THE KRAYAN HIGHLANDS
THE HIGHLANDS IN THE HEART OF BORNEO, FOREST, RICE PADDIES, ARCHAEOLOGY, CULTURE, AND TRADITIONAL CUISINE AT THE BORDER WITH SARAWAK AND SABAH
Vast parts of the Krayan Highlands are covered by heath forest or locally known as tana’ payeh. The unique flora that grows in this type of forest makes for exciting botanical encounters like the famous black orchid, several species of rhodo- dendron of vibrant colors, pitcher plants, plants with medicinal properties, and much more. Very close to the villages of Long Bawan, Lembudud and Terang Baru, easy walks can be organized to discover the hidden treasures of the remnant heath forest vegetation, a typi- cal ecosystem of the Highlands of Krayan.
The Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo offer enchanting views. Gentle slopes covered with dense forest and wide valleys interlaced with traditional paddies, gardens and fruit groves, create a unique and pleasant landscape. The Highlands are located at an altitude between 760 and 1,200 meters. Cool weather, especially at night, is also a nice break from the hot and humid climate of the lowlands of Borneo. People and nature seem to have worked together well to shape the landscape in beautiful and sustainable ways. Over the centuries, local Indigenous Peoples have trans- formed the bottom of the valleys in rice fields and created a self-sustained agricultural cycle integrated with water buffalos husbandry. The Krayan Highlands in North Kalimantan lie right at the border with Sarawak and Sabah (Malaysia) and are divided into five sub-districts in the District of Nunukan, Indonesia. They form one geographical-eco-cultural landscape with the Highlands of Bario, Ba’ Kelalan (Sarawak), and Ulu Padas (Sabah). Long Bawan is the biggest center and the main destination of flights from the coastal towns of Nunukan, Tarakan, and Malinau. The Krayan Highlands can also be reached by road from Ba’ Kelalan (Sarawak) across the international border.
When the forest fruit season comes (the main mast fruiting cycle in the tropical forest is on average every 5 years), local people organize festivals and tasting events to celebrate the abundance of fruit, a cultural and natural heritage of the Heart of Bor- neo. Some forest fruit varieties can only be found in the Krayan Highlands.
Salt Making in Krayan
Unique about the Highlands is the high concentration of salt springs in the relatively flat alluvial valleys. Most of them are situated in low swampy areas, others flow from the foothills in the forest and mix with the water of the streams. Mountain salt originates from high salinity water that flows from deep underground. It was trapped there millions of years ago when the landscape of the Highlands was covered by sea. Over time, local people have come to know those brine springs good for human consumption (main) and the salt licks (rupan) visited by ani- mals. Through ingenuity and skills, local people have turned the high salinity water into salt and traded the product throughout the isolated inte- rior of Borneo.
Salt was one of the most valuable commodities traded out of the Krayan Highlands in the past. Salt production occurs throughout the year, but is more frequent during the less intensive spells of the rice agricultural cycle. The production of mountain salt is an important part of the historical and cultural heritage of the communities living in the Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo. Salt is often given as gift to visitors and family members.
Rich Cultural Traditions
A traditional construction not far from the village of Terang Baru, erected on land do- nated by a local family, hosts the Cultural Field School (CFS), a space for cultural celebrations and for learning traditional music and dances, and some antique skills like wood carving. Fine, colorful handicrafts made of bamboo and rattan are also produced by local women artisans.
Feeling at “home”; local hospitality and traditional cuisine
Spending a few days in tha Krayan Highlands is an oppurtinity to live the life of the locals. Whether working in the rice fields with the host family, exploring the spring where local people have traditionally produced “mountain salt” or learning the art of handicraft-making with local women, visitors will be able to get a true glimpse into a different world where communities still live in harmony with nature and are proud of their cultural traditions.