IN the heart of East Kalimantan Province, the Mahakam River serves as a life source, flowing through Samarinda City, often referred to as Tepian City. This river, pulsating with the activities of locals, stands as a testament to the civilization that has flourished along its banks.

Samarinda, founded on January 21, 1668, has a remarkable history spanning 356 years. Initially known as “Sama-Rendah” by the Banjar ethnic group, this city has a rich legacy and cultural heritage that continues to thrive.

The Mahakam River silently witnessed how Samarinda evolved into a city known for its tolerance and welcoming nature, particularly towards migrants. Its stunning vistas, as viewed from the riverbank, attract numerous tourists. Yet, the true charm of the Mahakam unfolds when one ventures closer.

Embarking on a susur sungai, or river ferry tour, provides an unparalleled perspective of Samarinda’s core. The city is set to play a pivotal role in Indonesia’s new capital, Nusantara.

Tourists who explore the city via river ferry gain access to its hidden beauty, impossible to discover on land. Mayor Andi Harun envisions transforming Samarinda into the “City of Civilization” through various infrastructure projects, including the Teras Mahakam riverside development, with scenic parks and a walking promenade spanning seven kilometers.

The first segment of the Teras Mahakam project, located at the East Kalimantan Governor’s Office, is set to be completed in 2024, marking an investment of Rp36 billion (approximately US$2.2 million). This riverside point will serve as a stopover for tourist boats on the Mahakam River.

Throughout the river cruise, the Mahakam River unfurls its charm, where modernity harmonizes with traditional elements like the klotok boat. Samarinda, as viewed from the river, presents a captivating mosaic of the Great Mosque of Darussalam, the Islamic Center, the Big Mall, the illuminated Mahkota Bridge, and the vibrant Mahakam Bridge.

More than just a tour, navigating the Mahakam River immerses tourists in the pulse of Samarinda. It reveals how the river is a source of life, a playground for children, and a vital transportation route linking people to the city’s economic hub. It tells the story of a river intertwined with human lives and a city flourishing alongside it. The river cruising tour, initiated by the East Kalimantan provincial government in May 2018, has garnered increasing public interest, expanding from four to six ferries to accommodate tourists.

The city government of Samarinda envisions integrating river tourism with villages and historical sites by establishing a tourist pier in Samarinda Seberang Sub-district. This endeavor aims to unlock tourism potential and preserve local history and culture.

One highlight will be the tourist pier near Shiratal Mustaqiem Mosque, Samarinda’s oldest mosque dating back to 1881. As plans are finalized, these initiatives are expected to create new tourism destinations for the city.