Present day Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of the vast island of Borneo, nestled a few hundred kilometers from the coasts of Malaysia, Singapore, Java, Sulawesi and, somewhat further to the north, the Philippines. It’s strategic position and its vast wealth has attracted traders, explorers, settlers, pirates and governments almost since the dawn of humankind itself.
With it’s once vast jungles full of honey bears and jungle cats, huge pythons, wild boar, deer, monkeys, birds, bugs and butterflies, it has also attracted botanists, zoologists and entomologists from all over the world. Its famed Dayak people have a rich, proud and often bloody history but also a vibrant and sophisticated culture that promotes art, music and intelligence as much as the skills need to survive in dense tropical jungle.
Between late 1989 and 1990, I made many trips to East Kalimantan, collecting and recording artifacts to supplement my meager income as I photographed and scribbled my way up the Mahakam River in staggered increments. Deforestation was in full swing, tragically largely for the pulp mills in Japan and elsewhere – back in the day when photocopiers and printers needed hard wood paper to operate correctly.
My travels focused largely on the people and tourism potential there, to try and build up a viable, sustainable alternative to the ceaseless devastation of the pristine jungles that then existed. Borneo was and still is a very large and rugged province and I hope that somewhere today there still exists the strong and vibrant Dayak culture that so enthralled me back in those days and that in some places common sense prevailed and there are still traces of the magnificent and very wild jungles that this island has been renowned for throughout history.