Driving Into the heart of the Meratus Mountain Range, some two and a half hours from Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan Province, one will be welcomed by a lush landscape decorated with wonderful waterfalls, rushing rivers, and the enchanting culture of its indigenous people. That isolated piece of South Kalimantan’s paradise is known as Loksado, a sub-district of the Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency where the well preserved indigenous Dayak culture meets the stunning natural landscape.
This particular part of Kalimantan is home to the indigenous Dayak Meratus tribes–a sub ethnic group of the Dayak in Kalimantan that occupy traditional houses calledBalai. Today, there are at least 43 of these Balai that can be found in 9 villages across Loksado. Among these, the most notable are Balai Hambawang Masam, Balai Adat Malaris, Balai Kacang Parang, Balai Haratai, and more. A Balai is a traditional wooden long house with tens of rooms measuring 3 by 4 meters and are occupied by tens of families.
Although many of Dayak families have turned to more modern housing, these Balai are still used for religious rituals. Similar to most Dayaks, the Dayak Meratus follow an ancient religion called Kaharingan which simply translated means “life”. This faith includes the concept of a Supreme Deity and emphasizes the harmony between mankind, between man and nature, and the harmony between man and God.
Living closely with nature, the Dayak Meratus practice the Aruh Ganal Rituals that revolve around agriculture. There are three parts in the Aruh Ganal Rituals, they are: Aruh Basambu, after completion of rice planting (locally known asbehuma/menugal), which usually occurs in February ; Aruh Bawanang Lalaya, to celebrate the harvest (usually occurs around June); and Aruh Bawan Banih Halinto mark the close of the harvesting season (which usually occurs in September). These rituals can be observed in some of the villages, among which: the Haratai Village, Muara Ulang Village, Lahung Village, and more.
Equally fascinating as the exotic Dayak culture are the Meratus Mountains themselves that are filled with natural splendors. The lush landscape is decorated with fascinating waterfalls, among which are: the Haratai Waterfall, Riam Hanai Waterfall, Kilat Api Waterfall, Rampah Menjangan Waterfall, Pemandian Anggang Waterfall, and Tinggiran Hayam Waterfall.
There is also the Tanuhi Hot Spring where one can enjoy refreshing hot water. Its tropical forest moreover, holds other treasures where the exotic pitcher plant (Nepenthes distillatoria) and the endemic Meratus Orchid (Dendrobium hepaticum) grow.
The most exceptional feature of Loksado’s natural treasures is the Amandit River that runs through some of the most fascinating sceneries of the area. The winding river of fresh clear water decorated with rocks and creeks and unique traditional bridges that look to the lush green hills of Meratus are surely a sight rarely found elsewhere. To top it all, you should enjoy the magnificent scenery and exceptional sensation from a bamboo raft on the river.
How To Get There
The highway is paved all the way from Banjarmasin to Kandangan, but from Kandangan capital of Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency) the road narrows considerably. There is no public transportation from Banjarmasin or elsewhere, except from Kandangan but even this is not frequent. If your starting point is Banjarmasin, your best bet to reach Loksado is by renting car with driver. The trip itself will take approximately 4-5 hours.
Where To Stay
If you are looking for starred hotels or exclusive accommodation, you will never find these in Loksado. The best way to experience Loksado is by spending the night with the locals where you can be a part of the local way of life. Arrange with your tour operator to sleep in one of the villagers houses. However, if you prefer, there is one modest inn available in Loksadom which is:
Kecamatan Loksado, Hulu Sungai Selatan, Kalimantan Selatan
Contact: Taufik Yusuf
What To Do
With so many traditional Dayak Meratus villages, Loksado is the best place to observe the culture of the indigenous people of Borneo which they have whole heartedly preserved. The Meratus Mountains is also a perfect place for those who enjoy trekking and discover the treasures of Kalimantan’s tropical forest.
However, the most exceptional activity –one that you definitely must try- is the Bamboo Rafting. Different from cruising the river on rubber boats or kayaks, the thrill of riding the currents over creeks while standing on a bamboo raft is something truly out of the ordinary. Bamboo Rafting here actually originated from the local people’s activity in transporting and selling bamboo known as Balanting Paring. In transporting the bamboos, the indigenous people of Loksado strap together some 50 or 70 bamboo poles and ride them on the river to the city of Kandangan.