Friday, April 03, 2015

Amazing virgin rainforest in Brunei

We return from our exciting jungle adventure to Kota Kinabalu in time to meet Ruth who has flown in from Singapore. We spend the next day in KK and have a celebratory lunch for my birthday and a goodbye lunch for Carole who is heading back to Tasmania.

Ruth and I are quick to start the next adventure. We decide to travel to Kuching in Sarawak taking in Brunei travelling on local buses, on boats up and down rivers and on ferries across bays of the South China Sea. A distance of about 1000 miles. Borneo is huge - the third largest island after Australia and Greenland, and this way of travelling help us to appreciate the scale of the island and get a feel for the landscapes, the peoples and the cultures.

We are heading to Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei to see some of the only remaining virgin rainforest in Borneo. The Park is reached only by river and is only accessed by local longboats. Having the largest oil reserves in SE Asia Brunei is wealthy and does not need to rape its rainforests for oil palm plantations.

Brunei is proud of its forest heritage. The forestry department, established in 1933, is dedicated to effectively managing the Sultanate's forests towards "attaining excellence in tropical forests" and ensuring that Brunei has a permanent managed forest estate covering at least 55% of the total land area. On World Forestry Day, 21 March, special prayers were said by the nation to express hope that Brunei's green forest will continue to be pristine and protected from natural disasters and threats of illegal logging.

We try to book to stay in Sumbiling Eco village just down river from the park. Borneo Guide travel company require prepayment but after spending all evening prior to departure trying to pay both our credit and debit cards are refused under their pay on line scheme. They then demand cash in advance - even though we promise faithfully to pay when we reach their office in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital.

There are only a few banks in Lawas just before the border and we spend a whole hour of the bus break trying but all 3 banks refuse to give enough cash. We cross borders and we are met in Bandar, a small village, by Ummi the guide at the Eco village. Her boss still demands prepayment but after another hour or so of trying (wifi-ing from her mobile to my iPad) Ruth's credit card is accepted. I am afraid our comments on TripAdviser will be very negative. (Even more annoying is that Nationwide credit card security stepped in and stopped my card as they considered all the failed attempts to be fraudulent!)

We stay in a wooden house on stilts to help keep the room cool on the banks of the Lambang River. Chicken and local green ferns from the forest for dinner. We wake at 5.15 to hear the dawn chorus and see the sunrise. Fish jump and skim the surface. Two hornbills fly over and the swiftlets fly low over the water to catch insects.

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