Friday, February 20, 2009

Sanctuary Orchid Kersik Luway

White soft sand covered by shrubs and tall grass. Clumps of trees with yellowish leaves blanketed in the afternoon mist. This is Kersik Luway Nature Reserve from a distance.

Anyone entering the reserve would be struck with amazement at its beauty. But it holds more than natural beauty. Kersik Luway is home to hundreds of East Kalimantan's wild orchids that are now on the verge extinction as forests succumb to deforestation and forest fires.

Located 18 kilometers from Melak, West Kutai regency, Kersik Luway occupies 5,000 hectares of area. Near the entrance to the reserve, on some 400 hectares of area, are 70 species of East Kalimantan's wild orchids. Previously, it had around 80 species but 10 of them were destroyed in a forest fire in 1997.

East Kalimantan has at least 300 species of wild orchids. Wild orchids are difficult to cultivate and once their habitat is damaged, it will be almost impossible for the orchids to survive. The damage caused by the 1997 fire was therefore a big loss to the nation.

The reserve owes its popularity to its rare Black Orchid (Coelogyne pandurata). Growing in shrubs, the Black Orchid blossoms between April and December. In fact, that is the best period to visit the reserve when all the orchids are in full bloom and all you can see is a plethora of colorful orchids.

Forest fires remain the main threat to the reserve. Kersik Luway, according to the reserve's forest rangers, has been hit by forest fires four times. The first was in 1982, then 1994, 1997 and 2000.

Signs of the fires are still evident. Charcoal tree barks can be seen standing, while tall grass and shrubs dominate the vast landscape. Despite the scars, the reserve still holds its beauty.

There are various means of transportation to reach the reserve from Samarinda, which is around 170 kilometers from Kersik Luway. The most comfortable way is to take a boat from Samarinda to Melak. The trip takes around 22 to 24 hours. The boat ride costs Rp 55,000 for one way.

Another way is to go by car, which can take six hours. However, the trip by car can be exhausting as the dirt road from Samarinda to Melak is bumpy.

Accommodation might be a bit of a problem too as Melak does not have big hotels. Only small inns are available in the quiet town. Locals are more than happy to accommodate guests in their houses.

Journalists and researchers must have a special permit to enter the reserve. The permit can be obtained at the Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta or the Natural Resources Conservation Office in Samarinda. But the beauty that awaits visitors is worth all the trouble and discomfort.

The Jakarta Post,


ejfern said...

This is some great information on wild orchids. I am an orchid enthusiast myself and I never knew there was a black orchid. I have heard of an albino orchid but never a black orchid. It's good to know that the habitats for these orchids are being destroyed, but orchids are now being introduced into other parts of the world.

Carl H.

xavier said...


I was reading this interesting article about the Kersik Luway Reserve while sitting in a very nice and brand new hotel called "Hotel Monita". I can assure everybody this is a lovely place to relax and have a good nighty night ;-)
Very friendly staff and a beautifull accomondation for a reasonable price!

Greetings from two Belgians on a wonderfull trip in Borneo,
Xavier and Hector

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