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Other Treks In Sarawak

Now you've done all the treks covered by this website, and you want some more. Here we point you in the right direction.

Other Treks in Sarawak
Other National Parks
> Loagan Bunut
> Similajau NP
> Batang Ai NP
> Pelagus NP
Self-Guided Treks Outside National Parks
> Bau Caves
> Kuching Kampungs
> Bario Highlands
> Gunung Penrissen
Guided Treks
> Borneo Adventure - Red Ape Trail (Batang Ai)
Trek Locations
> Bako NP
> Gunung Gading NP
> Kubah NP & Matang
> Lambir Hills NP
> Mulu NP
> Niah NP
> Santubong
> Tanjung Datu NP
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

Introduction

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.

The Trails

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).

Practicalities

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.

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2. Similajau National Park

Introduction

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.

The Trails

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.

Practicalities

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.

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3. Batang Ai National Park

Introduction

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.

Trails

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.

Practicalities

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.

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5. Pelagus National Park

Introduction

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 Trails

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.

Practical Information

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.

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Self-Guided Treks Outside National Parks

Some of these treks are very easy and accessible with public transport, being close to (or in) Kuching (such as Kuching Kampungs and Bau).

Other than these, Sarawak does not really cater to self-guided trekking: there are few established trails outside the national parks, and it can be very difficult to reach some areas without your own transport, and local knowledge of the countryside. Detailed road-maps do not exist, and you must obtain a police permit to obtain topographical maps (a hangup dating from the days of Konfrontasi). Even if you can persuade the police that it is a good idea to give you access to the maps, you then need to persuade the Lands Department. And if you finally succeed, you will find that the maps mostly date from the 1950s - altitudes are in feet, projection used is the Dutch East Indes Grid, and no roads or towns built since the 1950s appear (and that's pretty much all of them in the interior). The logistics of getting food and equipment to these locations, as well as the safety implications (in case of emergencies) all need to be considered. In short, unless you go with a specialised local travel agency or are a seasoned trekker on a well financed officially sanctioned expedition, you should think carefully before wandering off into the jungle.

Having said all of this, it is possible in some areas to trek from longhouse to longhouse, using local guides. A reasonable network has now been established in the Bario highlands, which is a very special area, and well worth a visit if you have the time.

1. Bau Caves

Bau is Kuching's adventure sports playground, although it is yet to be developed for tourism. Bau is a small town, about 1/2 hour from Kuching. It is an attractive little 19th century Chinese gold-rush town (mostly modern buildings now), with scenic limestone cliffs all around (somewhat similar to Niah in appearance). Like other limestone mountains in Sarawak (Niah and Mulu), the mountains around Bau are full of caves. Two of these - the Fairy Cave (named for a stalagmite revered by the Chinese because of its resemblance to a certain fairy goddess) and the Wind Cave - have had extensive boardwalks put in them. Although not as spectacular as the caves of Niah or Mulu, they still impressive and worth a visit, particularly if you can't get to Niah or Mulu.

Fairy Cave and Summit Walk

There is a trail to the top of the mountain in which the Fairy Cave is located. To reach the beginning of the trail, go all the way through to the back of the cave (the trail is along the right-hand wall, with the main opening behind you. The Fairy Cave is a large cave, and you will need a torch to get through. Parts can be quite slippery, and the trail is not very obvious. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get to the back, depending on how long you take looking around the inside the cave. At the back, you'll find some narrow wooden steps up to a small opening, which opens onto an outdoor platform, on the other side of the mountain from where you started. From one side of the platform is a sign and a narow trail leading to the summit. Be careful, as the trail may not be in good condition, and limestone can be very eroded, brittle and sharp.

Wind Cave

The Wind Cave is very different from the cavernous Fairy Cave. It is a smooth, tubular cave network, cut by a stream running right through the mountain. There is a boardwalk through the whole cave (probably 1-2km or 45 minutes to do the full circuit). Again, torches are recommended. There are lots of insect-eating bats and a number of spifts roosting and nesting in the roof of the Wind Cave. They make quite a noise, and a bit of a smell as well. At the entrance to the cave is a picnic and recreation area

Other Activities at Bau

A rock-climbing wall has been established just near the entrance to the Fairy Cave, and there are also lots of mountainbiking trails around Bau (bikes can be hired and trips organised through Power Action Cycles in Kuching).

Getting to & From Bau and the Caves

There are hourly busses from Kuching to Bau starting at 6am until 6pm. These are with Sarawak Transport Company (STC), which is coded yellow and green. The cost is RM3.30 and the trip takes about 1 hour. From Bau, local taxis can be taken to the caves, and it may be possible to hitch-hike.

Taxis from Kuching direct to the caves currently cost approx RM 35-40 one way. Most Kuching travel agents can also arrange trips.

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2. Kuching Kampungs

We realise that this is not a jungle trek, but if you like walking, it is well worthwhile. The Malay Kampungs across the river from the main city area are very picturesque, and the people very warm and friendly (many will say hello and wave). There are some lovely old wooden Malay kampung houses, and the scenery along the riverbank in particular is very pretty. The quietness of the kampungs and the relaxed pace of life is a real contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city just on the other side of the river.

The Sarawak Government is currently doing-up a small stretch of the riverfront in front of Kampung Boyan (opposite the Holiday Inn), which will be similar to the very nice Waterfront development already in place along the south side of the river. However, beyond this stretch, the Kampungs will retain all of their original charm.

Although the Sarawak Malays in these Kampungs are pretty laid-back and tolerant, please be respectful and wear appropriate clothing (long pants and long sleeves if possible - especially for women).

To get to the kampungs, take a tambang (one of the small boats which plies the river) from the pontoon just under the round Khatulistiwa Cafe (across the road from the Crowne Plaza). The cost is RM0.30 per person each way. This takes you across to Kampung Boyan. From there you can wander along Jalan Brooke, which follows through another 7 kampungs (Kampung Gersik, Kampung Surabaya, Kampung Panglima Seman Lama, Kampung Semarang, Kampung Pulo Hilir, Kampung Bintawa and Kampung Matu), for about 4 km all the way around the bend in the Sarawak River. You have to return the same way, as the kampungs are spread along the river, and do not extend inland.

An alternative across the river would be to catch a tambang from Pankalan Batu (Batu Jetty) in front of the old Court House across to Pankalan Sapi, next to the Astana. From here, you can visit the Kuching Orchid Garden and Fort Margherita, from where you may be able to cut through to Kampung Boyan and catch a tambang back from there.

There are also lots of other pretty kampung you could explore in Kuching - particularly along the western side of the city.

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3. Bario Highlands

We hope to be able to provide some information about trekking in the Bario Highlands in the future. In the meantime, various tour agencies in Kuching and Miri can arrange trips for you.

4. Gunung Penrissen

Gunung Penrissen is listed in several guidebooks as a trek which can be done from Kuching. These guidebooks seem to base their information on Briggs' Mountains of Malaysia, dating from the 1980s. While this trek may still be possible in theory, it may prove logistically difficult in practice. (Travel agencies in Kuching may be able to arrange something if you are desperate.) There is now a resort at the area of the start of the trail, access to which is quite strictly controlled. Further, the peak of Gunung Penrissen is in fact located in Indonesia, so you have to illicitly cross the border. We therefore are not recommending this particular trek or covering it in this site.

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Guided Treks

Recognising some of the difficulties with self-guided trekking outside Sarawak's National Parks (and even within some of them), several tour agencies have established trails (and even infrastructure) of their own, just outside or within some of the less accessible National Parks. This removes all the hassles, and makes possible some pretty adventurous trekking that the short-term visitor would not otherwise be able to do. Having said that, some of these trips can be expensive - largely because of the costs of establishing the infrastructure, plus the logistics of transport and food in these remote locations (although not more expensive than staying in a good hotel for the same period - but no cable TV). If you are serious about some more serious trekking in remote areas, and have a bit of cash, then this is the way to do it.

1. Red Ape Trail, Batang Ai National Park (Borneo Adventure)

Borneo Adventure is an award-winning ecotourism company, who have put together what looks like an excellent program in Batang Ai National Park, called the "Red Ape Trail". This trek is probably one of the best chances you will have of seeing orang-utan in the wild - although Borneo Adventure sensibly does not promise that you will see them (they are wild after all!). The company has worked closely with local Iban communities and the Orangutan Foundation (UK) to ensure the sustainability of their program. In addition to providing employment and income to local communiuties, a proporation of their fees go into orang-utan conservation.

Borneo Adventure in fact offers 5, 7 and 11 day treks along the Red Ape Trail, through Batang Ai and Lantjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary. These treks are not for the timid - they are tough and rough, with difficult terrain, and accommodation is mostly in jungle camps with no modern amenities. But even if you don't see any orangutan, the Red Ape Trail promises to be a rewarding experience, as you will pass through some of Borneo's best preserved rainforest, with knowledgeable local guides. In fact, the Red Ape Trail is probably one of the best multiple-day treks you can do in Sarawak.

The costs of the packages vary depending on the number of days and the number of persons. The costs are high because of the remoteness of the trails, and the difficulty in getting food and infrastructure established there - but also because of the conservation and community-based approach. (Getting longboats up remote rapids can be a very expensive affair.) And if you compare with the costs of a big hotel in the west, it's not that bad.

For example, for a group of 7-8 persons on the 5 day 4 night trip, the cost is US$650 per person. For 2 persons on the 7 day 6 night trip costs US$1366 per person; although a group of 7-8 is only US$902 per person. It is therefore worthwhile getting a group together if you plan on doing one of these treks.

For more information, visit Borneo Adventure's website at: www.borneoadventure.com

We have outlined some general information about Batang Ai National Park and Lantjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary above.

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