Kalimantan is the biggest island of the Indonesian archipelago. lt is also the third-largest in the world, after Greenland in Europe and Madagascar in Africa. It can almost be called a little cintinent.
Two Arabian chroniclers of the past, Abdul Feda and Edris, called the island Sobormah. AI-Biruni later noted that the Hindus referred to It as Suwarna Dwipa or Gold Island.
The Venetian explorer Marco Polo (1235 1321), referred to it as Moel Jawa Raya. The island, he noted was the biggest in the world, and the land was fertile and rich in agricultural produce and mines.
Aside from gold and diamonds, the forests ara major source of the island’s wealth. Rainforests cover almost the entire hinterland.
The Portuguese navigator Lorenzo de Comes, who visited the island in 1518, named it Burni or Bruni, and Dutch seafarers used the appellation Burnei or Barunei.
ln subsequent references, the phrase Barunei was the most frequently used. lt was used, for example, by the chroniclers Don Jorge de Menezes in 1526, and by Vasco Lourenzo in 1527, Magelhaes, in 1527, also used the appellation.
According to the Dutch archeologist Temmink, the name Bumi hailed from the word Waruni, meaning “born in the ocean”. The lexocigrapher Klinkert used the phrase Barunei to refer to the northern part of the island, but called the southern part Kalimantan presumably after a certain fruit that grew in the western and southern coastal regions of the island.
ln the ancient Javanese text Negarakertagama, the name Tanjungpura was used, apparently as an alternate to Borneo, tanjung being the name of a flower which apparently grew in abundance along the coastal areas of the island. Sometimes, the island was referred to as Bakulapura. Since bakula is another word for tanjung, Bakulapura ostensibly also refers to the island Kalimantan.
Whatever the case, the island was even in those days associated with diamonds and various metals. The only plausible reason would be that even at that time, diamonds and metals such as bronze were already found in Kalimantan.
Aside from gold and diamonds, the forests are a major source of the island’s wealth. Rainforests cover almost the entire hinterland. The central parts are mountainous and dominated by the Schwaner and Mueller ranges. The peaks are in general not very high compared to those found in Sumatra, Java and other parts of Indonesia. Mountain peaks such as Niyut, Beturan and Baka are less than 2,000 meters high. However, Mount Kinabalu, in the East Malaysian state Sabah, rises 4,101 meters into the sky.
The big rivers -such as the Kapuas in West Kalimantan, the Barito in South Kalimantan and the Mahakam in East Kalimantan- are very long. The Kapuas, for example extends for almost 1,000 kilometers from origin to mouth.
Although almost the entire population is found along the rivers, good land roads exist, and overland trips to most towns and cities in and between the four provinces are generally no problem. One can even cross the border into Malaysian Borneo over land.
Air transportation is naturally very important. Air links now exist between many towns and cities. Pontianak and Banjarmasin, 456 miles away, for example are linked by regular flight services. In addition, daily flights are available between Pontianak, Banjarmasin, Balikpapan and Samarinda and Jakarta as well as other cities in Java.
Plans are at present in the making for the construction of a trans-Kalimantan highway network to even better interlink the towns and cities in all the four provinces and lift the long isolation of the hinterland’s towns and villages.
As for the culture, already the Dayaks have proven their ability to absorb the best of modern civilization without losing their identity.