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Brunei Darussalam rarely hits the ecotourist’s radar in Southeast Asia. But they miss out on the chance to experience the best of successful state-sponsored conservation. Here’s how you can have an unforgettable trip to the Ulu Temburong National Park, the ‘Green Jewel of Brunei’.
Ulu Temburong National Park covers 550 square kilometres in eastern Brunei. The Sultan’s ‘no cut’ policy in the 1990s stopped deforestation, preserving most of Brunei’s virgin rainforest. Today, only 1% of the national park is open to the public. Housing more than 40 species of butterfly and the rare exploding ants, Ulu Temburong National Park is a biodiverse haven in Brunei. Gibbons, hornbills and the occasional flying squirrel live in the rainforest too.
The only practical way to visit Ulu Temburong National Park is by joining a tour. Strict conservation efforts permit only scientists and specialists to access much of the park. If you do want to visit independently, you need to apply for a special permit. And unless there’s a convincing reason, you won’t get it. Tours range from day trips to staying overnight at the environmentally friendly Ulu Ulu Resort. We suggest spending the night if money isn’t an issue to witness the mesmerising sunrise. Most day tours begin at 6:30am, returning again in the early evening. Prices vary depending on the company and package but expect to pay around $100 USD per person.
Because of its remote location, getting to Ulu Temburong National Park is tricky and takes more than two hours. The first leg of the journey entails a 40-minute speedboat from Bandar Seri Begawan jetty to Bangar Town. You’ll exit the Brunei River and enter the Temburong River via a short spell in Brunei Bay. An 18-kilometre (11.2-mile) overland drive follows to Batang Duri. Visitors then get into a traditional longboat and ride along the River Temburong to the entrance of the national park. This usually takes 30 minutes. Be prepared to get out and to push the boat during the dry season when water levels are low. Finally, a one-kilometre (0.6-mile) trail leads through the jungle to the canopy walkway.
Most tours give visitors between three to four hours inside Ulu Temburong National Park. More than seven kilometres (4.3 miles) of boardwalks and bridges form a network around the accessible areas. Detailed information boards provide insight into the regional flora and fauna. But the real highlight lies above. The canopy walk towers some 50 metres (164 feet) above the forest floor. Brave tourists climb 20 ladders to reach the canopy, which is worth it for the panoramic views of the forest. Other activities include visiting the waterfalls, swimming in natural pools and jungle trekking.
Unless you pay through the nose for a private excursion, most tours have a minimum of two people. Solo travellers should try to arrange their place as far in advance as possible. This will increase the likelihood of finding another passenger to share the tour. Ulu Temburong National Park will be extremely hot, humid and sticky. It goes without saying to bring enough fluids, comfortable shoes and a change of clothes in a waterproof bag. And finally, while the rainforest bursts with life with the endless cacophony of noise, don’t set your hopes too high on spotting wildlife. Most live deep in the jungle, away from the public areas.
Finding a tour to Ulu Temburong National Park can be as challenging as getting to the park itself. Information isn’t widely available. We suggest spending a few hours searching online and reading other travellers’ experiences on TripAdvisor. The cost and quality of one compared to the next vary. Hotels should be able to help arrange a tour if you contact them in advance.