Tanjung Puting National Park is one of the natural wonders of the world. You may not believe this after you have been there only one day or two days or three days, but after the fourth or fifth day something happens. You are captivated completely by the purity of the air, the openness of the night sky with the most remarkable view of the Milky Way, the magnificence and dignity of the gentle orangutans, the thundering downpours that instantly cool the air, and the clarity of the brilliant crimson sunsets.
Tanjung Puting is the largest and most diverse protected example of extensive coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest which used to cover much of southern Borneo. The area was originally declared as a game reserve in 1935 and a National Park in 1982. While the Park has checkered history of weak protection, nonetheless, it remains substantially wild and natural.
Tanjung Puting is covered by a complex mosaic of diverse lowland habitats. It contains 3,040 sq km2 of low lying swampy terrain punctuated by blackwater rivers which flow into the Java Sea. At the mouth of these rivers and along the sea coast are found Nipa/mangrove swamps. Mangroves teem with animal life. Tanjung Puting also includes tall dry ground tropical rain forest, primarily tropical heath forest, with a canopy of 40 meters with “emergents” exceeding 50 meters in height, seasonally inundated peat swamp forest with peat in layers two meters deep, open depression lakes formed by fire, and open areas of abandoned dry rice fields now covered with elephant grass and ferns. The tropical heath forest which is called “kerangas” in parts of Borneo, is only found on very poor, typically white-sandy soils and is characterized by medium-sized trees.
The best known animals in Tanjung Puting are the orangutans, made famous through the efforts of Orangutan Research and Conservation Program, which is based at the landmark Camp Leakey research station. Tanjung Puting also boasts the bizarre looking proboscis monkey with its “Jimmy Durante” nose as well as seven other primate species. Clouded leopards, civets, and Malaysian sun bears cavort in the park as do mouse deer, barking deer, sambar deer, and the wild cattle known as banteng. Tanjung Puting hosts over 220 species of birds, including hornbills, deep forest birds and many wetland species.
Tanjung Puting is well known for its “bird lakes”, seasonal rookeries for a half a dozen species of endangered waterbirds, including the only known Bornean nesting grounds for white egrets. Tanjung Puting also has two species of crocodiles, dozens of snakes and frogs, numerous threatened species, including the fortune-bringing and highly endangered “dragon” fish also known as the Arwana (bony-tongue). Among the most flamboyant of these animals are the many species of colorful birds,butterflies, and moths found in the Park.