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Parks & Reserves
Loagan Bunut, which centers around Sarawak’s
largest natural lake, is one of the most unusual
aquatic ecosystems in Malaysia. The lake normally
covers an area of approximately 65 hectares. However
when the water level in the adjacent Tinjar river
is low, the shallow lake can drain completely, leaving
a huge expanse of dried and cracked mud. This normally
occurs two to four times a year, in February and
in late May or early June/July.
This unique cycle of flood and drought has created
a remarkable food chain which supports a large variety
of aquatic and terrestrial animals. As the lake dries
up, many aquatic creatures escape into the Bunut
river, which connects the lake to the Tinjar and
Baram river. Nevertheless many remain behind and
huge flocks of wading birds, primarily egrets, gorge
themselves on the fish, frogs and shrimps that are
trapped in shallow pools. When the lake is completely
dry, grasses and herbs sprout from the mud, and are
eaten by the larvae of insects that have laid their
eggs in the mud. When the rains start again and the
lake begins to fill up, returning fish feed on the
larvae, breed in the lake, and the whole cycle begins
The wading birds are not the only ones to take advantage
of low water levels to find abundant food. The local
Berawan fishermen have developed a unique method
of catching fish as they enter and leave the lake.
This technique, known as Selambau, is only found
at Loagan Bunut and involves the use of huge scoop
nets to catch migrating fish. The scoop nets are
mounted on large rafts, which can be rotated to suit
the direction of the water flow, and fish are literally
scooped out of the water as they enter or leave the
lake. The captured fish are kept alive in submerged
bamboo cages, called Kurungan, until they can be
transported to market.
The remaining parkland, which covers approximately
100 sq km, is covered with a variety of forest types,
ranging from mixed peatswamp forest with huge stilt-rooted
trees at the water’s edge, to towering Alam
forest with a canopy height of over 60 m.
The park is home to a considerable variety of birds;
during the dry spells in February and May-June, darters,
egrets, herons, bitterns, storks and broadbill arrive
in huge numbers to feed on the trapped fish, whilst
eagles, swallows, malkohas, stork-billed kingfishers,
magpies, robins, doves, bulbuls, racket-tailed drongos,
pied hornbills and kites can be seen all year round.
Mammals found in the park include barking deer, bearded
pigs, sambar deer, long-tail macaques, black banded
langurs, lesser mouse deer, small-tooth palm civets,
giant squirrels, provosts squirrels and Bornean gibbons.
Reptiles and amphibians include many species of frogs
and small lizards, dog-headed water snakes, a variety
of tree snakes, and the occasional estuarine crocodile.
There are also unconfirmed reports of false gavial
crocodiles occurring in the lake.
|Treks and Trails
If you visit Loagan
Bunut at the right time of year it is possible
to take a fascinating stroll across the dried-up
lake bed, although it is essential to take
a local guide. It is also the ideal place to
view peatswamp forest, but the swampy terrain
is generally difficult and treacherous to walk
on. However three trails have been established
at the park to successfully overcome this problem.
The 2km Hydrology Trail passes directly through
peat swamp forest and provides a unique close-up
view of this important ecosystem, while the
260m Tapang Trail and 720m Belian Trail (720m)
showcase two of Sarawak’s
most interesting and important tree species.
The majestic, smooth-barked
excelsia) is the world’s third tallest
tree, and its extremely heavy wood is used for
making the very best blowpipes. Local craftsmen
only use trees that have fallen through storm
damage or natural causes, as there is a powerful
taboo against felling the tapang, which may be
linked to its popularity with nesting bees and
therefore its importance as a source of wild
honey. The belian (Eusideroxylon
commonplace by comparison, but this medium-sized
tree produces one of the world’s hardest,
most durable and most valuable timbers, also
known as Borneo Ironwood, which is extremely
resistant to weathering and termite damage.
Boat trips to explore the lake and the surrounding
forest can be arranged at the Park Headquarters.
Early morning is the best time to appreciate
the magnificent scenery, with mist rising from
the lake as the sun rises slowly above the forest.
Sunsets can also be spectacular, and offer a
better chance of seeing and hearing forest birds,
whilst midday is ideal for birdwatchers wishing
to see the huge flocks of waders feeding on trapped
fish. The narrow longboats can penetrate some
distance into the forest, offering an excellent
close-up view of huge stilted tree roots and
the chance to see monkeys and squirrels.
The Selambau scoop nets
are one of Loagan Bunut’s
most fascinating attractions, which can also
be visited by boat. During the fish migration
periods visitors may watch the local fishermen
at work, and buy fresh fish for the evening’s
dinner. At other times of the year you are likely
to see local fishermen using more conventional
fishing methods, such as casting nets and pole
nets, to harvest the lake’s abundant supply
of fish. Another notable sight is an ancient
Berawan burial platform, or Klirieng, which rears
out of the waters of the lake, supported by two
mighty belian (Borneo ironwood) columns.
All boats on the lake and adjacent rivers are
operated by the local Berawan community and are
chartered by the hour. The boatmen have a great
deal of local knowledge and usually speak good
acceptable English. The charter rate is RM60.00
per boat for up to 4 passengers, with an additional
RM15.00 for every extra passenger.
|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 Miri.
Check with the National Parks Booking Office
in Miri or the Sarawak Forestry website for
the latest fee structure.
|Reservations & Enquiries
National Parks Booking
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
Loagan Bunut National Park
Fax: (+6) 085 431975 (Miri office)
|National Parks Booking Office
||0800 hrs – 1700 hrs
|Saturday, Sunday& Public Holidays
Loagan Bunut is approximately 120km or 3
hours by road from Miri, with half the journey
along gravel roads. A number of travel agents
in Miri operate tours to the park. If you
wish to travel independently, there is a
regular bus service, and a somewhat quicker
but more expensive 4WD service from Miri
to Long Lapok, a small town about 15 km from
the Park Headquarters. Leave the bus at Lapok
Bridge and enquire at one of the nearby coffee
shops for private transport to the park.
If there is a group of you the fare will
be a few Ringgit each, but if you are travelling
alone you may have to pay for the entire
van or 4WD. If you have a reservation at
Mutiara Hostel, they will normally meet and
transport you from Lapok Bridge. Check with
the National Parks Booking Office in Miri
for timetables and fares.
The Forest Hostel at the Park HQ has 4 rooms
with 7 double-decker bunk beds each. There
is a small canteen serving simple cooked
meals, snacks and drinks. A generator supplies
electricity during the evenings. (6.00am
to 12.00 midnight). Please contact the National
Parks Booking office in Miri for reservations
and the latest room rates.
The Mutiara Hostel is operated by a local
Berawan family and offers 9 twin-bed rooms
plus a 15-person dormitory with sleeping
mats. Visitors may cook their own food in
a simple kitchen - ingredients and cold drinks
are available from the floating grocery shop
nearby. Alternatively the owners will cook
meals if ordered in advance. Contact Mr Meran
Surang at the hostel, Tel: (+6) 011-292164,
or Mr Rolland Ayu in Miri, Tel: (+6) 085-612014.
Reservations can also be made at the National
Parks Booking office in Miri.
Tel: (+6) 082 610088 Fax: (+6) 082 610099
Toll free line: 1 800 88 2526