About a two hour’s drive north of Balikpapan city central lies one of East Kalimantan’s tourist draws: the canopy bridge walk at Bukit Bangkirai.
Bukit is actually a park within the rain forest, featuring log cottages for overnight stays, a small restaurant, restrooms, several [overgrown] jungle treks, a questionably maintained swimming pool and, for those who linger until five in the afternoon or so, the lure of viewing East Kal’s famous Hornbills that frequent the area around dusk.
But the main draw remains the brief but thrilling canopy walk experience.
What it is: Bukit’s canopy walk consists of five narrow suspension bridges made of wooden planks, steel cabling and nylon side netting (if you ignore the random string here and there that “patches” problem areas) dangling between enormous, old-growth tees, some thirty meters in the air (that’s 98.4 feet!).
How it works: Climb the wooden staircase to the canopy above where the first platform awaits. Once you cross the bridge to the next platform, another canopy bridge will bring you to the next and so on until you end at another tower with a staircase leading down.
In any case, the view is fantastic up there, so if wobbly knees allow, make sure you take in the vast views of Borneo’s rain forest.
Finding the canopy walk from the parking lot: Once you’ve reached the Bukit Bangkirai parking lot, go to the large, open-aired building (# 2 on the above map) and purchase your tickets (there are separate tickets for parking, entrance fee and then the canopy walk with prices apparently varying depending upon your nationality status).
If you ask for a map (“peta”), you may receive a photocopied, hand-drawn rendition of the park that serves as an amusing souvenir if nothing else.
Once you’ve purchased your tickets, proceed out the back of the ticket building and take the path to the left that leads to the canopy bridge (# 17 on the map), following the sign shown below. The walk is quite pleasant, with towering trees shading most of the way. Bug spray to ward of mosquitoes is definitely recommended.
How to reach the park: Private car, taxi or tour bus remain the current options to reach this rather remote destination. On the bright side, taxis in Balikpapan are pretty cheap, and most hotels can help arrange for transport should you wish to make a day trip. Depending on whether or not it has recently rained, you may need to ensure a four wheel drive, or, at the very least, an SUV as the roads get pretty rough about an hour outside of town. Also? The trip there is w-i-n-d-y (as in, curvy, not breezy). So, if you get motion sick like I do, take some ginger ahead of time!
Travel Tip: At the back of the parking lot, there is a restaurant on stilts and then beside that, a small office/souvenir shop attached to an open-air food stall area. The fried rice at the food stall is super cheap and delicious. Highly recommended!
Entrance Fee: About 5 USD per person. Cash only. (But bring extra as the prices seem to fluctuate.)
What to bring: Hiking shoes, bug spray, SPF, water (you can buy bottles at the food stall), a hat, cash and … a camera of course!
Location: Jl. Balikpapan-Samarinda, KM 32 (20 KM on the highway towards Penajam and then 7 KM off road), Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Phone: (+62) 542 36066