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GUNUNG GADING NATIONAL PARK

INTRODUCTION

 


Gunung Gading National Park has a very special star attraction - the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower - and the park is one of the best places in Asia to view the Rafflesia’s spectacular blooms. Gunung Gading sprawls across four jungle-clad mountain peaks, and its dense primary rainforest is criss-crossed by crystal clear streams and waterfalls.

Gunung Gading was gazetted as a park in 1st August 1983 primarily to provide a conservation zone for the protection of the Rafflesia. It was opened to the public in 1994 and visitors can now view one of the most spectacular plants found on the planet. The park is easily accessible from Kuching on a day trip. Those wishing to stay longer can enjoy Gunung Gading’s other attractions - particularly its rainforest scenery, waterfalls and jungle trails. Some of these trails lead to the peaks of the mountains that make up the park and offer challenging jungle treks.



THE RAFFLESIA

 

The Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, is a parasitic plant found only in Southeast Asia, and then only in sub-montane hilly forests at elevations between 400-1,300 metres. Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr Joseph Arnold were the first Europeans to discover the Rafflesia. In 1818, whilst on a field trip near the town of Bencoolen (Bengkulu) in Sumatra, they came across a huge specimen that measured 97 cm in diameter. This species was later named the Rafflesia Arnoldi. When news of the discovery reached the botanical community in 1820 it caused quite a sensation with murmurings of disbelief.

There are thought to be 17 species of Rafflesia, some of which may already be extinct. Three species are found in Sarawak - the Rafflesia Pricei, Rafflesia Arnoldi and Rafflesia Tuan-Mudae, which is actually a type of Arnoldi. Only one species, R. Tuan-Mudae, is found at Gunung Gading.

The Rafflesia is as unusual as it is spectacular. Much of the flower’s biology remains a mystery to this day. It has no specific flowering season and it has no roots, leaves or stem. The Rafflesia depends on a host vine - the tetrastigma, a member of the grape family. Scientists are still unsure why the Rafflesia associates itself with the tetrastigma vine or how the seeds of a Rafflesia germinate and grow. What is known is that threads of tissue spread out within the vine and absorb nutrients. After 18 months a small dark brown bud appears.

Such a long period of growth means that there is a high risk of damage; even when a bud forms there is no guarantee that it will mature into a Rafflesia flower. A bud takes nine months to mature, when it may measure up to 16 cm in diameter, and studies have shown that a high percentage of buds do not survive, as they are susceptible to both drought and heavy rain.

After nine months the brown ‘leaves’ of the cabbage-like bud open, revealing the underside of the petal-like lobes. It takes several hours for a flower to open fully. There are usually five thick and fleshy red-coloured petals, covered in lighter coloured spots, warts and blotches. The Rafflesia only blooms for 3-5 days, before it starts to blacken and rot. Although it is quite common for a number of buds to occur in a cluster at the same site, it is rare for two plants of the same cluster to bloom at the same time.

Rafflesia flowers are either male or female, and therefore cannot self-pollinate. For pollination to take place, a male and a female flower must bloom at the same time and pollen must be transported over considerable distances. In the Rafflesia’s case pollination is carried out by carrion flies, so whilst in full bloom the Rafflesia gives off a foul smell of decaying flesh to attract them. Seeds are thought to be dispersed by rodents and other small mammals which eat the flowers. Scientists remain baffled, however, as to how the tiny seeds infest the roots and stems of the host vine.

Loss of habitat is the greatest threat to the survival of the Rafflesia. Its reliance on the tetrastigma vine does not help matters. With other endangered species it is possible to implement a range of conservation measures such as trans-location and the establishment of nurseries. However, these measures are not possible with the Rafflesia due to its very high degree of specialisation. The establishment of totally protected conservation zones is the only way to preserve this unique plant.

Gunung Gading National Park in Southwest Sarawak is such a conservation zone. Gazetted in 1983, the park covers an area of 4,106 hectares and forms a safe and secure habitat for the protection of the Rafflesia.


SEEING A RAFFLESIA IN FULL BLOOM

 

The Rafflesia is a rare flower with a short flowering period. Therefore a certain amount of luck is required if your visit to Sarawak is to coincide with a Rafflesia in full bloom. The park staff monitor the progress of the Rafflesia buds very closely, and usually know when a flower is about to bloom, so visitors can check with the park headquarters (Tel: 082-735714) or the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching (Tel: 082-248088).

A plankwalk is situated near the park headquarters in an area where Rafflesia are often found. Park wardens also take visitors on guided walks to flowers that are blooming deeper in the forest. Visitors should take notice of the warden’s instructions and tread carefully, to avoid damaging any buds on the forest floor.

Although Rafflesia have no set flowering season, blooms are more common at Gunung Gading during the wetter months (November to February). They are also more common on the lower slopes of the park’s mountain peaks.



WILDLIFE


Gunung Gading is home to a range of animals including civet cats, wild boar, small deer, porcupines, monkeys and giant squirrels. However, as the Park is surrounded by villages, most of the wildlife stays deep in the jungle, on the upper slopes of the park’s mountains, and therefore Gunung Gading is not an easy place for spotting wild animals. Visitors who opt for a summit trek are more likely to see some of the park’s wildlife.

 

 



TREKS AND TRAILS

 

Although most people visit Gunung Gading solely to view the Rafflesia, the park has other attractions, including a series of challenging jungle trails and a number of waterfalls and excellent bathing spots. All jungle trekking trails are colour coded. Official trekking guides are necessary as Gunung Gading is a conservation zone, and only small trekking groups are allowed.

The park includes four mountain peaks - Gunung Gading, Gunung Perigi, Gunung Sebuloh and Gunung Lundu - so most of the jungle treks involve a significant amount of hill walking and a reasonable level of fitness is required. The summit treks are for serious hikers - they can be done in a day but this requires 7-8 hours of hiking, so an early start is essential in order to enjoy the rainforest scenery. Make sure you take enough drinking water and some snacks for lunch. Enquire at the park HQ for further information and to arrange a trekking guide.

The following table provides details of trekking times and the colour codes used in the park.

Trail Name

One Way Trekking Time From HQ

Colour Code

Waterfall

1 hour to Waterfall No. 7

Red & White

Gunung Gading Summit

3 1/2 hours

Yellow & Red

Batu Berkubu

5  1/2 hours

Red & Blue


The following paragraphs provide brief details of each of the trails. If you require further information, please enquire at the park HQ.

The Waterfall Trail

This is the easiest and shortest trail in the park. The trail follows a river and passes seven waterfalls, although not all of the waterfalls are accessible. Waterfalls 1, 3 and 7 are signposted. If you need to break the trek up, waterfall 3 provides a pleasant resting spot. It is only a 10 metre detour from the main trail. The whole trail passes through some great jungle scenery before reaching the final waterfall, and a perfect dip pool surrounded by forest.

 

Batu Berkubu
Batu Berkubu, on the slopes of Gunung Sebuloh, served as communist base camp during the insurgency. Although it is often called a cave it is in fact a huge rock which along with the surrounding trees provides a cave-like sheltering area. The trek from the Summit of Gunung Gading to Batu Berkubu is relatively easy, taking about 2 hours to cross a valley.
 
Gunung Gading Summit Trail

First follow the red and white Waterfall Trail until you reach the junction for the seventh waterfall. The trail’s marking then changes to yellow and red. This is the start of Gunung Gading Summit Trail. From the junction it takes another two and a half hours to reach the summit, which was the location of a British army camp during the communist insurgency of the 1960’s. The remnants of the camp - a helicopter pad, water tank and barbed wire fencing - still remain to this day, and appear somewhat out of place in the middle of a national park. However, they are of historical significance and the park staff intend to preserve the summit area as it has been for the last 30 years.

It is essential that visitors return to the park HQ the same day, either directly or via a side trek to Batu Berkubu (see below). Visitors are not permitted to camp overnight in the forest for conservation and security reasons.

 


TRAVEL NOTES
Entry Fees & Permits

There is a nominal entry fee for all National Parks in Sarawak. Check with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching for the latest fee structure. Entrance fees are paid upon arrival at the park HQ. A permit is required for professional filming, which should be arranged in advance with the National Parks Booking Office.


Reservations & Enquiries

National Parks Booking Office,
Visitors Information Centre,
Sama Jaya Nature Reserve,
Jalan Setia Jaya,Tabuan Jaya,
93000 Kuching Sarawak,
Tel: (+6) 082 248088 Fax: (+6) 082 248087

Online booking: http://ebooking.sarawak.gov.my/

Opening Hours
National Parks Booking Office Monday-Friday 0800 hrs – 1700 hrs
Saturday, Sunday& Public Holidays Closed

 

Rafflesia Flower Enquiries

As the Rafflesia has a brief flowering period, visitors should enquire beforehand to avoid disappointment. Both the Park HQ (Tel: 082-735144) and the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching (082-248088) can tell you if a Rafflesia is in full bloom or about to bloom.

 

Getting There

Gunung Gading National Park is located near the small town of Lundu in Southwest Sarawak, about 2 hours drive from Kuching. From the Brooke Dockyard (Gambier Street) bus station take the Sarawak Transport Company bus to the 3rd Mile bus terminal. From there take the express bus to Lundu - the journey takes approximately one and a half hours. From Lundu, take a van or taxi and ask to be dropped off at the park office. Alternatively, Kuching tour operators offer guided tours to the park.


Accommodation Facilities

Both individual chalet units and hostel accommodation are available at the Park Headquarters. Please contact the National Parks Booking Office for the latest room rates and to make reservations. There is also a budget hotel and lodging house in Lundu itself.

Further Information

SARAWAK FORESTRY
Tel: (+6) 082 610088 Fax: (+6) 082 610099
Toll free line: 1 800 88 2526
Website: www.sarawakforestry.com
Email: info@sarawakforestry.com

Gunung Gading National Park
Tel : (+6) 082 735144   Fax : (+6) 082 735715

 




 
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