Loagan Bunut is the name the local Berawan people give to Sarawak’s largest natural lake, covering 650 hectares, mainly covered by peat swamp. But, it is not the size that makes the lake remarkable; it is the fact that it disappears during drought season.
Fed by local rivers, the lake shrinks to nothing in the dry months, which occurs usually February to May or June. During this time there are great expanses of dry mud flats where fishing boats once plied. Visitors can get glimpse of barking deer, bearded pigs, the tiny mouse deer, the Langur monkey, Long-tailed macaque and Flying Fox that inhabit the surrounding peat swamp forest.
The lake and its fluctuations determine the rhythm of life of the the local Berawan peoples. They have developed their own, unique method of fishing called ‘Selambau’ in which they literally scoop up the migrating fish as the water levels change.
Another notable sight is the ancient Berawan burial platforms or lejeng, which rears out of the waters of the lake supported by two mighty belian columns.
While the lake appears and disappears, the fascinating scenery and the vibrant forest life remain constant. The howling of gibbons in the morning is just part of the symphony composed by the rich animal life that inhabits the park. Bird watches can see darters, egrets, herons, bitterns,hornbills, and kites as well as a host of smaller birds.
The swampy terrain is generally difficult to walk on but several jungle trails have been established at the park overcome this. A 2km Hidrology Trail passes directly through the peat swamp forest and provides a unique close up view of this important eco system. The traditional Selambau scoop nets, one of Loagan Bunut most fastinating attractions can be visited by boat.
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 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.
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.
Park Opening Hours:
8.00am to 5.00pm
Monday – Sunday including Public Holidays
Loagan Bunut National Park
Fax: (+6) 085 431975 (Miri office)