It was a long, dusty and bumpy journey to Loagan Bunut but the 130km travelled on a 4WD in 3 hours’ time was worth it. Mother Nature never fails to amaze people who really look forward to enjoy its beauty. I was one of the people along with Nancy, Cath, Roland Gan, a licensed tour guide and Frankie, a Kayan 4WD driver who drove hundred miles from Long Bedian to pick us up at Miri town.
The trip to Loagan Bunut National Park was the excursion trip before heading to Long Bedian in the vicinity of Apoh, Miri for Sarawak Highland Folks Music Festival 2012.
Loagan Bunut National Park is a peat swamp forest with a lake that covers an area of approximately 650 hectares. Total areas of the park gazetted in 1991 are 10,736 hectares.
Loagan Bunut National Park
Loagan Bunut is home to about 87 species of trees, 4 species of pitcher plant, 80 species of herbs, 131 species of fungi taxon, 21 species of fish, 231 species of insect, 26 species of reptile, 92 species of bird, 23 species of amphibian and few species of mammalian like Sambar deer, Grey-leaf monkey and flat-headed cat. It is also home to an ethnic group that has been around for 5 generations called Berawan. Berawan has the privilege to collect fish, forest products and hunting under the Native Customary Rights.
Loagan Bunut is an extra-ordinary lake where water level fluctuates throughout the year, mostly from February to May or June, in response to the fluctuation of water level in Sungai Teru, which is connected to the lake via narrow channel of Sugai Bunut. The water level will go as low as 0.5m up to 3-4m. When it rains, the lake will be filled up again up to the highest water level of 40m. And this is a good time for the Berawan people to scoop up migrating fish using a unique method called Selambau. Selambau is actually a net mounted to a large raft which can be adjusted according to water flow. Main species of fish found here include Bawan, Baung, Betutu and Kaloi. Fish will be kept in a bamboo cage before being transported to fresh market in Lapok or as far as Miri.
The boat ride around the lake took us about an hour, skipping some parts of the lake but nonetheless we had the privilege to get to know a local Berawan, Pak Jalin Luta. Pak Jalin, 66 years old, a fisherman, is also operating boat cruise to support his family. Pak Jalin took us to a Berawan burial site for Berawan community with the national park near Bukit Tengah. There are two other sites situated near Sungai Bunut and Sungai Bunan. The burial site in Bukit Tengah is still being used for the burial of high caste Berawans, whereas the commoners are buried at burial site near Sungai Bunut. These sacred totem poles called Lejeng have been in existence for 5 generations, approximately more than 200 years. Lejeng comes in pair and are carved on Belian tree poles that were erected to support the coffin placed above them.
Berawan burial site.
We later went to other parts of the lakes where there were chalets. The chalets were not in operation as the main problem here is water. Pipe water is not supplied here and the locals use the lake water for washing and bathing and they will save rain water for cooking. Some visitors did not like the idea of using pumped lake water and rain water and this problem saw the declining number of visitors. However, there is a Forest Hotel near the office that is still taking visitors but please bear in mind that they use pumped water from the lake which is filtered later using traditional method.
If you don’t mind the water condition, they are happy to let you stay. Bring lots of bottled water for your use. Also bring your own food. If you like to have a fish barbeque, let the local Berawans know, they will help you catch fish. Remember that fishing is not allowed for public, only Berawans are allowed to do that.
If using lake water is a problem to you, you can treat it as a day trip. Go early in the morning and come back in the evening. The fee of transportation (4WD for 4 people) is around RM250 per one way. This is not including the fee to the national park which is RM10 for local, RM20 for foreigner. But my suggestion is, since you are already in Miri vicinity; take the chance to proceed to Long Bedian (another 2 hours’ drive) for the night stay. Long Bedian has about 12 homestays, water facilities, shops and restaurants. There is a Muslim food there. Not to mention 8 waterfalls in the area! I’ll cover Long Bedian in another post (will link the URL here later). And after Long Bedian you can even proceed to Gunung Mulu National Park. From Mulu you can take a flight back to Miri. Sounds good? You can contact Roland Gau from Mulu Trekking to customise your adventure trip: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyway, other than boat ride at Loagan Bunut National Park, you can also go for trekking. There are 2 trails available here; the 2km Hydrology Trail and 260m Tapang Trail. It is essential to take a local guide. Please enquire about this from the park’s office: 085-775119. For the boat ride, please call Pak Jalin at 014-8968002. Pak Jalin has only one boat to operate and you might have to wait an hour or so, if he is taking other visitors so it will be great if he can plan ahead if you call first. Fee is RM60 for 4 pax.
I might sounds like a travel agency but really, I am not. I want you to go and experience the adventure. Sarawak has a lot to offer in terms of nature, culture and adventure.
Credits to Sarawak Tourism Board for taking me on this trip and frankly, I did not know the existence of Loagan Bunut National Park until they brought me along.
Beauty is in the eye of beholder, if you are a nature lover or nature photographer or simply love to study nature; you will find beauty here in Loagan Bunut National Park. Here are more pictures of the park from a nature lover to another.
(I’ve written this article in my room at Tapun Homestay, Long Bedian, Apoh, Miri)