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SIMILAJAU NATIONAL PARK

INTRODUCTION

 

The beauty of Similajau National Park is its coastline, a chain of golden sandy beaches, punctuated by small rocky headlands and jungle streams, and bordered by dense green forest. Similajau was gazetted as a park in 1976, to provide a conservation zone for the unique geographical features of the coast and to protect the flora and fauna of the surrounding area. The park covers an area of 8,996 hectares, and the main trekking trail hugs the coast so that visitors are never far away from the main attractions of Similajau.

Similajau is best visited during the dry season (approximately February to October) when the coastline at its most beautiful and the emerald green waters are crystal clear and ideal for swimming. The park is located 30 km north-east of the town of Bintulu, and is a very popular destination at weekends. If you wish to avoid the crowds you are advised to go during the week, when you are likely to have the park very much to yourself.


VEGETATION

 

The vegetation at Similajau can be divided into three types - the littoral fringe, kerangas (or heath forest) and mixed dipterocarp forest. The littoral fringe can be further sub-divided into rock and cliff vegetation, beach vegetation and mangrove forest. Amongst rocks and cliffs the vegetation is quite sparse with only a few hardy shrubs and pitcher plants able to survive. Casuarina trees line many of the park’s beaches and mangroves are found near the park HQ at Sungei Likau and at Sungei Sebubong. Kerangas is an Iban word describing land that is unsuitable for growing rice. It is relatively stunted owing to poor soils and consists of scrub-like vegetation and trees that resemble narrow poles. The mixed dipterocarp forest is where visitors will see the giant trees that are for many the symbol of the tropical rainforest.


WILDLIFE

 

24 species of mammals have been recorded at Similajau, including long-tailed macaques, gibbons, banded langurs, shrews, mouse deer, barking deer, squirrels, wild boar, porcupine, and civet cats. The park is an excellent place for bird watching as 185 species of birds have been recorded within the park’s boundaries.

Similajau is also home to two crocodile species. The estuarine or saltwater crocodile (crocodylus porousus) lives near the river mouths of the larger rivers in the park and feeds on small mammals, lizards, turtles, fish and water birds. It has also been known to attack humans at other locations in Sarawak and in Australia, therefore visitors are advised to take notice of the crocodile warning signs. There have been no recorded instances of crocodiles attacking visitors at Similajau, but it is always best to play safe. Please do not attempt to wade across the larger streams in the park, but use the bridges instead. Similajau’s other crocodilian is the harmless false gharial (tumistoma schlegii), which feeds exclusively on fish. Crocodiles are more easily spotted at night, and the Park HQ can arrange crocodile spotting boat trips for visitors.


One odd creature that is commonly seen at Similajau’s beaches is the horseshoe crab, known locally as the Belangkas. This prehistoric-looking animal is not a true crab, but a modern day descendant of the trilobites that populated the seas 400 million years ago. They are often seen in pairs on the beach or in the shallows of the sea. The female is some 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter while the male is 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Both have a long spike-like tail which protrudes from their circular shell-like bodies.

Green turtles frequently come ashore to lay their eggs at Golden Beach, and at the two Turtle Beaches which are situated closer to the park HQ. There are also occasional landings by hawksbill and leatherback turtles. If you arrive at the beach on the morning after a turtle landing you may see the trail marks leading from the sea to the back of the beach and the turtle ‘nest’. Please do not disturb the nest or the turtle eggs - all sea turtles are Totally Protected Animals in Sarawak and anyone found tampering with a nest is liable to a heavy fine and/or a jail sentence.

Dolphins are occasionally found at Similajau, usually swimming in small groups quite close to shore. Although you have to be lucky to encounter a dolphin, it is always a memorable experience. They can sometimes be spotted from the park’s beaches but you have a better chance of seeing dolphins if you take a boat trip along the coastline of the park. There are five species that frequent the waters off Similajau – the Irrawaddy dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, the Indo-pacific humpback dolphin, the finless porpoise dolphin and the pantropic spotted dolphin – and all are more frequently encountered between March and September.



TREKS AND TRAILS

 

There is one main trekking trail at Similajau, which follows the coastline of the park, and a number of side treks off this main trail. The trail is relatively easy to follow with red paint markings on the trees. From the park HQ you must first cross the Sungei Likau via the suspension bridge to reach the plankwalk over the mangroves from, where you have two choices. The first choice is to follow the plankwalk which leads to the start of the trail proper. Alternatively, you can take a short cut by turning left at the very beginning of the plankwalk. A wooden ladder leads down to a secondary trail which joins the main trail near the junction for the Viewpoint Trail, the first side trail. There is a shelter with picnic tables at the viewpoint which looks back to the beach and park HQ.

Shortly after the viewpoint turn-off, the main trail leads to the coast. From here on the trail hugs the coastline and passes numerous small bays and beaches. An hour or so after the viewpoint trail, and just before the Sungei Kanyau, there is a turn-off which leads to the Selunsur Rapids. This side trail passes through kerangas and mixed dipterocarp forest before reaching a series of small rapids and rock pools.

Most visitors continue along the main trail to reach the park’s excellent beaches - two turtle beaches set in beautiful bays, and Golden Beach which is a long, unbroken stretch of sand. All three beaches offer excellent swimming in emerald green waters. Alternatively, an interesting side trail (marked in yellow) leads to the Selunsur rapids, which are best visited after recent rainfall. One way of getting the most out of Similajau is to hire a boat and be dropped off at Golden Beach and then trek back to the HQ (see below).

The following table provides details of one-way trekking times from the park HQ.

Destination

One Way Trekking Time From HQ

Viewpoint

50 min
30 min (via short cut)

Selunsur Rapids

2 hrs 30 min

Turtle Beach 1

2 hrs

Turtle Beach 2

2 hrs 30 min

Golden Beach

3 hrs

Selubong Pool

20 mins (plus boat trip)




BOAT HIRE - COMBINING A TREK WITH A COASTAL CRUISE


Hiring a boat is one of the best ways of seeing Similajau. The wardens at the park HQ can assist with boat hire. Boats can be hired by the hour, for half day and full day coastal and river tours, or for crocodile spotting tours at night. You can arrange to be dropped off at a beach and picked up at a pre-arranged time, or you can take a boat from the park HQ to Golden Beach or Turtle Beach and then trek back along the main trail.

Boat tours along the rivers of the park can also be arranged, for example, up the Sungai Likau near the HQ or the lower stretch of the Sungei Sebubong. The Sebubong river is navigable for a kilometre from the river mouth. Visitors can then travel by foot along a small trekking trail which leads to Kolam Sebubong, a small jungle pool. Enquire at the park HQ about other river cruising options.


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. Please check with the National Parks Booking Office in Miri or the Sarawak Forestry website for the latest fee structure. Visitors to Similajau can obtain a permit and pay any fees at the park HQ.


The Park Headquarters

Upon arrival visitors are required to register at the Park HQ. Next to the registration counter there is a good information centre. The Park HQ also has a canteen which serves drinks, snacks, lunch and evening meals.


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
 
Getting There

Similajau National Park is located 30 kilometres north-east of the town of Bintulu and is reached via an unsealed. There is no regular bus service to the park so independent travellers usually take a taxi from Bintulu (approximately 30 min - don’t forget to book your taxi for the return journey). Local tour operators also offer transport and guided tours to the park. Alternatively you may charter a fast boat from Bintulu Wharf, a somewhat more expensive but enjoyable option.


Accommodation Facilities

Both individual chalet units and hostel accommodation are available at the Park HQ, all with 24-hour electricity and running water. Please contact the National Parks booking Office in Miri for the latest room rates and to make reservations. Early booking is advised if you are visiting at weekends, public holidays or school holidays. There is also a camp site, and barbecue pits are provided for visitors wishing to prepare their own meals.

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

Similajau National Park
Tel: (+6) 019 8610998

 




 
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