JOK Overland Tours in Borneo
Along the coast of Northern Sarawak lie the Iban longhouses; they are normally close to the rivers and often quite accessible by road nowadays. Some have been totally "modernised" with new tin roofs, concrete foundations and floors and even electricity, telephone and television!
Further inland and up the great rivers, like the Rajang and Baram which meander over a hundred miles into the interior, lie the more traditional longhouses of the Kayan and Kenyah tribes. Often isolated and formerly only reachable by river, they too have been affected by "progress". It is possible to get to them using the logging roads which criss-cross certain areas, but the going is usually muddy and wet. This is true rainforest country; best to start at dawn because by early afternoon the rain is threatening and by dark everyone is safely home for the night.
Allow three to four days for a visit up-country; along the coast and at Marudi, the more modern Iban longhouses can be visited in a day trip.
Lambir Hills National Park
The Lambir Hills National Park, gazetted in 1975, covers an area of approximately 6,952 hectares southwest of Miri. The highest peak rises some 450 metres above sea level, in a chain of sandstone hills bounded by rugged cliffs. The lush valleys and lower slopes are covered with mixed dipterocarp forests while heath forests dominate the upper regions. The silence within this green wilderness is broken only by the calls of various birds and the roar of the mighty waterfalls plunging down into the emerald green depths of rocky pools below.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Composed mostly of mixed dipterocarps and kerangas, the area is rich in palms of the licuala species and the stilt rooted Eugeissona. The ground flora includes an exotic mix of carious species of Ariods, Ginger, Ferns, Terrestial orchids, Epiphytes and Vine. Hill casuarinas cover the kerangas (heath) forest of the upper regions while the ground flora is largely composed of shrubs, fern and pither plants.
The forest supports a rich and varied wildlife with 157 species of birds heading the list. There are also bats, various rodents, the scaly ant eating pangolins, bearded pigs, barking deer, monkeys and Bornean gibbons to name a few.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
Its proximity to Miri makes this an ideal destination for those seeking to get away from it all, for a few days or over the weekend.
A 40 metre tree tower provides spectacular views of the dipterocarp forest. Get a closed look at the forest canopy and get acquainted with the various species of flora. This is also a good opportunity to do a spot of bird watching.
At the end of it all awaits a rocky pool of such enchanting green that you simply cannot resist. So take a dip in the cool, emerald green depths and come out totally refreshed.
Lambir Rock Pool
HOW TO GET THERE
The park is easily accessible, being only half-an-hour's drive away from Miri. Your holiday includes a trip to Lambir N.P. departing Miri in the early morning and returning to Miri after lunch. Arrangements can also be made for overnight stays, on request.
Niah National Park
Niah Great Cave
Three hundred miles up the coast from Kuching, hidden in the forests of Miri are the Niah Caves and the surrounding park, spread over 3,140 hectares of peat swamp and dipterocarp forests and the massive limestone outcrops within which the caves are concealed. The caves consist of one big cave (the Great Cave) and some smaller caves. At the centre of the park, is Gunung Subis, 394 metres above sea level.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The limestone vegetation is predominantly represented by the Balsaminaceae and Begoniaceae species. Peat swamp vegetation and dipterocarp forests dominate the lowlands with fig plants Ficus found in abundance. The crown of these plants shades the tiny seedlings on the forest floor and keep them moist to ensure their survival.
The mischievous and opportunistic long-tailed macaques, ever on the look-out for food to forage, are conspicuously to be seen and heard in the forest. Birds such as the Bulbuls, Tailor birds, Crested wood partridge, Trogons and Hornbills are easily spotted by their exotic and brightly coloured plumes. Look out for the nocturnal Barred eagle owl and Bay owl which also inhabit the forest. The great Woolly Horse shoe bat can be found in the caves and crevices in which they roost. Another interesting inhabitant is the Bornean Tarsier, a Nocturnal primate which feeds on insects and small vertebrae animals. There are also squirrels and flying lizards and a large population of Swiftlets.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
Aside from visiting the caves the visitor can find a lot of interesting things to do and see.
‘Exploring” The Caves The caves are accessible via a 3 km pathway, part of which consists of a raised plank walk through lowland forest. The walk to the caves can therefore be an interesting activity in itself if you enjoy observing the variety of plant life and birds and insects along the path.
The Great Cave The discovery of the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia along with other pre-historic relics in this cave, makes this Borneo’s most important archeological site. The relics point to the existence of human activity in this area almost 40,000 years ago. However, the cave is now home to the bats which deposit their droppings or guano, a rich source of fertiliser, on the cave floor and the swiftlets whose edible nests are greatly favoured for their medicinal value.
The Painted Cave An interesting feature of this cave is the red hematite painting of human-like figures drawn on the rocks. The painting dates back at least 1,000 years. The cave itself seems to have served as an ancient grave site as evidenced by the boat-shaped coffins containing the bodies of the dead.
Forest Trails Explore the jungle trails and get a feel of the tropical forest – see what makes it tick! There are two clearly marked trails you could follow, namely ‘Jalan Bukit Kasut’ and ‘Jalan Madu’. So pack some snacks and drinks and go uncover the secrets of the jungle!
Iban Longhouse The Ibans are reputedly skilled craftsmen and a visit to their longhouse nearby is bound to fascinate you. See the wide range of fine and beautifully made handicraft and ordinary household items for daily use and you will marvel at the intricate designs and clever colour combination.
Mountain Climbing Scale the 400 meter high limestone ridge for a bit of adventure! You might not be the first one to reach the summit, but it sure is exciting and exhilarating; and something to tell the others back home.
Collecting Of Birds’ Nests Usually carried out between August to December and January to March each year, this is one activity that attracts a lot of interest. Local gatherers climb up tall “ladders” to reach the birds’ nests high up in the cave. The nests are valued for the medicinal properties of the bird’s saliva binding the nest. Boiled with rock sugar it makes a highly potent, not to mention delicious brew!
Visit To Batu Niah Town If the fancy takes you, stroll along the river bank and explore the local haunts in Batu Niah town. You could also rent a boat to get there but that would mean missing out on some quaint things along the way.
Mulu National Park
The majestic Gunung Mulu, rising over a mass of sandstone and shale, 2,376 metres above sea level, dominates the Gunung Mulu National Park in the Miri and Limbang Divisions. The park covers 52,866 hectares of shale and sandstone, flanked by limestone outcrops with virgin tropical forests at the lower slopes giving way to montane vegetation in the upper regions. It was gazetted as a National Park in 1974. The mix of natural habitats in all its diversity amidst such wild and rugged scenery makes it one of Sarawak’s most popular destinations. Foremost among its attractions are the spectacular pinnacle rock formations tucked in the valley of Gunung Api and its cave complex which can only be described in superlatives. Despite its ruggedness, the park is easily accessible and there is a range of activities to keep everyone busy and happy.
FLORA AND FAUNA
This area was miraculously unaffected by the last Ice Age which left it to continue with the evolution of its flora and fauna without any interruptions. This accounts for the extraordinary diversity of the plant life and wildlife to be found in its forests today. There are over 1,500 species of flowering plants, 170 species of orchids; and, 10 species of pitcher plants.
The lush vegetation of the lower slopes consists of peat swamp, heath and mixed dipterocarp forests. An interesting feature of the peatswamp forest is the massive roots of the Strangling fig tree, a name derived from the fact that it had in fact “strangled” the original host tree to death in its bid to reach the top! In the upper regions, the vegetation is characterised by limestone and moss vegetation of the summit. There are 67 types of mammals roaming the forests; 262 species of birds, The latest addition to this group is the newly discovered Borneon fron with the beautiful name – “Rana ingeri”! Also to be seen swinging nonchalantly from the branches are the small tree dwelling Borneon gibbons. All these plus 281 varieties of butterfly and hundreds of insects and fungi make up the inhabitants of the park.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
Plan for a minimum of two to four days stay at the park in order to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.
Day Trips To The Show Caves These caves have been illuminated to focus on certain special features within its dim interior. Special paths enable visitors to move around easily and also protect the delicate geological structures from accidental damage. They are accessible from Park Headquarters via a 3 km walk through the jungle on specially constructed plank walks.
Lang’s Cave Named after the man who first introduced speleologists to the cave in 1978, it features a variety of intricately sculptured stalactites and stalagmites, delicate and transparent helictites and spectacular rock curtains. Footprints embedded in the rock at the entrance to the caves indicate that
It was once inhabited by wild boars.
Deer cave As its name suggests, this cave was in days long gone, a shelter for hordes of deer. It also served as a human burial ground. However , it has now been taken over by millions of bats which can be seen flying out in formation in search of food as night approaches. You might get to witness this magnificent display of mass exodus on fine evenings. Other inhabitants include swiftlets usually seen circling the entrance; and the earwigs, centipedes and cicadas. Its 160-metre wide mouth resembles a ‘colossal stone jaw’ earning it the distinction of having the largest cave entrance. Another unique feature is the ‘Adam & Eve’s shower’, a cascade of water falling down 120 metres from the cave roof.
Wind Cave Approached by way of the Melinau river, steps lead from the river bank up to the cave entrance. A refreshing breeze greets you as you approach the cave which perhaps explains the origin of its name. Within is the King’s Chamber with its magnificent display of stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. The Chamber is said to be haunted!
Clearwater Cave Measuring over 100 km, this is acknowledged to be the longest cave in South-East Asia and the 7th longest in the world. Moss covered stalactites greet you as you approach the entrance. Venture inside into Lady’s Cave with the stalactite resembling the virgin Mary. 50 steps lead down to underground rivers in a labyrinth of caverns and passages formed millions of years ago. The crystal clear water is said to possess mysterious powers to restore youth!
Adventure Caving For something more challenging than admiring the evidence of nature’s intricate craftsmanship in the show caves, don protective helmets and miners’ lamps and follow a trail, away from the cement paths and electric lights, down into the depths of Clearwater and Wind caves, under Gunung Api! Crawl with the centipedes and earwigs and be prepared to come face to face with other inhabitants of the cave floor!
The Pinnacles Of Gunung Api Take up the challenge to view the pinnacles, located in a shallow valley 1,200 metres above sea level. The adventure begins with an exciting 2-hour boat trip over rapids. On days when the water level gets low, be prepared to help shove the boats over the rock strewn rapids. A 3-4 hour trek through virgin forests brings you to a park hut on the bank of the Melinau river where you stop for the night. The next morning begins with a 4-hour climb, up 1000 meters via a steep path to a viewing point overlooking the pinnacles. The smooth razor edged pinnacles measure 20 meters wide at the base and 45 meters in height. Separated by deep fissures and low bushy mountain forest, they present a spectacular sight when viewed from above.
On The Trail Of The Headhunters
The trail once taken by the legendary warriors on their head-hunting spree in days long gone, goes through the lowland forests and down mighty fast flowing rivers. This is recommended for those with an unquenchable thirst for adventure and excitement. Follow the headhunters trail and live out your fantasies in the rugged terrain of the Sarawak wilderness.
The Mulu Challenge
If that is still not enough, there’s still the challenge of doing the Mulu summit. Take on the mighty mountain and scale its rough sandstone and shale height to reach the summit. It may be lonely at the top but the view is fantastic!
Similajau National Park
Similajau National is situated in the Bintulu Division and encompasses an area of approximately 7,067 hectares. It was gazzeted in 1978 with the primary aim of conserving the flora, fauna and unique geological characteristics of the coastal area. The natural attractions of the area include fast following streams with rapids in the upper reaches set amidst a cool jungle setting. The clear waters of these streams are stained by the tannin acid of the peat swamp lending it an attractive ruby red tinge. The park is covered with a mix of vegetation types ranging from those commonly found on the littoral fringes to heath and mixed dipterocarp forests. Such diverse habitats naturally support an equally diverse wildlife.
FLORA AND FAUNA
There is a great variety of pitcher plants with tiny pitchers measuring merely 1cm to those growing to 20cm high. Tiny and colourful orchids are found rooted to trees and the rocks around the headlands. Other littoral fringe types include the Pokok Ara Ficus sp., the Pinang Lakka, Cyrtospachys lakka, and Kayu Maki Cina Podocarpus sp.. The Rhu laut and Bintangor laut vie for attention with the ketapang on the beaches while the mangroves are covered in Bakau, Berus and Nipah palm. In the heath forest are found the Rhu Ronang and Selunsur while the Meranti, Keruing and Kapur dominate the mixed dipterocarp forests.
There are three types of primates, namely the gibbons, banded langurs and long tailed macaques. The park also houses shrews, mousedeer, wild boar, civets, barking deer and squirrel. A chance encounter with a porcupine may cause its prickly spine to bristle in self defence. There are also 185 bird species, notably 7 species of hornbills. Migratory birds stopping by include the storm stork. Saltwater crocodiles, dolphins, porpoises and green sea turtles can also be found within the park are.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
Day trips may be hectic and visitors are advised to plan for a few days stay in order to enjoy the natural attractions at the park.
Cool Jungle Streams And Pools Kolam Sebubong in the upper reaches of Sungai Sebubong offers the perfects place to unwind. Its dark red waters reflect the vegetation of the river bank. A boat takes the visitors from park headquarters at Kuala Likau to the mouth of the Sungai Sebubong, the journey taking about 30 minutes. After travelling 1 km up river, visitors alight and trek through a series of white water sections and pools before reaching Kolam Sebubong.
Selunsur Rapids The rapids are located in the upper reaches of Sungai Kebalak. A 1 ½ hour trek from the mouth of the river through beach, kerangas and mixed dipterocarp forest brings you to the frothy white rapids for a most welcome dip! Keep your senses alert along the way and see if you can identify the beautiful bird calls.
Beaches And Offshore Attractions
There are numerous White Sandy beaches bordered by rocky headlands. Crystal clear streams cascade down small waterfalls to the sandy beach. Two popular beaches are Golden beach and Turtle beach.
500 metres offshore from the park headquarters is Batu Mandi, a “rocky island” partially exposed at low tide. This is a popular spot for trying your luck at reeling in a catch for lunch!
Accommodation facilities include chalets, hostels and camping sites.
· 5 two-roomed units (with 4 beds per room)
· 2 four-roomed units (with 4 beds per room)
These include and information center for the display and exhibit of history, flora and fauna; a canteen to sell food and drink and daily basic necessities; and public toilets for day-trippers.
Application for permits and reservations for accommodation can be made at the National Parks booking office, Bintulu.
HOW TO GET THERE
The park lies about 20 km northeast of Bintulu. It is accessible by boat from Bintulu to the park headquarters at Kuala Likau. The journey takes about 1 hour.
A road to the park is presently under construction.
Loagan Bunut National Park
Tucked away on the upper reaches of the Sungai Bunut in the Miri Division, is a huge lake, the largest natural lake in Sarawak. The local Berawan Fishermen call it Loagan Bunut. In 1991, an area of about 10,736 hectares encompassing the 650 hectare lake was gazetted as a National Park as part of the on-going effort to preserve the unique habitats, rare and valuable plants and wildlife indigenous to the region. The lake is utterly dependent on the Sungai Bunut, Sungai Tinjar and Sungai Baram whose water levels are subject to seasonal fluctuations and this accounts for the fluctuating levels of the water in Logan Bunut. During spells of extreme dryness, usually lasting between 2 to 3 weeks, the lake is converted to vast expanses of dry cracked mud.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The area is composed mainly of peat swamp forests supporting a fairly large and varied bird population. These include darters, bitterns, egrets, herons, hornbills and kites. Primates are represented mainly by gibbons whose extremely long arms enable them to swing pendulum-like high up in the trees. The loud piercing calls of the females of the specie, are clearly audible in the early mornings.
PLANNING AN INTINERARY
This remote park beckons those in search of something different. For 2 to 3 weeks in February, May or June, the water level in the lake drop drastically on account of the dry weather. This is the time to witness and maybe even participate in the traditional “Selambau” method of fishing, developed and still practised by the local Berawan fisherfolk. This unique technique was developed to harvest the migrating fish during periods of fluctuating water levels. It is a rare and exciting activity, not to be missed.
You might even want to take the opportunity to kick off your shoes and walk barefoot across the dry cracked mud of the dried up lake, to get a feel of the simple pleasures in life - long forgotten by many! It could be an exhilarating experience, especially for the uninitiated.
There are no visitor facilities at the park, at present. However, there are plans to set up a park office and to develop visitor facilities in the near future.
Accommodation on the edge of the lake consists of privately-owned chalets.
HOW TO GET THERE
It is accessible by road from Miri via Pekan Belura and Kg. Lapok. The journey by four-wheel drive takes about 2 hours.
From Kg. Lupok, a 1½ hour journey in a long boat takes the visitor to Loagan Bunut.
The Mountain dominates most visits to Sabah; climbing Mt. Kinabalu takes almost three days, allowing for travel to and from the city. For non-climbers there is plenty to do in the cool pleasant climate around the National Park (5,000ft altitude).
We organise bus or mini-bus from Kinabalu for the two hour transit to the mountain, where we stay in a private Lodge just half a mile from the park entrance and only 5 minutes walk from the nearest (Chinese) restaurant!
Early next morning, around 7 a.m., the climbers meet at the National Park H.Q. and we don't see them again until around midday the next day. They spend the night at Laban Rata Hut up at 11,000 feet - it is however heated and fully serviced!
The Park H.Q. offers walking trails, some quite strenuous, a landscaped mountain garden full of orchids and pitcher plants and a museum and coffee shop. There is also Mesilau Resort round the other side of the mountain at 6,000 feet and has some pleasant cool hillside walks suitable for anyone.
Poring Hot Springs is about 25 miles away and offers not only hot sulphur springs, but also a canopy walk, butterfly farm and garden like surroundings.
From Mt. Kinabalu the trail leads East to Sandakan; here is the world famous Orang Utan Sanctuary and some 80 kilometers south the Kinabatangan River, an endless source of Bornean Wildlife.
Return to Kinabalu is normally by air, unless further tours are requested.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park comprises a group of 5 islands located between 3 to 8 km off Kota Kinabalu. The park is spread over 4,929 hectares, two thirds of which cover the sea. Before the Ice Age, it formed part of the Crocker Range mass of sandstone and sedimentary rock on the mainland. However, towards the end of the Ice Age about one million years ago, the melting ice brought about changes in the sea level and parts of the mainland were cut off by the sea to form the Islands of Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. Evidence of this can be seen from the exposed sandstone of the coastline forming the cliffs, caves, honeycombs and deep crevices. The beauty of its natural environment combined with its close proximity to the mainland makes the island group a favourite among picnickers, divers and nature lovers. In a bid to protect the natural environment with its coral reefs, marine life, and its flora and fauna, the islands were gazetted as a National Park, beginning with Pulau Sapi and part of Pulau Gaya in 1974 and then embracing the three nearby islands in 1979.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The plant life feature a mix of typical shoreline vegetation such as Pandanus dubius and Podocarpus polystachyus with those of the dipterocarp forest. Representative of the latter group are the Keruing with their narrow crowns of large dark green leaves and unique ridged two-winged fruits. The Seraya, Kapur and Selagan Batu are also to be found in abundance. The only undisturbed coastal dipterocarp forests are on Pulau Gaya, where the Hopea phillipineansis and Quassia borneensis are abundant. The Fish Tail and Nibong Palm flourish in the shady gulleys.
The park is home to the bearded pig, scaly pangolin, rats, squirrels and monkeys. Snakes and monitor lizards make up the reptile population. Large birds such as the white breasted sea-eagle, pied hornbill and green heron are found in large numbers. Smaller varieties such as the sandpiper, the pink-necked green pigeon, bulbul, flycatcher sunbird and swiftlets also flourish within the tranquil park environment. One of the most intriguing birds around is the Megapode or Burung Tambun, a ‘chicken look-alike’, with large feet and which meows like a cat! It lays its eggs in huge mounds of sand and leaves at the edge of the beach. The fermentation of the leaves produces the heat necessary to incubate the eggs for successful hatching.
The best coral reefs are those between Pulau Sapi and Pulau Gaya. The colourful and delicately beautiful corals are living organisms which feed on the plankton floating in the sea. The reefs is home to many different kinds of fish, in all shaped and colours of the rainbow-the butterfly fish, parrot fish, clown fish in stripes of bright yellow and white, and dragon fish: and, those of the bigger variety such as the red grouper, barracuda and catfish. Other marine life include molluscs, giant clams, sea cucumbers, the beautiful feather starfish, sea urchins in brilliant hues, cowrie shells and scorpion shells.
PLANNING AND ITINERARY
Pulau Manukan Shaped like a boomerang, Manukan covers 51 acres and is the second largest island in the group. The southern and eastern coastlines have a number of beautiful beaches – the best stretch being on the eastern tip. The surrounding crystal clear water is ideal for snorkeling, diving and swimming. Trails around the island provide endless hours of exciting trekking in the cool, shady forest.
Facilities such as chalets, a clubhouse, restaurants, souvenir centre, diving centre, a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts are provided to make your stay an enjoyable and fun-filled experience.
There are 20 units of wooden chalets, situated on the lush green slope overlooking the sea. Set within garden of swaying palms and vivid tropical blooms, they provide the perfect hide-away for overnight stays or leisurely weekends.
Pulau Mamutik The smallest of the group, this island covers only 15 acres. Nevertheless, it is endowed with rich coral life which surrounds the island with a colourful underwater treasure trove. The rare white distichopora and reddendrophyllia are to be found in the reef at the northeastern tip. This is the place for diving enthusiasts and snorkelers!
Facilities such as changing rooms and toilets, picnic shelters and tables are provided for day trippers. There are no accomodation facilities but overnight camping on the island is allowed with prior permission from the Park Warden.
Pulau Sulug This 29-acre island, being the least developed and the farthest away, has an almost untouched quality making it ideal for those seeking a more tranquil and deserted atmosphere. The shoreline is mostly rocky with beautiful patches of reef at the southern end. Corals such as the Acropora, Enchnipora, Montipora and Seriapora are a visual delight with their variety, delicate shape and brilliant colours.
Facilities such as changing rooms, and toilets; picnic shelters and tables are provided for day trippers.
There are no accommodation facilities but overnight camping on the island is allowed with prior permission from the Park Warden.
Pulau Sapi A small island of 25 acres has the distinct advantage of having some of the nicest beaches of clean white sand sparkling crystal clear water and a coastline fringed with beautiful coral reefs. It is the ideal place for snorkeling, diving and swimming. If you can do neither of this but do not want to be left out in the discovery of the rich underwater treasure, take heart-a glass boat rental service will allow you to see it all just as closely. Hiking trails through the interior provide an excellent opportunity for nature appreciation.
There are no accommodation facilities but picnic shelters, barbeque pits, tables, changing rooms and toilets are provided for day use. Camping is allowed with the permission of the Park Warden.
Pulau Gaya The largest island, is located about 15 miles from Kota Kinabalu. The 3,665 acre island has 16 miles of shoreline, certain stretches consisting of fine white sand. Popular beaches include Bulijong Bay and Police beach, a quarter mile of beautiful sand sloping gently into the crystal clear bay, perfect for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The untouched coastal dipterocarp forest makes it ideal for trekking and graded nature trails through the inland forest provides opportunities for a study of the various species of plant and animal life within.
Day use facilities include public shelters, changing rooms and public toilets.
HOW TO GET THERE
Daily boat services are available from the Kota Kinabalu jetty to transport visitors to the park and back; check times as they do change frequently. There are also private boats to hire.
Departure times from Kota Kinabalu Pick up times from the Park
8.30 am 7.30 am
10.30 am 11.30 am
2.00 pm 3.00 pm
4.30 pm 4.00 pm
" Aren't all tours the same? - you must be JOKing!