. We were provided with a beautiful, spotlessly clean boat with a crew of five who took care of our every need. The chef on board was terrific and cooked three delicious and perfectly cooked multi-course meals every day. We had the whole top of the boat to ourselves, which included our air-conditioned bedroom with a couple of thick mattresses on the floor, and a lovely veranda at the front of the boat where we could watch the world go by.
The tour itself was fascinating, but it is not what it used to be. Rather than seeing people living in longhouses in remote, traditional communities, these days the region is in the process of transformation. Kalimantan provides 25% of Indonesia’s GDP and so economic migration and resource extraction are rampant. Tugboats pull untold numbers of huge coal barges worth hundreds of thousands of dollars down river, and enormous rafts of hardwoods float downstream towards their Asian markets. Dozens of speed boats ply the river, full of workers heading back and forth from their jobs. The villages still process many commodities in traditional ways, including salt fish, baskets, woven cloth, wood carvings, palm sugar and sago, among others, and the processes used are astonishing to see. Wildlife still exists within and alongside the river, including Irrawaddy dolphins, monkeys of various kinds, and many beautiful birds. We took a number of shorter trips in motorized canoes, which were great fun, and there was no end of interesting sites along the way. The people were absolutely lovely, especially our guide Jailani, who has thorough knowledge of the area, as well as many relatives and friends in the various villages along the route.
We enjoyed every moment of our trip, and learned so much about Indonesia and the various Dayak cultures in this region. Indonesian people are among the friendliest in the world, and it was a very special treat to spend our time immersed in this rich natural and cultural world. Indonesia is developing rapidly, and while the days of the headhunters are long gone, seeing the cultural transformation of a people in such a short time is breathtaking. I would highly recommend this trip for anyone; it was a rich and unforgettable experience.
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My mum and I were looking for something different. We couldn't explore Borneo on a hiking trip as my mum's had some leg issues in the past and isn't able to walk for long distances. Luckily she's still adventurous and happy to try different things. Exploring Borneo on a houseboat was very special, as you get to go deep in the jungle without too much physical effort! :-) These 8 days flew by so fast, but we went back home with unique memories. Thank you very much!
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Aangename trip op een leuke boot
Ik had deze trip deels gekozen omwille van de boot; die zag er zo leuk en authentiek uit op de foto's dat ik het wel zag zitten om hier enkele nachten op door te brengen. En inderdaad, het bleek een goede gok. Het was heel prettig om het leven in, op en rond de Mahakam rivier op deze manier te ervaren. Leuk concept, geweldige gidsen en aangename mede-reizigers! Vergeet zeker geen muggenspray en zonnemelk mee te nemen, zelf was ik dit vergeten maar kon gelukkig rekenen op de goedheid van anderen... ;-)