By Lisa on Feb 08, 2014 with Comments 2
During our stay in the rainforest we were living on a klotok.
Let’s start with what is a klotok, and then you can share your thoughts about living on one…
What is a Klotok?
A klotok is an Indonesian river boat made from wood and is found on the rivers of Kalimantan in Borneo.
For the people of Kalimantan, the klotok is much more than a means of transport for negotiating the waterways of the rainforest; it is also a place to sleep, a place to eat and sometimes, a place to live.
For us on this trip, it is all these things, as we are actually living on a klotok during our stay in Kalimantan in the rainforest.
The klotok measures about 12m in length and has the open top deck covered with a canopy. There is another deck below where there are basic cabins, the motor and a very basic bathroom.
This type of river boat is known as a klotok, and the name comes from the noise it makes as it chugs down the river: klok tok tok klok tok tok… It’s true!
And, for those few days in the rainforest, we are actually living on a klotok…
Living on a Klotok
When we first boarded the klotok it was belting with jungle rain so we didn’t get much of a look at it from the outside, being too concerned with trying to get ourselves and our backpacks onboard.
When we compared our klotok to others that we saw during our stay in the jungle, ours was certainly one of the more bright and colourful ones. The top deck was painted bright blue and had a green mat covering the whole area. There were two bright green deck chairs, and the wooden benches and railings were painted yellow.
There was a table with a bright patterned table cloth and four chairs, where we would eat our meals.
The sides of the klotok were open but we could roll the canvas down when it rained so that the rain didn’t blow in.
There was a huge canopy over the top of the boat in the centre and the front and back were open.
To get to the bathroom at the back of the boat we had to go down a few wooden steps to the lower deck.
There was plenty of space for us on the top deck and when we were moving on the river we could relax at the front or the back of the boat where we had perfect views of our surroundings.
FAQs Regarding Living on a Klotok
When we were in the planning stages of this trip, obviously we had no idea what a klotok was. Knowing we were going to be staying on one during four days of our lives, we had a lot of questions – at least I did anyway.
It was often difficult to track down the information I was looking for so I have decided to put together my own observations about living on a klotok so that you don’t have to search the whole web for the answer to each question:
The crew on the klotok consists of:
- Your guide, who is always with you regardless of whether you are on the klotok or in the forest.
- The captain, who drives the boat and deals with where to moor.
- The cook, who is the only female member of the crew. She spends all her time preparing your meals and the crew’s meals and cleaning up afterwards.
- The helper. When it’s a family-run klotok, the helper is normally the captain’s son. He helps the captain to navigate and drive. He helps prepare the deck for sleeping and he does any job that needs doing onboard.
This was the extent of our crew for our four passengers. Sometimes the klotoks are larger with more passengers, so there are often two helpers and two cooks.
When we were living on a klotok, all our meals were taken on the klotok.
We would have breakfast at 7am and then we would go out for the morning exploring the forest. When we got back we would have lunch at 12pm and then we would go out again. We would normally return at about 5pm and we would have a snack of deep-fried banana. Then dinner was normally at about 7pm or a little later.
Breakfast was always banana pancakes and coffee. This was normally the smallest meal of the day but there was always plenty of coffee. Unfortunately the coffee on a klotok is a little strange to say the least; at one point there was so much consistency that I could chew it! But hey, it was caffeine.
Lunch and dinner always consisted of an abundance of food with several dishes on the table containing, rice, different veg dishes, fish and sometimes meat. There was always fresh fruit for dessert.
Despite the food being very good, we were rarely able to finish it as there was always so much.
We were always served bottled water with the meals – and any time we wanted – and though we got to taste rice wine, which our guide had brought from his village, there were no beers or other alcohol onboard. In Kalimantan the alcohol laws are stricter than elsewhere in the country and the price of beer is very high as it is brought from Java.
Living on a klotok at night
Night time was always different in the jungle. When darkness fell, nothing was visible. Darkness in the rainforest is complete darkness.
The sounds of the jungle always seemed louder and more intimidating at night time and on the first night when we were not used to it, it was even a little scary. It was just us, on the klotok, on the river, deep in the rainforest.
It starts to get dark in the rainforest at 5.30pm and by 6pm it is completely dark. There is one stark electric light on the deck but it is not advisable to have it on as it attracts all kinds of flying insects. Normally we ate dinner by the light of two candles and we would go to bed early, at about 9.30pm as there was very little to do in the dark. Plus we were having long and tiring days and we had just arrived in Indonesia too, so we also had jet lag.
We did venture off the klotok once at night though, when our guide took us on a night trek. Read about it here.
Sleeping on the klotok
When we had finished our evening meal the crew would prepare our beds. They would shift the large table to make room for two simple double folding futons and they would hang a mosquito net above each one for us to sleep under.
Getting in and out of the protected area is tricky so I recommend taking everything you need in with you, like something to cover yourself with if it gets cold, water that you might want to drink during the night, your teddy bear, etc. Not only is it tricky, it is also pitch black so you don’t want to be searching for things in the night. Finding the toilet when necessary is enough of a challenge.
We went to sleep surrounded by the jungle noises with nothing more than a mosquito net to make us feel safe. It was an incredible experience and something very difficult to imagine if you have never done it. It was certainly one of the most awesome experiences of my life.
We awoke at dawn along with the rest of the rainforest.
Personal hygiene on the klotok
What can I say? Bring wipes!
No, it’s not that bad really.
There is a bathroom on the klotok with a toilet, a sink and a shower. The toilet on a klotok is usually a western-style toilet. This was one of my greatest concerns and my only stipulation.
To flush the toilet you have to ladle in river water from a bucket using a jug. This is something you get used to doing in Indonesia in general, not just on boats.
The shower on the klotok also uses river water, which is pumped up directly out of the river when the generator is on and the boat is moving.
We could only have a shower when we were in the clean waters of Camp Leakey River, which was not until the second day. We spent the first day on Sekonyer River which is brown and polluted, so showering was impossible. More about that here.
The water in the shower is colder than you might expect in such a hot country, as it comes straight from the river, and it’s not a very pleasant experience. But you certainly appreciate feeling clean and fresh afterwards – at least for five minutes before you have to cover yourself in insect repellent again.
Whenever we managed to get a shower it also rained at the same time for some reason, and on one occasion Toni just took his bar of soap onto the deck and got clean under the rain. He said there was no difference between that and the shower.
So there you have it. That’s living on a klotok. You ready to try it? Do you have any questions beforehand? What have I missed out?
Now it’s time to get yourself the best guide in Kalimantan.
This is just one post of twenty that make up the Rainforest Blog.
Read the rest of it here.
I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....