- Elevation: 1,151 m (3,376 ft)
- Prominence: 1,115 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Kalimantan Barat (West Kalimantan)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none
This mountain gives its name to the Gunung Palung National Park and is home to an important biological research station, which is a base for study of the flora and fauna of this fantastic lowland primary rainforest. The highest point is not Gunung Palung, but is the neighbouring summit of Gunung Ponti in the U-shaped granite ridge. The folklore character Pontianak (which gives her name to the town of Pontianak) is a female vampire who comes at night and drinks the blood of her victims; the Malay believe that women who die in childbirth will rise again as Pontianak. The fauna includes wild orangutans, monkeys, gibbons, birds and Gunung Palung is famous for its variety of habitats, including lowland peat and fresh swamp forest with huge trees, riparian forest with pristine rivers, lower montane forest, and montane forest near the summits.
The Park is 200 km south of Pontianak (the capital of West Kalimantan) and the usual entrance is from the small town of Sukadana to the west of the park. You can can get from Pontianak by plane or speedboat (see practicalities section). Visitors must register in the National Park Office in Ketapang or Sukadana or Melano and provide a copy of ID documents. One critical issue at present is that the Park is actually designated as a research national park, which means it is accessible only to researchers with a research permit from the Indonesian government. However, the park is actively trying to encourage eco-tourism and trekking by general public is permitted in certain areas, with treks along defined trails with guides from the national park office. Unfortunately, the trails to the summit of Gunung Ponti and Gunung Palung pass directly through the active research area, where populations of orangutan, monkeys and gibbons are being studied, along with the flora in the different habitats. This is a sensitive area where research has been conducted since mid 1980s, so the general public does not currently have access to the only trails to the summit. However, the park director and staff recognize the desire of people to climb the summit and, along with the researchers who manage the research station, are actively looking for a solution. The park staff speak excellent English, and you are encouraged to call them (see practicalities section) and ask if you can climb Gunung Ponti.
One of Gunung Bagging’s founders was fortunate enough to join a special trip to the park and climb the summit. The trail into the park starts at a canal excavated into the dominant peatland about 15 minutes from Sukadana. The trail is 18km to the Cabang Panti Research Station, but the elevation gain is only 40 m, since the trail starts at 10m asl, and the research station is at 50m asl. For the first few kilometers along the canal the peatland forest has been cleared and burned. The trail then enters into secondary forest and generally improves in quality as you hike. It has clearly been heavily impacted by illegal logging, which was especially rampant in the early 2000s after decentralization of government. The park’s management and dedicated staff have managed to reduce the illegal logging, especially nearer to the research station although it is still a problem. The trail is boggy and you cross numerous small channels and streams where you cannot fail to get wet feet. The best footwear would be rubber boots (wellingtons) or very lightweight hiking boots or trail shoes. You cross two large streams where even rubber boots will not help because the water will likely be too deep. It’s also important to wear long pants and long sleeves because there are mosquitoes and leeches. Indeed, double layer of socks tucked into your trousers/pants is essential. A pocho is also useful for protection from the frequent showers, although at least the rain is warm! Keeping your spare clothes in a dry bag or plastic bag is advisable.
The Cabang Panti Research Station is set in the midst of fabulous forest at the edge of stream that comes directly from Gunung Ponti. In a small area, there are a huge variety of forest habitats and you wake up to the sounds of gibbon calls and have the chance to see wild male and female orangutans, many with little exposure humans that demands a sensitive approach.
The hike to Gunung Ponti steadily climbs a ridge up to the summit from Cabang Panti Research Station. You cannot be in the park without a guide, and it’s essential because there are so many marked/flagged trails related to the research activities. The hike is unique because you start in primary lowland forest and can see the transition to more open forest as you gain elevation, before the trees become shorter and smaller towards the summit. There are only a few opportunities for views to the plains and coast and neighbouring peaks but it is being in the forest that is the special for this hike. Above 1,000 m on Gunung Ponti the trail is very overgrown because this marks the end of the research transects and small weather stations end at this point. After that, a machete (parang) is useful you help clear the trail, but it is obvious which way is to the highest point. There’s no view at the summit, but certainly a sense of achievement. Previously there was a hike called “around the world” that enabled both Gunung Ponti and Gunung Palung to be climbed in one day by descending to the col between them, but this now looks almost impossible.
Bagging information by Andy Dean
- Getting there: Speedboat: Depart from Rasau (30 minutes by road from Pontianak airport) and it take between 4 to 7 hours to get to Teluk Melano depending on weather conditions. The speedboat journey is interesting in its own right, travelling through isolated and unpopulated coastal channels with mangrove and nypha palm vegetation and the chance of crocodile sightings. The boat makes a short lunch stop at a small village on one of the larger islands. Boats arrive in Teluk Melano, which is and Sukadana is approximately 30 minutes by road. Plane: Wings and Garuda fly from Pontianak to Ketapang (40 mins flight), which is the location of the Park headquarters. Sukadana is 1.5 hours from Ketapang.
- Accommodation: The National Park recommend Nasalis Tour and Travel 0534 7722701 (see http://gunungpalung.net). Mahkota Kayong is a new large hotel in Sukadana, which provides good accommodation.
- Permits: You need a permit and guide to enter the park, but the park staff are very helpful and the website list ecotourism packages and prices. Take a photocopy of your passport photo page with you.
Gunung Palung National Park Office: Jl. Gajah Mada, Kalinilam, Ketapang, Tel/Fax 0524 32720. Email: BTNGP@yahoo.com or http://gunungpalung.net
Sukadana Section Office: Jl. Tanjungpura No. 41, Kecamantan Sukadana, Kayung Utara, 78852
Teluk Melano Section Office: Jl. Gloria, Kecamatan Simpang Hilir, Kayung Utara, 78853.
- Water sources: The streams of Gunung Palung and Gunung Ponti provide water that is crystal clear and safe to drink without any treatment. Enjoy it!
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
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