It was during my beginning days of exploring in indonesia, when i was not knowing how to speak. I googled and found that there are some parts of world which are still not covered n the google maps and some places even if covered, rest of the details about those places are not available in a language known to me. So i set out with very little available information for my trip to sangkulirang without knowing that i am going to sawit forest.


Some happy moments on the way to sangkulirang.


So i asked my local friend who is also a driver. He gladly agreed and together we reached sangkulirang after four hours drive from sangatta.


The place was very green around everywhere. Even though i was with two of my friends, the thought of going somewhere to explore, where you don’t even know the local language to express yourself in case of emergency was slighly discomforting me.

On reaching the place, we had our lunch in a hotel nearby and asked for direction through our driver. The communication was not effective. They told us all the information correctly.  Our friend and guide  was not curious at all. He was a very ignorant and innocent guy. He had helped me a lot during my stay. what they told in the hotel was “There are three different routes. you have to take a ferry accordingly”.But our friend did not know where to take us. Now our friend took us to a random place. We blindly followed him.

The ferry took us across the river and we entered the forest / plantation areas. After lot of roaming we reached some area near sea(Celebes sea). It was a mangrove forest. They used sea water to water the plants when the tide is high. And there were lot of tents made for relaxing / watch towers.sangkulirang00072.JPG

The wood from the mangrove trees are very strong and do not easily break and they also have a long life.  You can see the dense trees behind where i was standing. sangkulirang00078.JPG

Just a display of my strength. He was 40 Kg heavier than me.sangkulirang00090.JPG

The board behind me in this picture says this is a conservation area for various plants and animals. And it is true to  every word. I saw a big monitor lizard and mistaken it for a komodo dragon. There were lot of birds flying here and there. The local people hunt and there is no restriction for hunting, so a lot of species would have got dissappeared, i guess.sangkulirang00100.JPG

The use of river water and sea water for watering the plants. I could not understand the system, whether it was drain into sea or use of sea water for irrigation for mangroves. From the elevation, i can undestand that both river and sea water is used for irrigation with a bifurcation.

We were welcome by another sign board. It was the way to view the mangrove forests and the beach.sangkulirang00110.JPGsangkulirang00128.JPG

Mangrove forests.The roots growing above the ground.sangkulirang00138.JPG

That is me sitting on a root of a mangrove tree.sangkulirang00156.JPG

The sawit fruit( Buah sawit)sangkulirang00166.JPG

This is just one picture of a sawit fruit. There were thousand like this lying here and there on the road side of the forest converted plantations.sangkulirang00167.JPG

I forgot to take photos when i was truly lost amidst the sawit trees. There were some sign boards too indicating that we are not in a forest but amidst plantations , but all the routes are so similiar, and no humans at sight, we panicked and roamed around. We used sun for direction and reached near the river after a search of four hours. sangkulirang00198.JPG

We returned using the ferry, which is a very common means of transport across rivers in kalimantan. The first time i used ferry was in tengarrong, another beautiful place. There are lot of places in kalimantan to be explored for us , but about which the locals are familiar. If you ask for tourist places, you may not get correct response. There are backpacker groups and student groups who frequent to all these places. At other times these places are deserted. But you can notice people traveling in the night also without any trouble, even women traveling alone. Such is the culture of this place.

Even though women can travel solo, language barrier is a big drawback. Indonesian is very easy to learn and once you know basics, you can easily go across anywhere. The people on the country side are very friendly and there are road side houses where you can stay or take rest and have food round the clock.sangkulirang00219.JPG

There are many rivers all over kalimantan and therefore the place is very green everywhere. It is possible to get lost in a forest without satellite signal. It is impossible to move from one place to another without prior planning or may cost huge time and money. The roads are not as bad as mentioned in miss mureena’s blog.

Sangkulirang is an lesser explored part in east kalimantan province of Indonesia, home to the sawit forests. There are many places near sangkulirang for diving. There is a river with even name and it divides the district into parts. Islands are situated in the river as well as near the mouth of the river in the ocean and far in the ocean.

This place inspired me to learn indonesian language. Kaarst caves of sangkulirang are very famous yet i could not even locate it since all information is available in indonesian and the time constraint as an expat living there was unfavourable.

Just like i got lost in the sawit forest, i am also lost in writing about the topic and deviated far away from it.



By vidyasagar

Engineer, traveller, Cyclist, self-experimenter, Aspiring triathlete

4 thoughts on “Getting lost in sawit forests”
  1. We did the same thing in Thailand when we saw a giant monitor lizard…thought it was a Komodo and were half excited half frightened.

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