The heart of Borneo, as it is known, is famed for its in-tact jungle and undisturbed Dayak cultures. Getting in there is no easy task because if it were, people would have destroyed the place just as they’ve obliterated fauna and flora across much of the rest of this huge island.
Thankfully there are people working against the tide of “me first”-type attitudes, the exact reason the jungle is disappearing. And I found a pair, just south of Borneo’s heart! In Palangka Raya city, Bukit Guesthouse, owned by two Swiss immigrants, is a beacon of hope in an otherwise-pocked landscape of segmented jungle fragments and interconnected spots of urban / industrial development in clearing after forest clearing.
There, I was overjoyed to find life being managed in the most environmentally responsible way I can honestly say I’ve seen anywhere in Indonesia. Among the sustainable living solutions implemented are bungalows roofed by lawn (which provide temperature moderation), vegetative mulching (to improve productivity of the gardens), much-loved orchids given sanctuary to grow (rescued from active tree-felling operations), and a visible awareness of waste management (although this cannot be controlled once it leaves the premises). Aren’t these such a joy to find in what, to me, seems like a tiny island of informed living in a larger one demonstrating almost nothing of the sort.
Perhaps – just maybe – Borneo’s forests stand a chance if attitudes change from “kill it now for profit” to “take only what we need from nature”. Places like Bukit Raya are showcasing what can be done; how things can be managed. But will the millions on this island follow in these footsteps, even if only partially? Whatever is done, time is short. The worst possible outcome for Borneo would be one in which the population here annihilates their beautiful jungle while still “thinking about” whether to adopt sustainable lifestyles.