|Other National Parks
Trekking Sarawak only covers about half of the National Parks in Sarawak, but includes most of the more accessible ones. Most of Sarawak's remaining National Parks do not have established trails and accommodation facilities. Where this is the case, it can be a bit more difficult for the independent traveller to access the parks and go trekking. (Often this is a deliberate strategy bt the National Parks service to limit visitor numbers.) However, some of the travel agencies in Kuching and Miri can arrange guided treks for a number of these parks, as well as other locations (see below).
For the few remaining national parks which do have established trails and visitor facilities, we provide an outline introduction here only. For more information, contact the Sarawak Tourism Board, or consult the book National Parks of Sarawak. There is also useful information available from the Sarawak Forests Department website.
1. Loagan Bunut National Park
Loagan Bunit National Park is named for Sarawak's largest natural lake, which is located in the Park. Although the lake only occupies 6.7 sq. km of the Park's 107 sq. km total area, it is the Park's central feature. According to one legend, the lake was created by a huge battle between the ancestors of the local Berawan people and mythical wild-boars. The lake has a unique ecology, adapted to the seasonally fluctuating water levels in the lake. Loagan Bunut is also the best place in Sarawak to see peatswamp forest, which have built-up on successive layers of vegetation up to 15m deep, over more than 4,000 years. Sambar deer have been seen browsing on young shoots growing from the lake bed during dry periods, and there is an amazing variety of birdlife. Estuarine crocodiles are also known to frequent the lake and rivers.
There are currently no established trails at Loagan Bunut National Park. However, boat rides to explore various parts of the lake can be organised, starting from around RM60 (June 2003). Speak to the STB in Miri or the park staff at the Park HQ (or staff at the Mutiara Hostel).
Loagan Bunut National Park is about 3 hours drive south of Miri - initially along the highway, and then along dirt roads. Busses and express boats run from Miri to the nearby logging town Long Lapok, but you'd have to find your way from there to the Park HQ (If staying at Mutiara Hostel, you can arrange to be collected). See the Forests Department website for bus details. It should also be possible to charter a minivan in Miri to take you all the way there. Alternatively, you could hire a car, or organise to go with a travel agent in Miri.
The Park HQ has only just recently been completed and opened to the public. It includes a canteen and a hostel, which has 4 rooms, with 7 bunk-beds in each (total 56 places), RM 15 per bed. The HQ also has a canteen.
The nearby Mutiara Loagan Bunut Hostel, run by Local Berawan people offers a potentially more comfortable alternative. Meran Surang runs a 7 room guesthouse, and can arrange a range of activities in the national park, including boat trips and jungle trekking; and they can also organise to pick you up from Long Lapok. Tel: (085) 612 104; 011 292 164.
2. Similajau National Park
Similajau National Park is a narrow strip of land running 25km along the South China Sea, southwest of Miri, Northeast of Bintulu. It features beautiful beaches and sandstone cliffs, behind which are mixed dipterocarp rainforest and kerengas forest. There is also a small patch of mangrove. Langurs and gibbons live in the park, and sea turtles sometimes lay their eggs on the beaches.
Despite it's relatively small size, Similajau has quite extensive trials, which run almost the full length of the Park. Most of these trails are part of (or branch off) the 9.9km Main Trail. This trail runs parallel to the shore, a couple of hundred metres inland, and takes you past most of the beaches in the Park. The walk to the end of the Main Trail, although flat, is still a long way. As an alternative, you may be able to arrange with the park HQ to get a boat to drop you off somewhere along the way. WARNING - Although there have been no reported attacks on humans to date, estuarine crocodiles live in the various creeks and rivers, so please use bridges and do not wade in the creeks! For a great artticle about encounters with Similajau's crocodiles, see Crocodiles & Beaches by Wayne Tarman.
The Batu Anchau ("Anchau Rock") trail leads off the Main Trail up to the right, reaching Batu Anchau after 1.35km from the turnoff (about 2km total from the HQ one-way). There is a small creek at Batu Anchau, running over the rocks. Part of the trail is quite steep. You can return the way you came, or continue onwards, where the trail leads back to the Main Trail at approximately the 2.25km point.
A more adventurous trek goes up to the Selunsur Rapids, 7.86km one-way. The turn-off to the rapids is from the 5km mark on the Main Trail. Moist of the trail is through kerengas forest, which features pitcher-plants and ground orchids, although it passes through dipterocarp forest towards the end. The rapids flow over a broad sandstone bed, and are surrounded by red-barked selunsor trees.
There is also a 1.7 km boardwalk trail which runs in a loop from the HQ. It takes you mainly through mangrove, but also passing through some mixed dipterocarp rainforest.
It is possible to arrange a speedboat from Bintulu to Similajau, which takes about 40 minutes, and costs approx RM200. Otherwise, a taxi from Bintuli costs about RM 40.
There is a range of accommodation avaialble at Similajau National Park HQ, including:
- 5 lodges, each with 2 rooms, with 4 single beds per room; shared bathrooom & toilet - RM100 per room; RM150 per lodge
- 3 lodges, each with 2 rooms, with 2 single beds per room; shared bathrooom & toilet - RM50 per room; RM75 per lodge
- 4 hostel rooms with 4 single beds per room; shared bathroom & toilet - RM15 per bed; RM40 per room
- 18 hostel rooms with two double bunkbeds each; shared bathroom & toilet - RM15 per bed; RM40 per room.
None of the accommodation has airconditioning, but all rooms have fans.
Bookings need to be made at the Miri Visitor's Information Centre (085) 434 184.
3. Batang Ai National Park
A visit to Batang Ai National Park is said to be one of the highlights of outdoor Sarawak. It is unfortunate that we have not been able to cover it in more detail for the TrekkingSarawak website, but we hope to be able to do so some time in the not-too-distant future!
Batang Ai National Park, together with the much larger adjoining Lantjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, makes up one of Sarawak's most significant conservation areas. This is because of a combination of size (Batang Ai and Lantjak Entimau are together much bigger than any other protected area other than Mulu) and remoteness.
Significantly, Batang Ai-Lantjak Entimau is one of the last strongholds for wild orang-utan in Sarawak - an estimated 1,000 individuals live there. It is also home to as many as 24,000 of the rare Bornean gibbon, as well as significant populations of red langurs and white-fronted langurs. Apart from the primates, there is also an abundance of other fauna and flora in this conservation area, including 241 species of birds (including 7 species of hornbills), almost 1,500 tree species, and 40 species of small mammals.
Batang Ai is in the heartland of traditional Iban country, about 275km east of Kuching. There are several trails in the park which take you through magnificent rainforest, and past significant Iban historical locations, including the burial sites of some great Iban leaders. A number of the trails are quite long and steep, and also very remote. All visitors to these trails are required to be accompanied by a park guide.
Accessing Batang Ai National Park as an independent traveller can be very difficult - again this is partly deliberate to ensure low visitor numbers. However, it may be possible to arrange to stay in some of the neighbouring longhouses. The Hilton Hotel group also runs a large longhouse-style resort on an artificial lake in the lower part of the Batang Ai River, where it has been dammed as part of a large hydroelectric scheme. The hotel may be able to arrange trips into the national park for you.
Otherwise, some tour agencies in Kuching may be able to arrange trips to Batang Ai. By far the most interesting-sounding is the Red Ape Trail, which has been developed by Borneo Adventure (details below). This multiple-day trek is one of the best opportunities for seeing orang-utan in the wild, and part of the proceeds go to orang-utan conservation.
5. Pelagus National Park
Pelagus National Park has only very recently been gazetted as a National Park. It is located deep in the heart of Sarawak, up the mighty Rejang River. Although relatively small, the Park surrounds the famous Pelagus Rapids, which have always made (and still do) travel further up into the interior of Sarawak something of an adventure. The rapids are also very beautiful and dramatic, located in a steep green valley, cut by the awe-inspiring strength of the Rejang River (it's amazing watching express boats trying to navigate their way up through the trecherous rocks). Other than the rapids, the park features some wonderful mixed dipterocarp rainforest, with ain interesting variety of trees and wildlife - including rhinoceros hornbills and macaque monkeys.
At present, the Park can only be accessed through the Pelagus Rapids Resort, built in the style of an Iban longhouse.
The Pelagus Rapids Resort has established a number of trails in the National Park, which vary in difficulty. Unfortunately, due to low visitor numbers, the condition of some of these trails is not great. If you're an experienced trekker, this adds to the adventure. If not, some of the trails can be a bit tricky - they are steep and slippery in parts.
The best known (and easiest) of the trials is the Pelagus Rapids Track, which follows beside the river, and was used as a means for bypassing the rapids when water levels were too low. The full length of the Rapids Track is approximately 3.4 km, although the Resort is located part way along it (nearer the foot of the rapids). The rapids in flood can be quite a sight, and the river almost reaches the level of the trail. The track passes through some interesting mixed dipterocarp rainforest, and passes some spectacular old ensurai trees (Dipterocarpus oblongifolius), leaning from the banks over the turbulent waters. The track crosses some 40 small wooden bridges over small creeks spilling down from the hills above into the Rejang. At the time of writing, a number of these bridges were in a poor state of repair and the full length of the Rapids Track was not passable.
The Resort also maintains a number of other tracks inside the National Park, which run up and into the heavily forested hills. The toughest of these is the Bukit Wong Trail, which climbs along a ridge to the top of the highest point in the park, Bukit Wong. From the top, there are views down to the Pelagus Rapids and of the rainforested interior of Borneo.
Another challenging walk is the Woodpecker Trail, which starts along the Bukit Wong Trail, but turns off to the left about half way along and descending into and then climbing out of a small valley formed by a beautiful clear creek. It then loops down along a ridge back to the Resort Headquarters. There is also the shorter Nabau Trail, a small loop trail from the Resort.
The Resort produces a sketch map of the trails, which includes information about 40 of the trees which can be seen along the trails. Unfortunately, the labels on the trees appear to have deteriorated, and may not be visible.
The Resort can provide a guide (at extra cost). At the time of writing, the Resort's guide, a local Iban called Nyarin, was excellent. Nyarin has detailed knowledge of the plants and animals of the rainforest, both from a scientific perspective as well as a traditional perspective - he worked in the timber industry for a number of years, but also retains a wealth of traditional knowledge of the Iban myths relating to various plants, and their traditional medicinal and practical uses. He is well worth the small additional expense.
Getting to Pelagus is half the fun - it requires catching a tube-like express boat from Sibu to Kapit up the mighty Rejang River (3-5 hours, depending on the flow in the river), and then a small speedboat from Kapit up to the Pelagus Rapids (30-40 minutes).
Unfortunately, the cost of accommodation at the Pelagus Rapids Resort (RM198 per person per night for a room with aircon, RM178 with fan and no views of the river) may be prohibitive for many travellers interested primarily in trekking at Pelagus National Park. However, it is very comfortable, and the Resort is located in a beautiful spot, surrounded by rainforest, and with views across the bend in the rapids.
For information about accommodation and how to get there, visit Pelagus Rapids Resort's website.