Temburong District (boat ride from Bandar Seri Begawan on the Brunei River) is separated from the rest of main part of Brunei by by Brunei Bay and sliver of Sarawak (part of Malaysia). Northwest of Bandar Seri Begawan, it is home to winding rivers and pristine rainforests. Only small patches of land are cultivated by Malays, Murut and Iban. Bangar, the main town, is reached by a 45-minute boat trip from Bandar Seri Begawan along nipah-palm- and mangrove-lined estuaries, narrow, winding creeks and open water. . The only way to get Temburong is by boat. Fast ferries leave when full from Jalan Residency between 7:00am ad 5:00pm daily, the return fare is about B$20. Chartered boats can also be arranged.
Temburong is the green jewel of Brunei, with breathtaking views, abundant flora and fauna, and eco lodges that come equipped with standard facilities Early European explorers to Borneo told tales of the exotic wonders: rare orchids with blooms as large as dinner plates. Elusive monkeys with long, curved noses. Rivers that snake through uncharted forests. In largely uninhabited Temburong you will see what inspired these tales. Today, Temburong is a living tribute to Brunei’s dedication to preserving one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Here you can experience the rain forest from both above or below the forest canopy. Bornean longhouse community culture can also be seen.
Regular boat services to Temburong district are available which operates from 6:45am to 5:00pm daily. Rides usually cost between B$5 – 10, but can be negotiated before setting off. According to Lonely Planet: If Kota Kinabalu-Bandar Seri Begawan “run leaves you wondering where all that famous rainforest is, just head down into the Temburong district to escape into the green expanses of Brunei’s untouched primary jungle. Jutting out into Sarawak like a stranded finger, Temburong is often overlooked by travellers who simply step straight onto the boat from BSB to Pulau Labuan, although it is increasingly and deservedly marketed as one of the country’s finest natural attractions. The Peradayan Forest Reserve is a good outing for a jungle walk, or you can visit the Iban longhouse at Batang Duri. For a longer and richer jungle experience, Ulu Temburong National Park and the Kuala Belalong Rainforest Field Studies Centre in the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve receive visitors, but independent travel seems almost actively discouraged – if you aren’t visiting on a tour you’ll have to spend time obtaining a permit.
Bangar is the main town in Temburong. Although Bangar is officially known in Malay as Pekan Bangar (literally 'Bangar Town'), it is a village-level subdivision under the mukim or subdistrict of the same name. Mukim Bangar (sub-district) of Temburong District covers 10 square kilometers (four square miles) and has a population is 3,970 inhabitants.
One main road runs through the town, roughly east–west. Headed east of Bangar is Lawas, Sarawak (Malaysia) and to the west is the river crossing to Limbang, Sarawak (Malaysia). The road is the major route to the local quarry where boulders are collected, processed and shipped to stockyards in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, for construction companies.
Kuala Belalong Mini Park (in Bangar near the Temburong Civic Centre Padang) was opened in 1993. It has a waterfall, a pond, a landscaped garden and huts similar to those in Kuala Belalong. However, these are not used for accommodation but for exhibiting pictures of His Majesty's Temburong visits and findings made at the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre.
Speedboats that travel through rivers, mangrove swamps and open bay link Bandar Seri Begawan with Bangar. Up river through mangrove swamps is Bangar from where longhouses can be visited. The closest is only 13 kilometers away. The further up river you go the less touristy they are.
Scheduled for Speedboat Services Between Bandar Seri Begawan and Bangar:
Departure from Bandar Seri Begawan to Bangar: Boat, Time, Cost
Syarikat Amp Hj Salleh Amp Hj Judah & Anak - Anak, 6.45 am to 5.00pm, Adult: : B$6.00 Senior Citizen: B$5.00 Children below 12: free;
Koperasi Pengangkutan Bersatu Temburong dgn Tanggungan bhd, 6.45 am to 5.00pm, Adult: B$6.00 Senior Citizen: B$5.00 Children below 12: free.
Departure from Bangar to Bandar Seri Begawan: Boat, Time, Cost
Syarikat Amp Hj Salleh Amp Hj Judah & Anak - Anak, 6.30 am to 4.30pm, Adult: B$6.00 Senior Citizen: B$5.00 Children below 12: free.
Sights and Parks in Temburong
Batang Duri (17 kilometers from Bangar) is an Iban settlement cum park with a longhouse (traditional extended family house) where shifting cultivation is still practiced. It is bordered by towering forests and streams with crystal clear water. There are wooden walkways and playgrounds. Swimming is allowed but the current in the Temburong River can be strong. There are waterfalls with water holes below them Batang Duri provides visitors with a rare insight into Iban culture and lifestyle. Taman Batang Duri is a landscaped park with a mini zoo that houses civets, monkeys, otters, birds, honey bears, mongoose and crocodiles.
Sumbiling Eco Village is a jungle camp with basic amenities at a riverside location where you can experience Iban culture, sample Iban cuisine, and pursue exciting outdoor activities such as inner tubing and night walks and early morning hikes.
Peradayan Forest Recreation Park embraces caves and strange rock formations. Spreading out over 1,070 hectares, it was declared as a conservation forest by the Forestry Department. The peaks of Bukit Patoi (310 meters) and Bukit Peradayan (410 meters) are in the park. There are good jungle walks here. Bukit Patio Recreational Park, located within Peradayan Forest Reserve, offers hikes on well-marked trails that to peaks with breathtaking views.
Kuala Belalong Forest Reserve features 2,000 breath-taking steps that lead to a summit with a panoramic view of the majestic mountains, the rushing river and the surrounding forestland below.
Temburong National Park
Ulu Temburong National Park (southern part of Temburong District) occupies about 500 square kilometers of the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve and encompasses steep and swampy terrain full of biodiversity and virtually undisturbed by humans. The trails include seven kilometers of wooden walkways and embraces several treehouses connected by hanging bridges. The park was formerly called the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve is one two forest preserves in Brunei. It and another large forest reserve occupy 58 percent of Brunei.
In Temburong National Park, one can experience the magnificence of Borneo's lowland rainforests. In terms of flora, the area boasts astounding diversity, however the casual visitor in search of birds or mammals is likely to be disappointed by the apparent lack of fauna. In fact the forests teem with wildlife, but these creatures are invariably shy and are quick to avoid human contact. The park is home to centuries-old trees, numerous kinds of wildlife such as hornbills and over 400 kinds of butterflies. If you’re looking for great views check out the 60-meter-high canopy walk. The park embraces steep slopes, swampy terrain and thick impenetrable jungle. Because there are no roads that lead to it, the only way to get there is by boat or' temuai'.
A trail through the forest takes visitors to the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre, a research facility set up for the study of the abundant ecological treasures found in the park. Getting there requires walking through difficult terrain and is said to require the help of a guide. This forest features a seven-kilometer walkway, tree houses about 30 meters high and hanging bridges intended for nature observation, where you can see the surrounding mountains and the river and forest below.
Longboat Trip, Boardwalks and Waterfalls in Temburong National Park
Temburong National Park has places where you can take refreshing dips in the park's pure mountain waters and include several rivers and waterfalls. At one small waterfall, just outside the boundaries of the national park, you can stand in a pool and have two- to four-centimeter-long fish and nibble on your feet, giving you a gentle, ticklish pedicure as they feast on the dry skin between your toes. To get there, head downriver from the resort for about 500 meters – your guide can help find the creek that you need to follow upstream for a few hundred meters.
One of the charms of Ulu Temburong National Park is that the only way to get there is by temuai (shallow-draft Iban longboat). The exhilarating trip, which takes 25 to 40 minutes from Batang Duri, is tough on the boats, which last just a few years, and challenging even for experienced skippers, who need a variety of skills to shoot the rapids – going upstream – in a manner reminiscent of a salmon: submerged boulders and logs have to be dodged, hanging vines must be evaded and the outboard must be taken out of the water at exactly the right moment. When it rains, the water level can quickly rise by up to two meters, but if the river is low you might have to get out and push.
From the National Park headquarters an extensive network of wooden boardwalks leads to the surrounding forests. It possible to hike a considerable distance in Ulu Temburong without ver letting their feet touch the forest floor, However, in places the wooden planking has lost the battle against termites, beetles and fungus so care must be taken. Thankfully the suspension bridges which criss-cross the rivers are in better condition.
Canopy Walkway at Temburong National Park
Ulu Temburong National Park’s main attraction is a delicate aluminium walkway, secured by guy-wires, that takes you through (or, more accurately, near) the jungle canopy, up to 60 meters above the forest floor. In primary rainforests, only limited vegetation can grow on the ground because so little light penetrates, but up in the canopy all manner of life proliferates. A huge variety of organisms that can live on a single tree: orchids, bird's-nest ferns and other epiphytes; ants and myriad other insects; amphibians and snakes; and a huge selection of birds.
The views of nearby hills and valleys from the walkway are breathtaking, if you can get over the vertigo – the tower, built by Shell using oil-rig scaffolding technology, wobbles in the wind. Whatever you do, don't think of metal fatigue or lightning. The trail up to the canopy walk begins near the confluence of Sungais Belalong and Temburong. It's a short, steep, sweaty walk. If you stay overnight at the resort, you can do the canopy walk at sunrise, when birds and animals are most likely to be around.
Canopy Walkway is at the level of the highest trees. You can see tiger orchids and epiphytes clinging to the branches and Bukit Belalong (Bukit Hill) in the distance. Occasionally, The snakes, such as the bright green, venomous Wagler's Pit Viper, can be seen.
Accommodation and Transport to Temburong National Park
Accommodation is available at the Ulu Temburong National Park Headquarters. Booking of accommodation is best made through travel agents in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. Some of these agents can be found online. A package booking through an agent should also cover boat and road transfers. There are several guesthouses and well-equipped camping areas at the park as well as an eco-lodge
Ulu-Ulu Resort is the only resort accommodation at Ulu Temburong National Park. It boasts spacious and comfortable rooms equipped with standard hotel amenities. Located just along the banks of Temburong River, guests will be able to enjoy gorgeous tropic views by day, and fall asleep to the soothing water streams by night. Sumbiling Eco Village, perched on the shore of Temburong River, is another eco-friendly resort. It is constructed from recycled wood and tents. Placing an emphasis on culture, Sumbiling Eco Village is where you get to experience first-hand, the various traditions and pastimes of the indigenous community. From traditional dancing, weaving and rock painting, to blow pipes, fishing and cooking sessions. Contact Hasa Incentives at +673 876 6796 for more details.
Freme’s Lodge and Adventure Park is the place to go those seeking a wide variety of activities like running an obstacle course filled with logs, swings and climbs and a Flying Fox zipline. First established in 1996, Trandie is the longest-running eco-lodge in the entire district of Temburong. Here you can build your own raft to cross the white waters of Temburong River, or go canoeing with your friends down a couple of rapids in the river.
Ulu Temburong is only accessible by boat, in most cases a longboat or temuai. From the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan water taxis take about one hour to ply the route to the main town of Bangar in Temburong District. This allows the visitor a glimpse of the mangrove forests which line the muddy delta of the Limbang River flowing out of Sarawak into Brunei Bay. With luck, Proboscis Monkeys may be sighted along this route. These are most likely to be seen in early morning or late afternoon.
From Bangar, a 30 minute bus ride is needed to reach Batang Duri which is the base for Brunei's Outward Bound School and the embarkation point for Temuai longboats which carry visitors up the Temburong River. These craft are steered by Iban men and women who, with remarkable ability, manage to avoid sand bars, boulders and submerged logs. Beware though, when water levels are low passengers are expected to climb out of the craft and help push the boat to deeper water. After two hours passengers should have arrived safely, but not necessarily dry, at their accommodation in the National Park Headquarters near the confluence with Sungei Belalong.
Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre
Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (one kilometer upriver from Temburong National Park headquarters) is a rain forest study area where scientific groups, natural history societies and school groups can stay and enjoy and explore the forest. Even though it is not far from Ulu Temburong National Park headquarters it takes about 2½ hours of traveling upstream and pushing and pulling the longboat through 23 rapids to get there. Heading back down stream is a little easier, but not much. Bookings should be made through: The Coordinator, Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre, Department of Biology, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Gadong 3186, Negara Brunei Darussalam.
The establishment of Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFSC) was during a joint expedition of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London, and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), in the early 1990s. During the launching expedition, 74 scientists of various specialisations have conducted research at the KBFSC. In 1992, UBD took over the responsibility for the station. The core mission of the KBFSC is to generate, describe and disseminate knowledge in Science and Education related to the vast diversity of Brunei’s tropical rainforests, including all the varied life forms and ecosystem processes. [Source: University Brunei Darussllam]
Brunei Darussalam is home to some of the most diverse and species-rich forests on earth. Recent research findings by the scientists attached to the KBFSC indicate that there are still plant and animal species waiting to be discovered in the Belalong forest. The behavior and ecological roles of the majority of species reported in this forest remain completely unknown. Such knowledge is fundamental to conservation strategies as well as the potential for sustainable utilisation.
Tropical forests like Belalong are under increasing threat due to anthropogenic and natural disturbances. Understanding the responses of forest ecosystems to human-induced impacts and natural impacts are critical to their long-term conservation and sustainable management. The World’s climate is changing more rapidly than ever in human history. There has never been a time when scientific information on the role of forests and its ecosystem processes and functions in the global environment has been in greater demand. New research at KBFSC investigates the global climate change impacts on Brunei’s forests using the forest dynamics plots. Researchers also investigate changes in animal ecology in response to changes in aquatic and terrestrial environments and options for alternative energy.
Developing the next generation of scientists required to tackle the environmental problems facing tropical forests is a critical goal of the KBFSC. The KBFSC provides unparalleled opportunities for field-based training. Since 1992, the KBFSC had been offering highly successful environmental education programs for secondary school children, graduate students (both local and international) and government sector employees in collaboration with the academic staff from UBD.
It has been said that field stations are places where the book of life can be read in the language in which it was written. The teaching and research from KBFSC have helped write that book in the Sultanate and will provide a solid basis for government decisions regarding critical environmental issues in an ecosystem under tremendous pressure from unfocussed exploitation.
Innovative and cutting-edge research of our own UBD researchers, collaborations with internationally acclaimed scientists, research and higher learning institutes and entities such as CTFS- Arnold Arboretum (Harvard University), UBD-IBM Centre, iCUBE (International Consortium of Universities for the Study of Biodiversity and the Environment) will no doubt take the KBFSC to greater heights in the years to come. It is clear that the KBFSC has a very bright future as it continues to contribute to an understanding of the fascinating and complex Bornean rainforest system.
Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre is not an area for ecotourism or a recreation site. People who are allowed to visit the Centre are: 1) Research scientists with approved short or long term projects/programmes; 2) Students who follow one of the educational programmes run by the Centre; 3) Students with approved study proposals; 5) Approved research assistants; 6) Government officers with approved environmental programmes; 7) Government officers and others involved with the future development of the Centre.
Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre Facilities and Location
Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre Facilities include five wooden buildings linked by walkways have been built at the river's edge. These comprise two accommodation blocks for up to 35 visitors, a laboratory, a dining hall and kitchen, and a meeting hall. There is a filtered water supply, electricity from a diesel generator and a sewerage system. The Centre has a canopy access system provided by portable scaffolding and climbing gear, environmental monitoring programs, research plots and a Geographical Information Sytem (GIS).
Set up in early 1991, the Centre quickly established its international credentials as the headquarters of a 15-month joint UBD-Royal Geographical Society expedition. Some 50 scientists from eight countries took part in more than 33 short-term and nine long-term projects designed to gather background data for the development of the Centre as an important research facility. The vast range of projects included studies of ants, termites, bats, birds, beetles, frogs, woodlice, ferns, rattans and the ethnobotany of forest plants. The project ended in March 1992 with most of the results incorporated into a computerized information system which includes a sophisticated mapping capability. [Source: Asia Research News]
The Centre is located in the Temburong District of Brunei Darussalam in the Ulu Temburong National Park. It lies on the west bank of the Belalong River nestling in the 'V' of a steep-sided, heavily forested valley about five kilometers upstream from the roadhead at Batang Duri.
The Centre is surrounded by lowland and ridge Dipterocarp forest with small areas of riverine and heath forest which have never been logged. The terrain is difficult to work in, characterised by steep-sided valleys and sharp ridges. Hunting has been minimal in the area which supports substantial populations of large mammals including Borneon gibbons, langurs, macaques, civets and sun bears. The Centre is 50 meters above sea level but the highest point within the National Park is Gunong Pagon (1850 meters). The upper reaches of the peak support montane forest but there are some montane plant species closer to the Centre on the upper slopes of Bukit Belalong (995 meters). Tel: 673-2463001 ext. 1376; Fax: 673-2461502
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Brunei Darussalam tourism websites, Brunei Darussalam government websites, Wikitravel, Wiki Voyage, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020