Although Balikpapan is not typically a tourist destination, there are some interesting things to do here. Here are a few of our local favorites:
Sun Bears Environmental & Recreation Center - On the road to Samarinda, there's the sun bear sanctuary on the right. Feeding time is 9 am and 3 pm, which is the time to visit. Reservations are not needed and it's free of charge. Also has a small educational center to learn about different bear species, as well as a nice park/playground while you wait for feeding time.
Bukit Bangkirai - On the way to Samarinda (about 40 km outside Balikpapan), Bukit Bangkirai is 10,000 hectares of hardwood trees. It has hanging bridges 40 meters high in which adventurous climbers can view the rain forest below! Rp 30,000 (plus Rp 2,000 for parking). Open weekdays and weekends. Reservations are not needed.
Samboja Lodge - Samboja Lodge is just 40 km outside of Balikpapan, which makes it a great local trip. It is run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation who rescues and rehabilitates orangutans and sun bears, which you can visit on site. Make sure you call ahead to make a reservation, even if you're just planning a day trip. You can stay for lunch or even overnight in the lodge. (Plan on over Rp 500,000 per person for a day at the sanctuary and lunch at the lodge). If there has been recent rain, plan on taking a 4x4 vehicle to traverse the muddy and hilly roads inside the sanctuary grounds to get to the lodge. www.sambojalodge.com
Crocodile Farm - There's a crocodile farm past Batakan area, near Manggar. Although quite run down, you can visit for Rp 15,000 per person. If you pay an additional Rp 10,000, you can throw a chicken over the fence and feed the crocs. For Rp 3,000, you can try crocodile satay (when available). Reservations are not needed.
Dayak Dancing - Every Sunday, you can drive to Samarinda to the village of Pampang to watch traditional Dayak dancing in a longhouse. The show is from 2 - 3 pm, with an entrance fee to the show Rp20.000 (additional donations recommended). There is a 25.000 camera fee and additional Rp15.000 to take individual photos of the village elders.
Batik Factory - Batik Shaho Factory, Jl. Lkmd Rt 5, No 45 km 3,Belakang kampus Untri, Masuk kurang lebih 300 meters, Belakang Masjid Al-Majid, Phone numbers: 081254215746 or +62542413634 or +6281346241922. Can be tricky to find the first time, but pass the Tridharma University on your right and take the immediate right on side street. At the small mosque on the left, park, then walk down the alley. Batik Shaho Factory is on the right. You'll see "Shaho" painted on the wall. Open to the public to buy batik or to learn yourself! Call ahead to make reservations so they can prepare. Cost Rp 100,000 and will take approximately 2 hours. You will need to come back in 2 days after your batik is processed. A fun activity that makes you appreciate how hard it is to make beautiful batik!
Borneo Craft Collection -Jalan Wiluyo Puspoyudo No.13 Klandasan Balikpapan, open daily Monday to Friday, 9 am - 5 pm.Tel: 0542 418717, 0542418725 www.yayasantotalindonesie.org They also offer basketry classes for children and adults. School students who are interested can participate in a free 4 (four) meetings with instructor, with material provided by Yayasan, can contact us at [email protected] [email protected] Adults who are interested in learning basic techniques of plaiting, can be catered for in groups of 5-6 persons. For adults there is a fee for raw material (pandan, bamboo or rattan) and instruction of approximately IDR 200,000 per person. Class consists of 4 (four) meetings at Yayasan premises. Class consists of individual instruction on how to plait simple mats, mats with simple motifs, boxes, etc.
Pasar Kebun Sayur - A popular place to buy souvenirs of Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, and Borneo. Batik shirts, screen-printed t-shirts, sarongs, beaded jewelry, wood carvings, and even semi-precious gems are for sale. Be ready to haggle and bargain! It's also a fun place to watch locals play chess in the narrow walkways.
Fishing at Widuri! Widuri is about 10 kilometers past Manggar and a great spot for a day of pond fishing. You can rent tackle or bring your own. Pay only for what you catch. Limited snacks for sale, but you can bring your own cooler. If you're really adventurous, they have little rooms you can rent to stay overnight.
Mangrove Forest - From Balikpapan, you head toward Kebun Sayur to SMAN 8. Next to this school building you will find a gate with an ulin bridge. Go along this bridge to the entrance. Although often locked, you can call the administrator (phone number written on the gate). Someone will arrive to open the gate. You can explore the forest after writing your name on a guest book and give a donation (not specified).
Remnants of WWII and War Memorials - Balikpapan has a rich history and involvement in WWII. Knowing where to go, you can find old bunkers, navel guns, and other historic remnants. The Borneo Bears will be able to point you in the right direction and tell you where all the various pieces are located in and around Balikpapan. (Photo at left was taken near Open House Restaurant).
There are also several monuments, including the Australian War Memorial located near Strand Banua Patra Beach (near Kemala Beach off Jl. Surdiman). There you can find information on the Battle of Balikpapan as well.