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Sampit Travel Guide

Sampit is the largest timber port in the central Kalimantan province of Indonesia. The town is surrounded by swamps and rivers. Sawmills are also found everywhere, a by-product of a local economy that relies heavily on a lumber industry that processes timber for export.[1]

Sampit is not the most popular destination for tourists in Indonesia. That designation belongs to Bali, Jakarta, or Lombok. However, there are notable attractions and features about Sampit. The Pandaran Beach, for example, is a popular spot among beach goers. This beach park is located on the southern end of the Sampit River where the river empties into the Java Sea in dramatic fashion. Nature and floral lovers will enjoy the Orchid Park of Pembuangan Hulu. This natural forest boasts thousands of rare orchids that are only found at the park. It is considered one of the most beautiful orchid forests in the world. Among Sampit’s many rivers, the Serayan is one of the most frequented. Hunters enjoy navigating along this route on their way to the Kotawaringin Barat, a hunting park known for its orangutans.[2]

Sampit is populated primarily by three Dayak tribes: the Ngaju, Ma’anyan Ot Siang, and the Ot Danum. The Ngaju are nomadic and engage in ancestral worship, adhering to the traditional Kaharingan religion, which blends different elements of animism. The Ot Danum is the largest of the Dayak tribes. They live in unique longhouses, or betang, that house up to 50 rooms. They are famous for their superior plaiting skills, working with bamboo, palm leaves, and rattan. The men are also fierce hunters.[3]

Sampit Tragedy
In February, 2001, a tribal conflict broke out between the Dayaks and the Madurese, who had long been historical rivals. The conflict was marred by religious and ethnic violence and began as a result of the murder of a Dayak at the hands of three Madurese. The Dayaks’ retaliation ended in tragedy for many Madurese.[4] Houses were burnt and looted and more than 51,000 Madurese were forced to evacuate. About 500 Madurese men, women, and children who failed to escape were slaughtered – their heads were decapitated and their bodies consumed.[5] The Dayaks’ reversion to headhunting and cannibalism, traditions of the Dayak people that had been abolished in the 19th century by the Dutch, made global headlines.[6] It shocked the world that such “primitive” and “savage” cultural acts were still practiced. The decapitations of the Madurese were carried out using the Mandau, a traditional sword weapon and status symbol for Dayaks. The hearts of the Madurese victims were eaten to give Dayaks their “warrior” strength. [7]

Alfredson, Kirsty. “Inside the Head of a Headhunter.”

Bambang, Yosep. “Ethnic Violence in Sampit, Central Kalimantan: The Revival of Dayak Culture and Identity.”

“Central Kalimantan.”

[1] Central
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Ethnic
[5] Inside
[6] Ethnic
[7] Inside

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