Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak

Among one of the least visited places in Sarawak, the Bario Highlands are on top of the list of must-visit places on the island of Borneo. Where is this strange place located? What highlands is this? Many may think Sarawak offers countless hectares of rainforest but bordering Kalimantan Indonesia in the north is the unique and intriguing Bario Highlands and this is my story.

I have heard so much about Bario over the years, especially from fellow Sarawakian friends telling me that I should visit this place and finally in late 2014, I was fortunate to make that trip there. Before I go on, you should know that the Bario Highlands is home of the Kelabit people Bario or "Bariew" means "the valley of the wind" in the Kelabit language. The place has pleasant temperatures of 16-25 degree Celsius throughout the year too.

Where is Bario?

The Bario Highlands are elevated to about 1000 meters above sea level and is home to about 6,000 Lun Bawang, Kayan and Kenyah people, all which make up the Kelabit people. Bario shares the highlands with another popular village called Ba'Kelalan and two more smaller villages called Long Lellang and Long Seridan. There are many other smaller villages where in total, there are about 10 villages here. However, it is Bario that is claimed as the capital village here.

People would say that Bario is one of the most beautiful places to visit and for anyone interested, you should know that there are only three flights daily from Lawas and Miri but they are on a 16-seater turboprop MASwings plane which is one unique experience for anyone who has never flown in a small plane. The takeoffs and landings are the ones to look out for while on board, it is only you, the local villagers, pilot and co-pilot in the plane. There are no stewardesses or toilets like how a local commercial jet has to offer.

Flying to Bario

Flying over the vast rainforest at a very low altitude kept me looking out the turboprop plane window as rarely I see things from the air so low. Primary and secondary rainforest stretch for as far as your eye can see with logging roads and winding rivers breaking the green tones of the forest canopy.

One thing to note is that if the weather is bad, flights would most likely be cancelled or if you're on flight, the plane could turn back to the airport. I know this simply because I had a chat with the both pilots as I was sitting right behind them on flight.

The noise of the turboprop plane would silence any loud speaking tourist immediately therefore for once, it was a pleasant one hour flight minus the laughing or gossip. Looking around in the plane saw most of the local and international journalist in their own zone, some excited, some afraid while the local Kelabit passengers were seen snoozing comfortably.

Nearing Bario, I asked the pilots and they pointed the village from the plane cockpit before making a turn in the air to come in for landing. As it was quite a good and clear day, I managed to take a video of the plane landing in Bario. Check it out below as the video says more that me typing in words.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vid) at: A Journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak