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KUBAH NATIONAL PARK

INTRODUCTION

 

Almost every visitor to Kuching has seen Kubah National Park, whether they realise it or not. This massive sandstone ridge with its three mountain peaks – the 911m high Gunung Serapi and the slightly smaller Gunung Selang and Gunung Sendok – is clearly visible from the Kuching Waterfront. Situated only 22 kilometres from Kuching, Kubah is not only the most visible but also one of the most accessible of Sarawak’s National Parks.

Kubah was established in 1989 because of its exceptionally rich plant life, and only opened to the public in 1995. The Park covers an area of 2,230 hectares, and comprises the heavily forested slopes and ridges of the Serapi range. At heights of between 150-450 metres, Kubah’s soft sandstone is punctuated with bands of hardened limestone which have created a number of beautiful waterfalls.

Kubah’s most famous feature is its palms. Almost a hundred different palm species can be found in an area of just over 22 sq km, making Kubah probably the richest palm habitat for its size anywhere in the world. But Kubah’s palms are not only abundant – they are also historically and ecologically important. Many of Kubah’s palms were first described by the great Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari (1843-1920), who spent 3 years in Sarawak from 1865 to 1868, and recorded his findings and experiences in a remarkable book, Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo.

As well as its palms, Kubah has many other striking attractions; its spectacular primary rainforest, its rich selection of orchids and ferns, and its crystal clear jungle streams, waterfalls and bathing areas, to name just a few. The rainforest scenery has even caught the attention of Hollywood; in 1987 Gunung Serapi was the principal film location for Farewell to the King starring Nick Nolte - as you approach the entrance to the park HQ you will see the film set to the right. The Sleeping Dictionary, starring Jessica Alba, was shot in the nearby forest foothills adjacent to the park, which provided a stunning backdrop for the film.

The forest at Kubah is mixed dipterocarp, with small areas of scrub forest and isolated patches of kerangas. This rich forest, the park’s proximity to the coastline and its general terrain all ensure that Kubah is home to a variety of wildlife, including bearded pigs, 50-plus bird species (including argus pheasants and black hornbills), sambar deer, mouse deer, civets, porcupines, squirrels and numerous species of amphibians and reptiles.



TREKS AND TRAILS

 

Kubah offers an interesting range of treks and forest walks, from the gentle to the downright arduous. Some of the park’s jungle trails begin on the Gunung Serapi Road - a sealed track that starts at the Park HQ and leads to a telecommunications tower at the summit of Gunung Serapi. Vehicle access is restricted but pedestrians are allowed to use the road to walk to the summit of Gunung Serapi or as shortcuts to the Waterfall and Rayu trails.

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

 

Trail Name

Length

1-Way Trekking Time From HQ

Colour Code

Waterfall Trail

1600m

1 hr 30 mins

Blue

Rayu Trail

3830m

3 hrs 30 mins

Orange

Main Trail

1912m

1 hr 15 mins

White

Selang Trail

1557m

1 hr

Yellow

Summit Trail

5km

3 hrs 30 mins

Grey

Palmetum

255m

30 mins

White

Belian Trail

1429m

40 mins

Green




The Main Trail

The Main Trail passes through mixed dipterocarp forest and joins up with the other trails, giving visitors the option of continuing on into the forest, visiting the waterfall, or returning along the Gunung Serapi Road.

 

Rayu Trail

This trail starts at the 900 ft mark on the Gunung Serapi Road, and leads to the nearby Matang Wildlife Centre (see below), some 3 hours 30 mins away. The trail passes through pretty riverine forest with some buttress-rooted rainforest giants and a number of bintangor trees. Aids researchers are currently conducting tests on chemicals extracted from the bintangor (see box). Therefore you may see small incisions in the tree bark where the bintangor has been tapped for sap. The Rayu trail ends at a clear jungle stream adjacent to the Matang Wildlife Centre.

 

Selang Trail

It takes about 40 minutes from the Park HQ to reach the end of this short trail and the viewing point on Bukit Selang. On a clear day the viewing point offers superb panoramas of the surrounding area. Looking down you see the tree-covered slopes of the park give way to agricultural land and small villages, rivers winding through the mangrove forests that hug the coast, Satang Island turtle sanctuary, and Mount Santubong rising up in the distance.

 

Belian Trail

The newly established Belian trail highlights the conservation of the Belian tree (Eusideroxylon zwageri, also known as Borneo Ironwood). This finest of hardwoods is endemic to Borneo, and because it is extremely strong and durable it is used locally in house construction and agriculture, especially as support poles for pepper planting. The same qualities also make it esteemed by the Chinese for the building of coffins.

This one way trail is approximately 1 hour’s easy walking. As well as huge Belian trees, you can see a wide variety of plant life, including, gingers, unique giant mushrooms and beautiful climbing figs and rattans. The large number of fruiting trees - such as durian, rambutan, cempedak (jackfruit), figs and salacca fruit - contributes to a wide variety of birds and animals. Hard-to find forest birds including the maroon woodpecker, white rumped shama, chestnut-naped forktail, and rufous-collard kingfisher are often heard and seen, and giant squirrels are frequently spotted jumping from tree to tree.

THE BINTANGOR TREE

In 1987, an American scientific expedition arrived in Sarawak to identify plants that could be used to treat cancer. However the focus of their study switched when they came across the bintangor tree and two chemicals extracted from it - Calanolide A and Costatolide. During preliminary laboratory tests it was found that the chemicals showed signs of halting the spread of Aids. The Sarawak government received news of the discovery in 1992. A Sarawakian scientist was then sent to the US to join the project team.

Research continues today and focuses on Costatolide as it is more readily available than Calanolide A. In order to obtain the Costatolide, the bintangor tree is first ‘tapped’ for its sap in much the same way as rubber. Small incisions are made in the tree bark so that the sap flows out and can be collected in a small container. The Costatolide is then extracted from this sap; therefore it can be harvested as a renewable resource. The Rayu Trail at Kubah National Park passes through rainforest that contains a number of bintangor trees. Visitors may be able to see some trees which have been tapped for this potential rainforest remedy.


 
The Palmetum

The Palmetum is devoted to Kubah’s best known feature - its palms. It is a short walking trail, located next to the park HQ, and highlights various species of palm found in Kubah. The trail is extensively labelled, highlighting dozens of different palms of all shapes, sizes and colours


Waterfall Trail

The Waterfall Trail starts from the Park HQ and takes approximately 1 hr 30 mins. The trail passes through mixed dipterocarp forest and has numerous plankwalk sections which cross swampy areas and small jungle streams. Wild durian trees can be seen along the sides of the trail. The waterfall consists of a number of sections with the main section dropping some 10 metres onto a wide rocky ridge. Below this ridge is a small pool that is idea for a cool jungle dip. There is an alternative starting point near the 1,000 ft mark on the Gunung Serapi Road which is convenient for visitors arriving from Matang Wildlife Centre via the Rayu Trail.

 

Gunung Serapi Summit Trail

The walk to the summit of Gunung Serapi takes 3-3 1/2 hours and is one of the park’s most popular walks. There is a viewing platform at the top and on a clear day the view is simply stunning. Kuching, Mount Santubong, the coastline of Southwest Sarawak and the mountain peaks that mark the border with Indonesia can all be seen in the distance beyond the forest of green that rolls out from below. This view is made all the more amazing at sunset and sunrise when the whole panorama is set against an ever changing backdrop of reds, oranges and purples.

 











TRAVEL NOTES

Entry Fees & Permits

There is a nominal entry fee for all National Parks in Sarawak. A permit is required for professional filming, which should be arranged in advance with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching. Check with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching or the Sarawak Forestry website for the latest fee structure. Day trippers to Kubah can obtain a permit and pay any fees at the park HQ or at the gate of nearby Matang Wildlife Centre. Any fees paid cover both Kubah and Matang Wildlife Centre.


Reservations & Enquiries

National Parks Booking Office,
Visitors Information Centre,
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg,
93000 Kuching Sarawak,
Tel: (+6) 082 248088 Fax: (+6) 082 248087
Online booking: http://ebooking.com.my

The Visitors Information Centre is located in the Old Courthouse Complex at the junction of Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, Jalan Gambier and Main Bazaar, opposite the Kuching Waterfront.


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

Matang Transport Company bus No. 11 departs from outside the Saujana Car Park in Kuching (check with the Visitor Information Centre in Kuching for the latest bus timetable). Taxis can also be chartered for the 40 minute trip to the park. Alternatively, a number of travel operators in Kuching run guided tours to the park.


Accommodation

The Park HQ has 5 large bungalows with 2 bedrooms (6 beds), rest houses (10 beds), hostel (12 beds), all with air-con, TV, hot, water, a verandah and full kitchen facilities. There is also a spacious BBQ area near the bungalows. The nearby Matang Wildlife Centre offers Chalets and a ‘Longhouse’ with 8 hostel-type rooms each containing 4 beds. Please contact the National Parks Booking office in Kuching for the latest room rates.

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

Kubah National Park
Tel: (+6) 082 845033

 




 
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