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10 interesting facts about Indonesia’s Kapuas River

Borneo has often been referred to as the Amazon of Asia thanks to its high density biodiversity. So if Borneo is the Asian Amazon, the ‘Amazon river’ of this island is none other than the Kapuas river.

Here are 10 interesting facts you need to know about Kapuas River, Indonesia

A view of Kapuas river from Suhaid.
1.It is the longest river in Indonesia

At 1,143 kilometers in length, it is the longest river of Indonesia and the island of Borneo.

It is also the world’s longest river. The delta of Kapuas river is at Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan Province.

An early morning view of Kapuas river from Semitau.
2.Wait, there are two Kapuas riverS?

There are actually two Kapuas rivers flowing from the same mountain range. One Kapuas river flows west into the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the other Kapuas river flows to the south, merging with the Barito Sea and ends at Java Sea.

The locals use longboats like this as a daily commute.
3. Kapuas river originates from the Muller mountain range

Both Kapuas rivers originate from the Muller Mountain Range, located south of the Indonesian-Malaysian border.

The mountain range was named after Major Georg Muller. He was a soldier and even fought for Napolean Bonaparte when France attacked Russia.

So how did a European army end up in the middle of Borneo in the 19th century?

Born in Mainz, Germany in 1790, Muller joined the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in 1817.

He took part in the Dutch attack against the Sambas kingdom in 1818.

In 1825, he led an expedition to cross Borneo inland via Mahakam and Kapuas rivers. However, the expedition ended in tragedy when he and his party were killed by the local Dayak tribe.

A travel blogger from Indonesia trying to capture the daily activities of people living next to the river.
4.There are two national parks on its river banks

Betung Kerihun and Danau Sentarum are the two national parks located at Kapuas river banks.

Together with Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysia, Betung Kerihun has been proposed as a World Heritage site.

Meanwhile, Danau Sentarum National Park lies in the upper Kapuas river tectonic basin some 700 kilometers from its delta.

The river is still the main way to connect the western coast of Kalimantan to central Borneo.
5. It is an important source of water and mode of transport

If you spend an early morning in any town located next to the river, you can catch some of the local people doing their daily chores.

You can see young children in large groups before going to school while the women do their washing on the wooden jetties.

Although roads are available to connect most parts of West Kalimantan, the Kapuas river is still the major waterway connecting the centre of Borneo with its western coast.

Tourists usually board this kind of speedboat to visit Danau Sentarum National Park.
6.The Kapuas river and its flora and fauna are any researchers’ dream subject

Many researchers believe there are still many new species to discover in Borneo, especially small creatures

The most recent fascinating species found in the river is the Kapuas mud snake back in 2005. German and American researchers discovered it accidentally when it was put in a dark bucket and changed colour 20 minutes later.

The snake has chameleon-like behaviour which allows it to change its epidermal colour spontaneously.

In addition to that, tropical rivers are unlike rivers in temperate zones. To this day, researchers are still gathering more information on hydrology and geomorphology of tropical river system.

A boat moored at Kapuas river.
7. It has a high density of fish species

There are about 300 fish species recorded in the river basin. The most iconic one is none other the super red arowana fish. It is only found in Kapuas river and is a famous species in the aquarium trade.

Sadly, the species is continuously decreasing because of wild poachers and low productive rates.

A view of the river from a ferry boat.
8. There are other remarkable species too

Apart from the super red arowana fish, there is one striking fish species found in Kapuas river.

Only officially described in 2008, the eight-banded barb (Eirmotus insignis) is a small zebra-striped fish which measures about 3.6cm in length.

It was found between the towns of Sanggau and Putussibau, among overhanging tree roots and aquatic vegetation.

Where can you find the world’s first lungless frog? In Kapuas river, of course! The Bornean flat-headed frog breathes entirely through its skin.

Scientists first discovered the frog in the middle of Kapuas river basin back in 1978.

This ferry boat departing from Suhaid can carry up to four cars at a time.
9.The longest bridge in Borneo crosses this river

The Tayan Bridge is the longest bridge in Borneo spreading over 1,975 meters. It crosses the Kapuas River in Sanggau, West Kalimantan to connect West Borneo with Central Borneo in Indonesia.

Ferry transportation is still widely used to carry vehicles across the river.
10.You can take a tour upriver from Pontianak

It takes up to two days on the deck to travel up Kapuas river from Pontianak depending on your mode of transportation. In Pontianak, there are travel agencies which can help you to plan a trip upriver if you are feeling adventurous. Plus, there are plenty to see along the river from local villages with different architecture to wildlife that might pass your way.

Go to the furthest upstream and you would find yourself in Tanjung Lokang. Located about 13 hours from Putussibau town by speedboat through Kapuas river, the village belongs to the Dayak Punan.

It is the last village in the Borneo jungle when you are heading east across the island.

A view of the ‘Asian Amazon river’ from a lodging house in Semitau.

 

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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