Have you ever been longboating through the jungles of Borneo? I kinda love that I can say that I have!
One of the highlights of my visit to Brunei was being able to take a day trip to Ulu Temburong National Park. The development in the Temburong area has been limited, so the rainforest is in pristine condition and most of the trees are hundreds of years old.
My gracious guide and longboat captain were both from an indigenous group that lives near the rainforest. Once upon a time, they lived in the rainforest but as Borneo has modernized, they have also changed their way of life.
I was told that most of the young people are living and working in the cities of Brunei or are attending the Arabic school down the street. The older generations of women spend their time weaving basket handicrafts in the longhouse and brewing rice wine (indigenous peoples are exempt from the alcohol ban in Brunei) and the men work the fields and fish.
The boat captain remarked that some changes have been good: the outboard motor hitched to the back of the longboat has sped up the pace of travel a lot. The traditional poles are still used to maneuver the boat through shallow waters or difficult turns.
Half the fun of going to Ulu Temburong is the transportation. An hour-long motorboat ride from Bandar Seri Begawan provides lots of time to admire the 500 year old water village, Kampung Ayer, as well as the dense mangroves growing along the Limbang River en route to the park. Then the longboat goes the rest of the way up river to the Canopy Walkway, where those without fear of heights can climb a glorified ladder above the treetops:
For an idea of the panorama that awaits you at the top, click here. Sadly, my photos didn’t do the views justice.
Those with a fear of heights can choose to stay on the pathway below to enjoy the trees at eye level, but be warned that swarms of honey bees and spiders the size of your hand lurk in these parts!
Although there are lots of animals living in the forests of Ulu Temburong, they are very shy. This park is big enough to hide them well. Especially since it gets pretty dark below trees this tall…
The other half of the fun was when I found myself at a rainforest waterfall surrounded by thick green forest. The pool below the waterfall looked inviting, so I rolled up my pants and hopped in to soak my feet in the cool waters. I wasn’t the only one.
To our surprise, we were then treated to a free pedicure by the local doctor fish (garra rufa), who nibbled at the dead skin on our toes and heels. It was an experience that was ticklish, gross, and delightful, all at the same time.
Then all too soon, it was time to get back in the longboat and leave the jungle behind.