The creation of Sarawak’s largest man-made lake has provided access to this fascinating national park. Created as part of a hydroelectric scheme, the 24-square-kilometre Batang Ai Lake boasts Iban longhouses and habitats of wild orangutans in the vicinity.
The Iban, Sarawak’s largest ethnic group, and once renowned headhunters, still live in traditional longhouses around Batang Ai. Visitors to the park can reach the longhouses by boat travelling up on one of the rivers that flow into the lake or as they trek on the jungle trails looking for wildlife. They can stay at Iban longhouses and sample their age-old way of life.
Have you ever seen a pig with beard? You can see bearded pigs as you walk Bako’s trails. Well used to human visitors, Bako’s wildlife is less shy than their remote jungle cousins so you can get close enough to take photographs. Of course, you have an even better chance of experiencing Bako’s biodiversity if you stay overnight at one of the park chalets, and take part in a night walk led the park guides.
If you are lucky, your hosts can guide you to where wild orangutans, roaming through the forest in search of fruit, make their nests for the night high in the trees.
Batang Ai is Sarawak in the wild, but you can experience it all in the lap of luxury while staying at Aiman Batang Ai Resort in the jungle, right on the lakeshore.
There are five trails in Batang Ai which showcase every aspect of the park’s terrain and vegetation, such as mixed dipterocarp forest, old secondary forest and active shifting cultivations areas, with ancient burial grounds scattered around the area. Visitors must be accompanied by a registered guide or park ranger at all times.
|Trail Name||Length||Grade||Time (Approx.)|
|Padalai Trail||1.8 km||Easy||1 hr 30 mins|
|Bebiyong Trail||4.0 km||Easy||2 hr 30 mins|
|Bilitong Trail||4.6 km||1 1/4 hours (1.4 km)||4 hrs|
|EnggamTrail||8.2 km||45 minutes (1 km)||6 hrs|
|Sium Trail||7.6 km||1 hour (1.75 km)||5 hrs 30 mins|
All trails end at a pick-up point for longboat transport back to Park HQ.
The Padalai trail begins across river from Nanga Lubang Baya longhouse, near the Park HQ. There is a 30 metre climb to “Pendam Sepetang”, a traditional Iban burial ground dotted with old burial jars. The trail then follows the main ridge between the Lubang Baya (or crocodile pool) and Batang Ai rivers to its highest point, passing by pig wallows and cleared patches in the forest floor (the dancing grounds of the male great argus pheasant). It then descends gradually to the top of the Wong Padalai rapids, following the river downstream to a picnic area and pick-up point for longboats.
This moderately difficult trail follows the Padalai trail for the first kilometer, then continues upwards along the crest of the ridge to Tuchong Bilitong, an important iban burial site. The remains of six tribal leaders are interred here. The trail continues through fine hill forest, gaining height until it reaches Ulu Sungai Sekerong at 320 m elevation. From here, an optional short but very steep climb leads to the peak of Tuchong Inggai at a height of 420m. This was an important look-out point in headhunting days, as the fires of enemy war parties moving up the Batang Ai river could easily be seen. A burial jar marks the final resting place of the warrior Tugang, whose spirit is said to guard the peak. The trail then descends rapidly to the confluence of the Batang Ai and the Lelayang stream, the pick-up point for the boat back to Park HQ.
The most demanding and rewarding of Batang Ai’s trails, the Sium trail begins on the river bank opposite the Park HQ. The first 2.5 km of the trail is a steady climb to the main Sium ridge at a height of 415 m. It then continues along the undulating ridge, passing through pristine hill forest until it reaches an Iban burial ground. Shortly afterwards, it reaches its highest point at the peak of Bukit Sium Ukap, at an elevation of 704 m. The word “sium” in Iban means “to sniff”, as when climbing steep hills the Iban say they are “sniffing the ground”. A small area of ground has been cleared around the survey beacon at the top of the peak, and the unrestricted views are spectacular. The entire hydro lake and the surrounding forest are revealed in a green and blue panorama, and on very clear days the distant Danau Sentarum lakes can be seen in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The trail continues along the ridge for a short distance before descending rapidly to follow the Beritik river. A little further downstream is a majestic Tapang (Koompassia excelsa), its great height, white bark and broad canopy making it one of the most spectacular trees in the rainforest. Its broad horizontal branches are much favoured by nesting bees, so it is greatly prized by the Iban as a source of honey. They would never fell a Tapang as this is believed to cause madness, delirium and certain death, but if a Tapang falls in a storm or landslide, its wood is used for making the finest, straightest blowpipes. From here, the trail continues along the Beritik to its confluence with the Batang Ai, to meet the waiting boatmen or continue on foot along the riverbank to Park HQ.
Batang Ai National Park is at the headwaters of the Batang Ai and Lubang Baya rivers, some 15km upriver from the Batang Ai Hydro Lake. Access is by motorized traditional longboat from the Aiman Batang Ai Resort jetty or the Batang Ai public jetty. There is no public longboat service and transport should be arranged in advance. The boat journey is roughly 2 hours – 1 hour crossing they hydro lake and another hour ascending the fast-flowing Batang Ai river. At times of low water visitors may have to jump into the crystal clear stream and help to push the boat through small rapids – all part of the fascinating Batang Ai experience.
The Batang Ai hydro lake is about 275km (or 5hours drive) from Kuching. Most visitors arrive as part of an organised tour group where all transport is included. Contact the Visitor’s Information Centre in Kuching for a list of approved tour operators. Independent travel to Batang Ai is difficult but not impossible; there are regular express buses from Kuching to Sri Aman (3 hours 30 mins), from Sri Aman there is a local bus service to Lubok Antu (2 hrs), some 5km from the hydro lake, and from Lubok Antu it is usually possible to get a free ride to the lake from one of the friendly locals. However, there is no public longboat service; you may have to stay in Lubok Antu for a day or two until somebody is heading to Batang Ai. The alternative – chartering a longboat yourself – can be prohibitively expensive.
Park Opening Hours:
8.00am to 5.00pm
Monday – Sunday including Public Holidays
Tel :(+6) 082 248088
There is no visitor accommodation at Batang Ai National Park. Visitors usually stay in one of the nearby Iban longhouses, or at the Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat, which is roughly 1 hour 30 mins by boat from the Park HQ. The park has no canteen facilities, and visitors should bring enough food and drinking water with them.
A permit is required for professional photography or filming, which should be arranged in advance with the National Park Booking Office.