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LOAGAN BUNUT NATIONAL PARK

INTRODUCTION

 

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 again.

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.


ACTIVITIES

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 tapang (Koompassia 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 zwageri) appears 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

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.


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 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 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

Loagan Bunut National Park
Tel: (+6) 085-775118
Fax: (+6) 085-775119



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

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.


Accommodation

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.

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




 
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