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Entries in Danau Sentarum (9)


Collecting in Danau Sentarum

Image above was taken by dear friend, Wim Giesen (thx, Wim). It's 1994, and I am in Denau Sentarum (see Danau Sentarum) in a large, and somewhat tipsy, wooden boat collecting a specimen of Calamus schistoacanthus (see Enrichment Planting). Looks like I was having a good time. [NOTE: Maybe the boat was tipsy because Wim was standing up in front taking a picture].


Compass in Kapuas Hulu

Melayu field assistant taking a compass bearing as we run inventory transects through tembesu (Fagraea fragrans Roxb.) stands in Danau Sentarum National Park in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan (see Danau Sentarum). Of interest here is the way he has the Silva compass resting on top of a stake that he has cut and carved. Always stays flat, easy to swivel, and frees up his other hand for taking notes. Essentially turns a hand compass into a staff compass. Ingenious. [NOTE: I had forgotten about this trick until I came across the slide. Wish I could remember this man's name...].


Enrichment Planting

This shot requires a bit of an explanation.  The villagers from Sumpak in the Danau Sentarum National Park (see Danau Sentarum) in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan are fisherman.  They make their fish traps (see Bubu Weaver) out of duri antu (Calamus schistoacanthus) rattan, which is getting increasingly hard to find in the forests near the village. In early October of 1994, a group of villagers asked me if it would be possible to enrich some of the degraded rattan stands in front of their village by transplanting duri antu seedlings from more distant, unharvested forests.  I said yes, but that it would require a lot of work and that the transplants would need to be continually tended. The next day, almost everyone in the village - men, women, and children - turned out to help dig up, carefully bag, and transport rattan seedlings to the planting area.  

So, the picture above shows a group of villagers from Sumpak with a boat full of duri antu seedlings getting ready to bring them back across the lake and plant them. [NOTE: The villagers transplanted 82 duri antu seedlngs on this day; about a third of them survived (and these have probably already been made into bubus by now)].    


Big Snake

Still working through that box of photos from Indonesia. Really have no idea about the context of this image. I know it was taken at Danau Sentarum (see Danau Sentarum) during the dry season because the house poles are visible in the background. And I know the man in the foreground has a large reticulated python (Python reticulatus) around his neck. And I notice that I didn't take a close-up of this. [NOTE: Maybe I've repressed the memory of this encounter because of my discomfort with snakes].


Out at Night

Found an old box of photos from my Indonesia days. This image shows a nighttime foray at Danau Sentarum to collect Apis dorsata honey (see Honey). Kind of creepy (for me) going out at night on the largest inland lake in Borneo in a handmade wooden boat that's constantly leaking.

The image below is a close-up of our take that night. Honey this fresh is really, really delicious.



The fisherman at Danau Sentarum (see Danau Sentarum and Bubu Weaver) collect honey produced by Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee.  These bees are almost an inch long and have an excruciating sting.  I went honey hunting with a group of fisherman in the early 1990's.  We motored over in our boat to the hive and two collectors scaled the tree.  They both carried smoking torches to subdue the bees so they wouldn't get stung (so much). They alternated rubbing the smoking torch over the hive and hacking at it with their parangs to free it from the branch.

I was calmly sitting in the boat taking in the whole process, when all of a sudden the entire hive fell into the boat. Bees and all. Needless to say, everybody jumped in the lake, much to the amusement of the two collectors up the tree. I was later told, "they always do that".  [NOTE: The photo was taken during the dry season when the lake is low and all the house are floating several meters up in the air.  Those are my purple high tops shown at the lower left].


Bubu Weaver

Bubus are cylindrical fish traps made by villagers at Danau Sentarum (see Danau Sentarum and Cordage) in West Kalimantan. The traps are made out of rattan, and each one requires about 500 canes.  The preferred rattan to use for bubus is Calamus schistoacanthus, or "duri antu", one of only three rattan species found in local flooded forests. The stem fiber of C. schistoacanthus is extremely tolerant of daily submersion in the lake, and a well-made bubu can last four to five years. A dedicated fisherman may have dozens of these traps. [NOTE: More about the use of rattan at Danau Sentarum can be found here].



A lot of rattan harvested in the Danau Sentarum National Park (see Danau Sentarum) is used for lashing logs together to float them downriver to the sawmill.  Several "floater" logs are lashed to "sinker" logs until a bam of 20 logs is formed. Twenty bam are then lashed together to make a raft of 400 logs.  I was always curious about how much rattan this took, so the next time I saw a log raft floating through Danau Sentarum on its way to the Kapuas River, I motored over, hopped on, and did some counting.  The construction of one bam requires about 150 rattan canes; an entire raft needs 3000 canes.  Given that each cane is 6 meters long, every raft uses almost 18 kilometers of rattan.  This cordage is discarded once the logs arrive to Pontianak. [NOTE: The image above shows a mega-raft of 800 logs, i.e. two rafts lashed together].


Danau Sentarum

Danau Sentarum National Park (DSNP), Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The park is a series of interconnected seasonal lakes in the floodplain of the upper Kapuas River.


The village of Pulau Majang in DSNP.  All of the pilings, boardwalks, railings, and stairs are made from Fragraea fragrans (Loganiaceae). [NOTE: Both images have been scanned from slides.]


Danau Sentarum is the largest inland lake on the island of Borneo. The lake supports a large traditional fishing industry and is home to 39 fishing villages.  During the flooding season, water levels can rise to within inches of the boardwalks and floors of the houses, completely surrounding the community and making it look like the entire village is floating on the lake.

I spent a pleasant evening in Pulau Majang during the floodpeak of 1993 and was impressed by the skill with which everyone navigated the narrow wooden boardwalks in the dark. One wrong step and you end up in the lake.  I was a bit concerned about all of the little kids scurrying around. In response to my question about whether any children had ever fallen off, I was told, "Oh, yeah. They all do. But you pull them out and they never do it again." A key lesson, I guess, if you are living over a 30,000 hectare lake.  Click here for more information about what I was working on at DSNP.