The Ulu Temburong National Park spans over 200 square miles, and is known as the ‘Green Jewel’ of Brunei, due to its colourful and unspoiled rainforest heritage. The overnight trip to Ulu Temburong was undoubtedly the highlight of my short stay in Brunei Darussalam. Once I had gotten over my fears of sleeping the jungle, I really warmed to the environment here at Brunei’s first ever designated national park.
One of the things that always worried me was leaving the relative chaos of Bandar Seri Begawan to head deep into the Bruneian rainforests. While some of the journey is taken by road (4X4), mainly it is by boat. From the town of Batang Duri, it was a long trip upstream in a small longboat (but luckily my group was not in an even smaller canoe), yet with the rivers here seeming so deep and narrow, and with the jungle either side of you almost causing claustrophobia, as small a boat as possible is required or else you end up getting stuck in the thick tangled mangroves.
The journey upriver had taken around 3 hours, which was much longer than I had expected. I hate it when that kind of things happens. I also remember being stuck on a riverbank in Luang Prabang once having just visited some caves, as our boat had broken down unexpectedly. It is a good reminder to always leave yourself an hour or two spare just in case of these possible eventualities. I was happy to see the camp, and as it was late afternoon by this time, I did not want to have a look around until the morning, just in case something else unexpected happened and I was lost in the jungle after dark!
One thing Ulu Temburong National Park is famous for, apart from its wildlife, is its observation tower and canopy walkway. At 165ft, you can see the whole park from up here – and beyond! Originally, I was not going to climb it, being scared of heights and all, but I was persuaded by my guide, who also had to persuade another couple of wimps from Singapore, who claimed there were no tall buildings in their country so they had no experience of climbing! The way up was increasingly scary but luckily it was all experienced in good weather, with minimal winds. Once up top, I was glad that I had conquered my initial inhibitions. You really feel empowered when you can get views like this in a tropical country, with the sounds and smells of the rainforest beneath you!
The wildlife in Ulu Temburong also scared me, I’ll admit! Although I never saw much of it, I was told that many of the critters and reptiles here were dangerous. Of course, I kind of suspected as much, but it was still disconcerting to hear it from a local guide. It was as if his trepidation came over all of us in that moment! But although I did come across a python that had just eaten its dinner, not all of Ulu Temburong’s wildlife was harmful. In fact, one of the most amazing mammals I have seen is native here, the weird and wonderful Proboscis Monkey. I had seen these monkeys and their weird noses before at the amazing Singapore Zoo, but obviously it is always better to see them wild, and in their natural habitat, free of confinement.
I cannot emphasise what a good time you will have by taking a tour into Ulu Temburong National Park during your stay in Brunei! Welcome to the jungle!