Wild and vibrant Ulu Temburong National Park is a direct contrast to Brunei’s manicured capital, and is one natural wonder that shouldn’t be missed on any trip to South East Asia.
The third largest island in the world, Borneo conjures images of dense rainforest, colourful exotic wildlife and the heyday of exploration. But some of Borneo’s natural wonders are remarkably accessible – and none more so than the protected habitat of Ulu Temburong National Park. Located in wealthy Brunei, this national park is a wild contrast to the rest of the famously regimented country and can be easily visited on day trips or longer excursions, depending on how adventurous you’re feeling.
Brunei is a small country and the trip from the capital Bandar Seri Begawan to the regional town of Bangar by water taxi only takes around one hour, after which groups will head down the Temburong River to access the park’s sights. The most important thing to note about visiting Temburong National Park is that visitor numbers are strictly regulated and you will need to arrange a package tour with a registered operator. These tours can be booked before or after you arrive in Brunei.
The national park covers an area of around 500 square kilometres, but tourists are only permitted in a maintained one-kilometre area for their own safety and for the conservation of the habitat. There’s plenty to see and do in the park however, which is connected by a system of wooden walkways above the jungle floor. Suspension bridges over raging rivers and canopy walkways offer panoramic views over the untouched surroundings.
Some routes around the park aren’t for the faint-hearted and you should speak to your tour guide to choose a route that isn’t too challenging. Even if you miss out on the best views from the top of the walkway, there are still plenty of activities that can be enjoyed in and around the park – from white water rafting along the river to cultural workshops in local villages.
Walking on suspended platforms between the trees, you’ll get the chance to see flowers such as tiger orchids up close, while the forest floor is abundant in edible fruit and herb plants. The shores of the Temburong River create further diversity, with gigantic ferns and palms as well as mosses transforming the landscape.
Of course, while plants may be of interest to botanists, most visitors are drawn to the mammals, birds and multicoloured insects that call the jungle their home. The park has a strong emphasis on conservation as well as visitor safety, so you won’t have to worry about getting too close to the animals – especially venomous snakes like the Temple Viper.
Distinctive Borneo species such as the rhinoceros hornbill bird, proboscis monkeys and Bornean gibbons, are unique to this environment, and even if you’re not normally a fan of insects, the spectacular colours and patterns of species such as the White Rajah butterfly could give you a new appreciation for all creatures great and small.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning on spending more than one day exploring this diverse habitat, two-day package tours include a stay overnight close to the park headquarters, ranging from basic dorms to luxury hotels. Many visitors choose to stay in a hotel in Brunei and make the trip in a single day, giving them more time to explore the city’s cultural sights and culinary offerings.
If you’re eager to see more of Borneo on your trip, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to staying in Brunei. Crossing the borders to Malaysia or Indonesia will offer many more outdoor experiences. Are you feeling the adventurous spirit?