The Mahakam river originates at the Mueller Mountain and is 920 kilometers long, and is the most important traffic route in East Borneo. The Mahakam has many tributaries and small lakes and fascinates with its Amazonian-like scenery. In a number of places it is 400 to 500 meters wide. The Mahakam can be navigated far into the hinterland. Taking a boat trip on the river, the traveler glides along the tropical jungle vegetation on both sides of the river, into another world.
Many small settlements of the Dayak people are located on the shores of the river. These former headhunters still live traditionally in their communal longhouses. A longhouse has several compartments, which are typically used by one family. The length of a complete long house is between 100 and 300 meters. In the past, longhouses of a length of up to 400 meters could be found. The more traditional Dayak people have pierced earlobes, which over the years have become stretched by the weight of heavy gold or brass rings.
Things to do at Mahakam river
From Samarinda you can go either by bus or by boat to the town of Kota Bangun. From there you can hire a ces (motorized canoe) to the traditional villages of Tanjung Isuy or Mancong. Each of them has longhouses as tourist attractions. Tanjung Isuy is more prepared for tourists. Souvenir shops and traditional Dayak dancing performances are available. And on the way, travelers can enjoy scenic jungle views from their canoe.
About 26km from Samarinda the village of Pampang offers a cultural park where traditional Dayak dances are performed every Sunday from 2 pm to 3 pm. These performances are not made for tourists and original. People here still have traditional tattoos and stretched earlobes. If you want to go to Pampang, take a public minibus from Samarinda´s Segiri long-distance bus terminal.
Travel to Mahakam
The way to Mahakam river goes via the city of Samarinda. Unfortunately, the airport of Samarinda serves only regional flights within Kalimantan. Therefore, you have to fly to Balikapan first. Balikapan airport is well connected within Indonesia, so to Jakarta and Surabaya, for example.
From Balikapan you can go by air to Samarinda. Three regional airlines serve the connection Balikapan/Samarinda. These are Susi Air, Kal-Star, and Kaltim Airlines. All three airlines serve Samarinda only by regional flights within Kalimantan.
Another possibility to go from Balikapan to Samarinda is by bus. Therefore go by taxi to the Batu Ampar bus terminal north of the city. The bus takes only 2 hours to Samarinda, so this might by an alternative, even the ride will be extremely uncomfortable.