Sumbiling Rainforest Trek, Brunei

Sumbiling Eco Village is located just outside of Ulu Temburong National Park.  In addition to doing a national park trip from Sumbiling Eco Village guests can also choose to do the rainforest trek.  They lead treks of different lengths including overnight camping trips.  The hike isn’t hard but the humidity could make it tough for some.

More information on Sumbiling Rainforest Trek

The trip starts with a longboat crossing of the river.  There are two guides for the trek.  Apai (pictured) is a local Iban villager that knows everything about the local forest but speaks very little English.  Nazri also led our Ulu Temburong trip, speaks excellent English and has an easy going engaging personality.

The trail is the old hunting trails that have been used by the local Iban tribe for decades.  If it has rained recently it will be muddy but overall the entire trail was in good condition.  At the beginning of the trail Apai described a few examples of animal snares that the Iban have (and still) used for catching animals.

This was a tiny scorpian on one of the coolest trees.  The tree constantly sheds its bark is one of the only trees that isn’t mossy in the rainforest.  The coolest animal we saw was a bright orange civet cat (Malay weasel).  It turns out that it’s kind of rare to see one since I can’t find many photos on the internet.  I also don’t have a photo but this blogpost has a photo of one in the 5th photo.

Apai found some wild fruit.  It looked like a potato but it was sour like a lemon.

 

At one point on the trail we passed from secondary forest to primary (never cut) forest.  I couldn’t tell the difference until it was pointed out but the trees were larger.

The map of the different hikes from Sumbiling Eco Village.   I hiked the light green SEV 01 route.

My map of the same route although it was about 5.5 kms instead of 4 kms.  Still fairly easy.

Sumbiling Eco Village, Brunei

Ulu Temburong National Park was cool but staying overnight at Sumbiling Eco Village made the trip special.  It is possible to daytrip to Ulu Temburong National Park from Bandar Seri Begawan but the Temburong region is very relaxing.

Staying at Sumbiling is like glorified camping without any of the work.  You sleep in not so modest tent cabins that in truth are nothing like tents and instead are awesome.  You are served three great (and healthy) meals per day.  There are several different little adventures like the Ulu Temburong trip, a rainforest trek and a night hike that you can sign up for.  The best part is that you can spend hours just relaxing by the river.

Directions to Sumbiling Eco Village

Sumbiling shouldn’t be confused with a resort though.  The accommodations are basic.  The showers are cold.  The temperatures are cooled by fans.  For some this is the perfect way to see a Borneo rainforest.  Others might need a little more comfort.

Sumbiling Eco Village shouldn’t be confused with an eco village.  Typically the word eco village means a self sustainable farming community that produces much of their own food and consumes very little resources such as electricity.  At Sumbiling it is a combination of eco tourism and a place to stay during that trip.  They have been doing several things to reduce the impact of their business.  They supply filtered water and encourage tourists to bring their own water bottle.  They attempt to buy locally grown food.  They use a lot of locally harvested bamboo for building structures (when possible).  In addition to that tourists aren’t supplied with AC or hot water for showers greatly lowering the natural gas and electrical consumption.  It’s not zero impact but they have done a lot to reduce the impact of their business in a beautiful place.

One of the many great meals.  Larger groups can order bamboo chicken (not pictured).  The chicken is cooked using a traditional Iban (native) method.  The chicken is put into a section of bamboo with herbs and they seal the top with tapioca leaves.  The bamboo tube is then put next to a fire and the chicken is cooked inside the pressurized tube.  Here is a blog with more information on the cooking method.

The van drops you off at the local Iban community and it is a 5 minute walk to the camp.

Here is the tent cabin.  There are only two of them so larger groups might need to sleep in a traditional tent.  There are also some basic rooms available.

They were building a tree house while I was there.

One of the villagers fishing

Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei

This is one of the only reasons to go to Brunei in my opinion.  It’s a nice country overall and there are some other interesting things to see but if you are going to Brunei this is probably the reason that you are going.  My previous blog was about the little odd country of Brunei and I briefly mentioned the Temburong region.  Temburong is a geographical oddity since it is an exclave and isn’t connected by land to the rest of Brunei.  The Temburong region is special ironically because Brunei has made a lot of money on oil and they have almost completely preserved their rainforests.  The result is an almost completely preserved region with 25% of Brunei’s landmass but only 2.5% (10,000pop) of the population.  The national park itself is almost entirely closed off to visitors except for a small 1 sq km region.  Visitors can stay at the Ulu Ulu Resort and hike 1 km up a hill to a canopy skywalk.  Ironically it is more difficult to view wildlife here since the animals live in a large forest instead of being concentrated into one small area where palm oil plantations border the tourist corridor.  Ulu Temburong is almost teases you with how great it is because you can only see a little of that greatness.

You must go on a guided tour so the trip is not cheap but by far the best options are to stay at Ulu Ulu Resort or Sumbiling Eco Village overnight.  Information on both can be found on my guide at the following links.  Ulu Temburong National Park Sumbiling Eco Village

The first part of the trip on most tours isn’t even part of the park.  Your guide will meet you in Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei City) and you take a 45 minute speedboat ride to Bangar through the mangroves.  Everyone is seated inside an enclosed cabin but I snuck up to the bow to film a portion of it.  This will likely be your first chance in Brunei to spot a crocodile.  A controversial new bridge is being built connecting the two parts of Brunei (Malaysia is in the middle) and is scheduled for completion in 2018.  It’s a 13.4 km bridge across the bay and tours will likely be driven in a van from Bandar Seri Begawan to the Temburong River.  The speedboats will likely stop running completely when finished.

In Bangar your tour guide takes you in a van to a longboat launch.  Borneo Guide runs all of their trips through the Sumbiling Eco Village.  The longboat ride is similar to sitting in the middle of a long, flat bottomed canoe.  Each longboat can take about 8 people (my guess) and has an outboard motor to cruise up the Temburong River in about 45 minutes.  Our longboat was a local Iban villager and did an excellent job.

We saw a monitor lizard, two crocodiles (one is pictured) and numerous different birds on the trip.

Our longboat dropping us off for the start of our 1km hike up the stairs to the canopy skywalk.  You should plan to get wet in the longboat but don’t be surprised if you stay dry.

Researchers are given special access in the park and can go places that tourists cannot.  A Czech researcher is showing an unknown species of ant (or something like an ant) to our guide.  They use the tube to suck the ant into a chamber and then it will be named later.

The canopy skywalk rises over the tree canopy.  Unfortunately on my trip a thunderstorm with wind and a little rain blew in right when we reached the skywalk.  It was difficult to turn back but our guide (Nazri) made the correct choice.  Climbing metal towers in a lightning storm significantly decreases one’s life expectancy.

We sped past the Ulu Ulu Resort.  Staying here or at Sumbiling Eco Village is highly recommended versus only signing up for a day trip.