Founded in 1668, the city has developed into an important trading hub over the last 350 years. It lies on the banks of the Mahakam River, about 50km upstream from the river’s mouth, ideally placed to ship goods throughout East Kalimantan.
“Samarenda” means “equal in height” in the local Bugis language, and refers to traditional river-houses built on rafts. The name was meant to encompass not only equality in building height but also in the status of the local people. No house, and subsequently no person, was higher than the other. Over time, through years of mispronunciation, the city became known as Samarinda. Many visitors use Samarinda as a springboard, from which to explore the surrounding Bornean jungle. Tours leave regularly from the city and head up the Mahakam river. Explore the wilderness and come into close contact with endemic Kalimantan wildlife such as orangutans and tapirs.