The Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo is an enchanting place located at an altitude between 760 and 1200 meters.
Unlike the lowlands of Borneo which is known for its hot and humid climate, this place offers cool weather and chilly winds, especially at night.
Located in North Kalimantan, Indonesia, the highlands lie right along the border with Sarawak and Sabah of Malaysia.
Administrative-wise, the highlands are divided into five-sub-districts in the Nunukan District.
Long Bawan works as its centre with connecting flights from Indonesian towns of Nunukan, Tarakan and Malinau.
Visitors can also visit the highlands by road from Ba Kelalan, Sarawak.
The Heart of Borneo is an initiative of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to preserve and maintain the sustainability of Borneo’s last remaining rainforest.
Part of the conservation done for the initiative is to improve the conservation management in the area and documenting traditional ecological knowledge.
Here are 10 reasons why you should visit the Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo:
1.For the biodiversity at the Heart of Borneo Highlands
Most parts of the Krayan Highlands are covered by heath forest. The locals call it tana’ payeh.
There you can find unique flora and fauna including pitcher plants and various kinds of wild orchids.
2.Learn about the culture of Lundayeh people
The highlands are the homeland of several thousand Dayak community especially the Lundayeh. Besides them, there are also the Kelabit, Sa’ban and Penan people living there.
The best place to learn about Lundayeh culture is at Cultural Field School near Trang Baru village.
It is a space for cultural celebrations as well as where you can learn about traditional music and dances.
The school is initiated by Formadat (Forum of the Indigenous People of the Highlands of Borneo) in collaboration with WWF-Indonesia.
There you can also learn traditional wood carving and rattan weaving.
3.Visit ancient burial sites called “perupun”
Forget about the pyramids, “perupun” are ancient Lundayeh burial sites that can be found in the Krayan Highlands.
Villages including Pa Rupai, Terang Baru, Long Umung, Pa Raye, Long Layu, Long Api and Pa Kebuan all have perupun of their own.
These ancient graves were built by piling up dozens of huge stones on the burial ground.
However, nobody really knows how the olden communities of Krayan Highlands were able to do that.
4.Visit the mysterious crocodile mounds
Here is another mysterious archaeological site of the Krayan Highlands; the crocodile mounds.
The ancestors of Lundayeh people built them as a sign of bravery especially after returning from a successful headhunting trip.
These crocodile mounds can be found in places like Long Midang, Tang Payeh, Terang Baru and Long Layu.
Most of the heads of these crocodiles were built facing the river. This was to protect the community who built them from enemies coming from the river.
The unexplainable part of these mounds is that, there are no crocodiles in Krayan Highlands.
5.Watch how mountain salt is processed
Mountain salt is one of the most important sources of livelihood of the Krayan Highlands.
Salt production occurs all-year round but is more intensive when the locals are not working on their rice fields.
Most of production houses where this salt is processed are a humble building made from wooden planks with zinc roof.
There, the brine from salt springs are boiled for at least 24 hours before the crystallised salt is dried and packaged for marketing.
Make sure you buy some as souvenirs before you go home.
6.Enjoy the scenic view of paddy farms
The main source of income for the locals Krayan Highlands is paddy farming.
These paddy farms offer scenic view of the highlands regardless of the season. The local farmers start to prepare the rice seedlings in July and then they begin to plant. The harvesting period is usually starts late December until February.
While buffaloes are commonly found in the highlands, they are only used to trample the paddy field and eating the weeds.
The rice from Krayan Highlands has the certificate of Geographic Indication (GI), thanks to the unique characteristics of this rice.
Known as adan rice, it comes in red, white and black colours.
7.Take a look at rock art
Batu Narit is a form of rock art found in several places in the Krayan Highlands including Pa Rupai village.
The one in Pa Rupai have several motives including a snake and some geometrical shapes.
Nobody knows who exactly carved these rocks and the meanings behind these motives.
8.Take a sip of Krayan’s ‘Fountain of Youth’
Locally known as Air Bunga, the small stream named Ba’ Sarang is the Krayan version of Fountain of Youth.
Locals believe the water flows from the stream has anti-aging properties as well as healing powers.
The stream is located five-minute walk from the town hall of Tang Payeh village.
Even if you do not believed in the water’s miraculous power, a walk to the stream passing through paddy field is therapeutic enough.
9.Have a gastronomic adventure of Lundayeh food
The Lundayeh people have their own unique culinary food which are made from their own farms and jungle produce.
Their desserts and pastries are mostly made from rice flour, which is widely available.
One of their must-try dishes is biter, a type of rice porridge cooked with different vegetables such as cassava leaves and ginger flower.
Additionally, there are so many fruits to choose from and all of them are locally sourced.
10.Hike up the hill of legendary hero Yuvai Semaring
If trekking is your thing then you cannot miss a visit up the hill of Yuvai Semaring.
The hill stands about 1,100 meters offering hikers the beautiful view of Krayan Highlands settlements.
On the top of the hill, hikers can also explore the mountain ranges which border the highlands to Sarawak and Sabah.
It takes only less than an hour to climb. A trip to the Krayan Highlands is definitely incomplete without looking at the highlands from the top of Yuvai Semaring.