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A little visited place

The district of Berau if just north of Kutai. It's surface is 22,500 and concludes the streaming area of the Kelai and Segah River, which form the Berau River close to the coast when they merge. There are also several islands which belong to the district. They are inhabited with Orang Laut, which were nomadic in the past. With their boats, they travelled from island to islnd. They traded shells, tripang, sharkfins and eggs from turtles for rice and other agricultural products.
The rough Maratua is the biggest island. Once the inhabitants dived for perls in it's beautifull bay. Pulau Kakaban has a freshwater lake and is known for it's many kinds of birds nests. Pulau Derawan and Pulau Semama are the domain of sea birds and turtles.
Outside the nice beaches - which are rare on Kalimantan -, this part of Kaltim hardly knows any tourism. However the government sees the coral reefs around the island as a potential tourist attraction, there are very little facilities for divers. There are ideat to built hotels on Derawan, but most of the time, the tourists have to do it with the local population.

Dayak and Punan

In the most deep hinterlands of Berau live the Punan, hunters and gatherers which are partially animistic. Their habitat is located along the Kelai and Segah rivers ans their side-rivers. In the 1960's, also two Kenyah-communities from Apokayan settled in this area, the one in Tepiah Buah along the Segah River, and the other in Merasa along the Kelai River. In the villages you can see traditional woodcarvings and art, but the population no longer lives in longhouses.
To visit the Kenyah-villages cheap, you will need some luck, there is not much traffic upstream. Renting a boat is the best option, but also the most expensife. However the journey lasts a maximum of three hours and you can negotiate the price, you will pay aroub 150 to 350 US$ for a return trip!
Towards Merasa is the village of Tumbit, inhabited by Segai Dayak, which still honour the old traditions. On preset times in the rice cycle, the Segai perform masked dances, but don't expect them to do that on demand, especially not during the harvest period.

Picture: Tanjung Redeb

In the southern coastal area of the district live the Basaap (another name for Punan). Their habitat can be reached by bike from the seaport town of Talisayan. A number of them has converted to the islam, without stopping with their own traditions by the way. Travellers will find several products for sale along the road of rivers. To their suprise, chichen, rice, eggs, fruit and baskets are sold. This is meant to be trade without money. Never take something without leaving something of the same value: sigarettes, batteries, clothing (a kain for example) or other western goods.

Tanjung Redeb

The capital Tanjung Redeb is on a peninsula between the Kelai and Segah rivers, just before the spot where the two rivers merge into the Berau, sixty kilometers before it flows into the sea. An extension of the city, on the other bank of the Segah River, forms the village of Gunung Tabur, once the seat of the sultanate. Sambaliung, across the river kelai, also used to be a seat of a sultanate.
The shops in the city are owned by ethnic Chinese and Buginese; the last are one fifth of the total population. Most of the inhabitants are muslem, but there are also Chinese influences: on the slope of a hill along the road to the airport there is a Chinese graveyard and in the city, near the Tanjung Hotel, is a Chinese temple.
Tanjung Redeb is not very interesting. Most interesting is a visit to the palace of the sultan from Gunung Tabur by boat, across the Segah River (very cheap). The current building, which is in use as a museum, is an exact copy of the old palace, which was destroyed by allied bombs in the Second World War. Many objects from the palace got a place in the museum: old European furniture, ceramics, copper and clothing. One of the main pieces is a cannon, which is said to be created by the gods and which should have supernatural powers. It was found in the jungle. The last sultan died in 1951.
The palace of another former sultan, named Mohammed Aminuddin, is located near Sambaliung, across the Kelai River. This heirs have sold most furniture, but are trying to save the lontar-leaves, in which the names of the royal dynasty have been written in Buginese, from decaying. Two holy cannons, covered with a yellow sheet, would heal disease and bring fortune. They would be more powerfull than the cannon of Gunung Tabur, because the palace did not suffer under the war.

The Dutch in Berau

The district of Berau got it's name from an old principalty, which was split up into four small sultanates - Bulungan, Gunung Tabur, Sambaliung and Tidung - in 1770. The influencial sultans from Sulu and Banjarmasin both claimed the coastal area, but it was the Dutch who - thanks to their control of Southern Borneo - who eventually got the coastal area.
In 1881, the British colony of Northern Borneo was founded, which concluded the northern part of the island. The southern border was vague; along the eastern coast it stretched to about Kutai. To stop possible attacke from 'own' soil, the Dutch founded a small military post in Tawau. The garrison also took strong action against piracy and slave trade. In the area, two maintainers were installed: one for Berau and Bulungan, the other for the Pasir and the Pulau Laut eilanden. In 1891, the border between the Dutch and British colony was finally drawn. Since knowledge of the hinterlands was still very low, it took until 1912 before a commision draw the border more inland.

Joseph Conrad

The well-known writer Joseph Conrad visited Borneo in 1887-1888 as captain of the S.S. Vidar. In Berau he met Charles Olmeijer, which was model for his charackter ofKaspar Almayer from his first two books: Almayers Folly (printed in Dutch as Orang Blanda) and An Outcast of the Islands. But also the books Rescue, The Lagoon, Karain,Because of Dollars are partially playing on Borneo. One of his best books, Lord Jim (in Dutch named Toean Jim), was based on the 'White Raja' James Brooke from Sarawak. Conrad spent little time off his ship. Too bad there are only a few pure dicriptions of Borneo from him.

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