It is easy to overlook quiet Brunei as a tourist destination. Yet,with its vast expanse of dense, pristine and unexploited tropical rainforest, the country has been dubbed one of Southeast Asia’s prime ecotourism spots and best kept secrets for nature travellers. While deforestation and habitat loss is a problem in rainforests in other parts of Borneo and the world, Brunei has made real efforts to preserve its precious jungles.
Through the Heart of Borneo initiative, 70 per cent of Brunei’s forest is preserved – the bulk of which is embodied as the Ulu Temburong National Park in the Temburong district – while 58 per cent is under legal protection. Ulu Temburong National Park is considered one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems and hosts some of the world’s rarest species.
Brunei also has a growing reputation as a respected dive destination. Sunny weather all year round, warm waters and a number of historic wreck diving sites make Brunei a must-visit location for true blue scuba divers.
This 70-hectare park is a hotspot for hikers and nature buffs due to its accessibility. With its rolling terrain and challenging hills – 11 in all – of varying difculty as well as more gentle sections the park draws both real tness enthusiasts and casual hikers alike. An observation tower at the highest point of the hills allows one to savour a breathtaking 360 degree aerial view of the Dipterocarpaceae forest park.
It is one of the country’s oldest recreational parks. This section of tropical jungle contrasts nicely with the capital city in which it is comfortably nestled in.
Tasek Lama is popular with joggers and those just wanting a breath of fresh air. A Japanese garden, a children’s playground and even an outdoor gym can also be found there. Park goers can refresh themselves with the mist from the waterfall located right at the end of the jogging trail and take delight from encounters with the cheeky resident macaques.
This forest park, the consists mainly of Kerangas trees that have endured a number of forest fires – resulting in a number of unique and interesting species of trees, such as the Ru Runang (Casuarina sp.), Sindok-sindok Endospermum spp.) and Selunsor (Tristania sp.). Stands of trees such as Acacia mangium, Jagus, Klinkii Pine and Kapur Bukit (Dryobalanops sp.) can also be found. The 348-hectare park is equipped with camping grounds, barbeque and picnic areas making it a popular recreation spot.
Also known as the Kendal Waterfall, the Wasai Kendal is famous for its wide trails, picturesque pools and beautiful blooms. Situated in Mukim Kilanas, roughly 1.5 kilometres off Jalan Tutong, the waterfall is a brilliant location for photography buffs and those looking for a proper jungle escape.
Declared an ASEAN Heritage Park on November 29, 1984, this 7,800-hectare site is home to the largest black water lake in Brunei, divided into two connected lakes with a total area of 220 hectares.
The park also serves as a wildlife sanctuary and conservation area for a vast variety of flora and fauna. Over 200 bird species, 50 species of freshwater fish and 83 different types of mammals call the lake home. Examples of fauna include the white-collared fruit bat – thought to be extinct – clouded leopard, red leaf monkey and gibbon, while rare ora such as the tiger orchid and carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plant also thrive in the park. Nature trails
allow visitors to explore the park on foot, but to really experience the true beauty and scale of Tasek Merimbun, a lake cruise is the way to go.
Pantai Seri Kenangan literally means “the unforgettable beach”. It is one of four beaches in the Tutong district. Easily the most popular and frequented of the quartet, Pantai Seri Kenangan is located at Kampung Sengkarai and draws a considerable number of visitors particularly during the weekends and public holidays. Equipped with
barbeque stations, food kiosks, playgrounds and changing rooms, the beach is perfect for picnics and family outings.
The rst of two forestry recreation parks located in the Belait district on the way to Labi, this park covers roughly 14 hectares of largely undisturbed forest. The park has several hiking trails as well as walking tracks, along which visitors will notice the many labelled trees. The park has recorded an estimated 10,000 monthly visitors since its offij;/b cial opening in March 1989. The visitors’ list includes domestic and international tourists, professionals, and even scientists.
The aptly named Bukit Teraja is one of the tallest hills in the Labi area. Well-marked paths all the way to the hill’s summit mean that the park is suitable for both casual visitors and regular hikers. At the peak, climbers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Baram valley to the north and Gunung Mulu towards the south. A 45-minute trek to the “Wasai” or waterfall should be considered mandatory.
Wasai Wong Kadir is one of Belait’s best kept secrets Tucked away nicely within the Rampayoh Forest in Labi is one of Belait’s best kept secrets. Relatively unheard of, Wasai Wong Kadir is nevertheless a great alternative to Bukit Shahbandar Recreational Park for those living in the Belait area. Facilities at the park include picnic huts and shelters, while visitors can enjoy a refreshing dip at the stream near the park’s entrance. The real gem though, is
the 12-foot waterfall which can be reached after a reasonably taxing uphill hike.
Covering an area of around 270 hectares is the Luagan Lalak Forest Recreation Park, part of the Labi Hills Forest Reserve. Within the park is an alluvial freshwater swamp or “empran”. During the drier months, the swamp’s water level usually recedes dramatically, and is engulfed by sedges – mainly of the Lepironia species. The park is equipped with amenities such as shelters, footpaths and a 200-metre wooden walkway which meanders across the swamp. It is a great place for picnics, birding, or just a tranquil escape into nature.
The 50,000-hectare Ulu Temburong National Park is regarded as one of the best preserved tropical rainforests in Borneo. This area of rainforest is home to the rare Proboscis monkey and thousands of other unique species of ora and fauna. The only access to the reserve is via water taxi from the capital’s main jetty in Bandar Seri Begawan to Bangar in Temburong.
For visitors yearning for a longer jungle retreat, accommodation in the form of the Ulu Ulu Resort – located smack in the middle of the park – will prove more than welcome. A series of canopy walkways rising over 180 feet above the jungle oor – known as the “Canopy Walk” which is run by the resort – gives visitors a stunning bird’s eye view of the tree tops and surrounding areas, including Bukit Belalong in the distance. Other activities organised
by the resort include kayaking, longboat rides and waterfall treks.
Sumbiling Eco Village is a nature lodge situated in Batang Duri and the dropping off point for longboat rides taking visitors to Ulu Temburong National Park. The lodge, located right on the banks of an upstream section of
the Temburong River, is remarkable due to its minimalist design and structure; the huts have been built with bamboo as well as a mix of recycled and new wood.
Bedding is provided in both rooms and tents and the accommodation is equipped with properly-walled, common bathrooms. The lodge also runs optional excursions such as a night walking tour, a daytrip to the Ulu Temburong National Park, as well as a Rainforest Discovery trek into the nearby forest.
The establishment of the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre goes way back to the early 1990s, when Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) conducted a joint jungle expedition into the Belalong forest together with the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London. Throughout the years, more than 70 scientists of various specialisations have conducted research at the centre.
Since 1992, in collaboration with academic staff from UBD, the centre has also been offering highly successful environmental education programmes for secondary school children, graduate students (both local and international) and government sector employees.
The centre’s mission is to disseminate scientific knowledge derived from the results of ecological research on Brunei’s tropical rainforests, including the various life forms that live within them and the accompanying ecosystem, and welcomes anyone who has an interest in the rainforest.
Situated roughly one kilometre away from Bangar town at the Temburong Civic Centre Padang is the Kuala Belalong Mini Park, where one will find a waterfall, a natural pond – used mainly for radio-controlled boat racing – and a beautifully landscaped garden. This park is one of the key rainforest research centres in the country – frequently used by Universiti Brunei Darussalam to conduct eld research. There are also a number of huts at the park which store photos of His Majesty’s visit to Temburong and ndings made at the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre.
Part of the protected Paradayan Forest Reserve, Bukit Patoi Forest Recreational Park is located around 15 kilometres from Bangar town. The 1,070-hectare park, predominantly consisting of primary lowland Dipterocarp and Kerangas trees, is home to a variety of unique Bornean wildlife such as the different species of hornbills, gibbons, silver langurs monkey, mouse deer (kancil), civet cat, as well as a myriad of rainforest birds.
Not that visitors are likely to bump into any of these critters during the winding 1.6-kilometre trek up and down Bukit Patoi though, as most of them are nocturnal. At the hill’s rocky summit – which doubles as a helipad – at 310 metres (950 feet) above sea level, trekkers are rewarded with breathtaking views of lush green tropical jungle, including the mountain range in the distance, the South China Sea, villages and sprawling agricultural lands.
Scattered within the vicinity of Brunei Bay are several small, uninhabited forest-covered islands. One of these, located at the northernmost tip of Temburong, is Selirong Island or the Selirong Forest Recreation Park – one of Brunei’s protected forest areas. The 2,566-hectare island is covered largely by unspoilt mangrove forest of the Rhizophora (known to locals as Bakau Minyak) genus; its massive root systems slow down tidal water, enough to produce an environment where oysters thrive. This complex mangrove ecosystem is also home to primates such as the macaques, the colugo – an arboreal gliding mammal found only in Southeast Asia – and various species of birds and mangrove snakes, while the deep mangrove channels are home to a variety of fish, crabs, shrimps, prawns, cockles, barnacles, larger-than-normal mud skippers and monitor lizards.
Copyright 2017 Borneo Bulletin Yearbook 2017 All rights reserved.