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Driving Into the heart of the Meratus Mountain Range, some two and a half hours from Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan Province, one will be welcomed by a lush landscape decorated with wonderful waterfalls, rushing rivers, and the enchanting culture of its indigenous people. That isolated piece of South Kalimantan’s paradise is known as Loksado, a sub-district of the Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency where the well preserved indigenous Dayak culture meets the stunning natural landscape.
This particular part of Kalimantan is home to the indigenous Dayak Meratus tribes –a sub ethnic group of the Dayak in Kalimantan that occupy traditional houses called Balai. Today, there are at least 43 of these Balai that can be found in 9 villages across Loksado. Among these, the most notable are Balai Hambawang Masam, Balai Adat Malaris, Balai Kacang Parang, Balai Haratai, and more. A Balai is a traditional wooden long house with tens of rooms measuring 3 by 4 meters and are occupied by tens of families.
Although many of Dayak families have turned to more modern housing, these Balai are still used for religious rituals. Similar to most Dayaks, the Dayak Meratus follow an ancient religion called Kaharingan which simply translated means “life”. This faith includes the concept of a Supreme Deity and emphasizes the harmony between mankind, between man and nature, and the harmony between man and God.
Living closely with nature, the Dayak Meratus practice the Aruh Ganal Rituals that revolve around agriculture. There are three parts in the Aruh Ganal Rituals, they are: Aruh Basambu, after completion of rice planting (locally known as behuma/menugal), which usually occurs in February ; Aruh Bawanang Lalaya, to celebrate the harvest (usually occurs around June); and Aruh Bawan Banih Halin to mark the close of the harvesting season (which usually occurs in September). These rituals can be observed in some of the villages, among which: the Haratai Village, Muara Ulang Village, Lahung Village, and more.
Equally fascinating as the exotic Dayak culture are the Meratus Mountains themselves that are filled with natural splendors. The lush landscape is decorated with fascinating waterfalls, among which are: the Haratai Waterfall, Riam Hanai Waterfall, Kilat Api Waterfall, Rampah Menjangan Waterfall, Pemandian Anggang Waterfall, and Tinggiran Hayam Waterfall.
There is also the Tanuhi Hot Spring where one can enjoy refreshing hot water. Its tropical forest moreover, holds other treasures where the exotic pitcher plant (Nepenthes distillatoria) and the endemic Meratus Orchid (Dendrobium hepaticum) grow.
The most exceptional feature of Loksado’s natural treasures is the Amandit River that runs through some of the most fascinating sceneries of the area. The winding river of fresh clear water decorated with rocks and creeks and unique traditional bridges that look to the lush green hills of Meratus are surely a sight rarely found elsewhere. To top it all, you should enjoy the magnificent scenery and exceptional sensation from a bamboo raft on the river.
The highway is paved all the way from Banjarmasin to Kandangan, but from Kandangan capital of Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency) the road narrows considerably. There is no public transportation from Banjarmasin or elsewhere, except from Kandangan but even this is not frequent. If your starting point is Banjarmasin, your best bet to reach Loksado is by renting car with driver. The trip itself will take approximately 4-5 hours.