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Ulu Temburong National Park: A Glimpse At Borneo’s Primary Forests

Welcome to the wild side of Brunei! Brunei is often described as “a Sultanate in the jungle”… and the best way to experience it is going to the country’s Green Jewel: Ulu Temburong National Park. If like me you are a nature lover, you will not want to miss this opportunity to penetrate the pristine forest of Borneo.

Brunei’s first national park was established in 1991, and protects about 50,000 hectares of primary, untouched rainforest, among the best preserved of Borneo. Of these 50,000 hectares, only 100 hectares are accessible to visitors. The national park is actually part of a large protected area, the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve, covering as much as 40% of the whole District of Temburong.

As a matter of fact, around 80% of Brunei is still covered by forests, of 5 different types. The one you will find at Ulu Temburong National Park is the lowland dipterocarp forest. These forests are common in South East Asia and particularly in the Malay Peninsula and Borneo. They are forests dominated by trees belonging to the Dipterocarpaceae family, hence the name. Some of these trees, such as various Dipterocarpus or Shorea species, are true giants that dominate the canopy.

It is often difficult to spot it but Ulu Temburong National Park is home to a very rich wildlife. If you are lucky, you might be able to spot a hornbill as a several species call this park home. The park also protects the Müeller’s Bornean gibbon (Hylobates muelleri), a greyish tail-less monkey.

Believe it or not, it’s oil that saved these forests. Indeed, Brunei was blessed with offshore oil reserves and the small sultanate’s economy could grow without touching its forests.

In comparison, neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia destroyed vast expanses of their tropical rainforests through (not always legal) logging and to make room for oil palm plantations. Thus, if you want to have a glance at the original, pristine rainforest of Borneo, Brunei’s Temburong District is a good choice!

Convinced yet? Good! Let’s now see how you can visit this fantastic National Park and what a typical visit looks like. Let’s go!

Quick Info

GPS (Embarking): 4°34’34.34″N, 115°7’16.66″E

GPS (Suspension Bridge): 4°33’12.14″N, 115°9’26.14″E

GPS (Canopy Walk): 4°33’6.60″N, 115°9’36.60″E

GPS (Small Waterfall): 4°33’40.50″N, 115°9’10.86″E

How to go: Day Trip from Bandar Seri Begawan or Bangar

Price: Around $115

Duration of the tour: 7 hours from BSB.

Speed boat Bandar Seri Begawan – Bangar: 45 mins, BN$6 each way.

Best season: Possible all year long.

Getting there: How to Visit Ulu Temburong National Park

Ulu Temburong National Park is huge, but as I was mentioning in the introduction, only a small fraction of it can be visited. As a result, the most common way  to visit the park is with a day trip, allowing you to experience this pristine environment, and visit the few touristic points. It can be done from either Bandar Seri Begawan or Bangar.

If a day trip is not enough for you, you also have the option of booking a package at the Ulu Ulu Resort (the only accommodation inside the national park) with up to 4 days / 3 nights. This would give you the opportunity to discover the different attractions at a slower pace, with extra jungle hiking and kayaking.

From Bangar

Bangar is the main town in the Temburong District. The Temburong District is geographically separated from the rest of Brunei by the Brunei Bay. In order to get to Bangar from Bandar Seri Begawan, you have to take a 45-minute speed boat ride – pretty easy, and really cool trip.

From the jetty facing Kampong Ayer, the speed boat leaves Bandar Seri Begawan on the Brunei River until reaching the Brunei Bay. It then crosses the bay and enters the Temburong River, fringed with mangrove and spectacular colonies of nipah palms (Nypa fruticans) until Bangar.

In Bangar it is easy to book a tour to Ulu Temburong National Park through the hotel you stay in, or by booking it online. Actually tours are very easily found from Bandar Seri Begawan, but it makes sense to stay in Bangar if you plan to further discover the region, by doing the Bukit Patoi hike for exemple (see further down this page).

From Bangar, the national park is very easy to reach. You just need to take the road heading south for 18 km / 11.2 mi to a place called Batang Duri, where you embark on your boat on the Temburong River. But this will always be included in your package, anyway.

From Bandar Seri Begawan

Bruneian tour operators have probably figured that many tourists don’t actually get out of Bandar Seri Begawan much, so if you look at tours available online, you will see that many start in BSB. It is exactly the same as tours you would take from Bangar, except that the speed boat rides will be included in the package.

If you don’t plan to explore more of the Temburong District, it’s a convenient offer.

Ulu Temburong National Park Day Trip: What To Expect

In Bangar already, you can immediately feel the proximity with the jungle. it makes no doubt that the Temburong District is particularly wild. And this is confirmed when you see how short the drive to the Temburong is: 18 km, or 11.2 miles. And that’s where the fun begins!

Let’s now see what are the places that are usually visited inside Ulu Temburong National Park during a day trip.

Journey On The Temburong River

Once in Batang Duri, at the end of the road, you can finally penetrate into the lush rainforest on a longboat the locals call a temuai. This is the start of a wonderful journey on the meanders of the Temburong River. You can already spot the first huge, old Dipterocarpus Oblongifolius trees growing slanted over the river.

For about 40 minutes, meander after meander, the peacefulness, the smells of the jungle already had its soothing effect on me. I truly feel good in the jungle.

The distance between the embarking point and the Ulu Ulu Resort is only 4 km / 2.5 mi, but with the meanders of the river the distance exactly doubles. In front of the resort, on the other side of the river, the Forestry Department of Brunei has a small building where you register to enter the national park.

Belalong Canopy Walkway

The Canopy Walk clearly is the highlight of a visit to Ulu Temburong National Park. Built on 950 m / 3100 ft-hill, the structure itself reaches a height of 50 m / 160 ft, offering mind-blowing, 360-degree views over the canopy. It consists in several walkways connecting observation towers.

This starts with hike in the jungle, sometimes on a muddy path, sometimes on long wooden stairways (850 steps in total!) leading you to the top of the hill and the base of the Canopy Walk. The size of some of the trees along the path was stunning. No doubt this is a primary forest, or such giants would for sure have been cut down already. I did this hike in 20 mins but of course it can vary depending on your fitness level.

I have climbed a few jungle canopy towers before and I can tell you that this one is exceptional. You are walking at the same height at the rainforest’s emergent trees.

If you visit the park during a day trip, you will have to brave the humid heat to climb the stairs to reach the top of the Canopy Walkway. But if you stay overnight at the Ulu Ulu Resort, you will have the opportunity to experience the sunset and the sunrise from the Canopy Walkway, which must be an absolutely unforgettable experience. Next time I go to Brunei, I will make sure to do that!

The trip to the Canopy Walkway also gets you to walk on the suspension bridge crossing the Temburong River, offering privileged views over the river and nice photo opportunities.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Ulu Temburong National Park: Belalong Canopy Walkway

Stand at the top of the highest observation tower of the Canopy Walkway, for an exceptional panorama over the national park (1 panorama).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

Following a Stream to a Small Waterfall

After these fabulous panoramic views over the sprawling canopy, I was guided into the rainforest again. Back near the Ulu Ulu Resort, from the main river,  my guide invited me to follow him along a jungle stream. I had no idea where he was taking me, but this little walk alone was really nice.

After only 5 mins, we could not go further, stopped by a large rock on which was flowing a small waterfall, into a shallow pond of cold water. I loved the simplicity of this little stream, this little waterfall, and the jungle all around. It was a great conclusion to this day in the heart of the legendary rainforest of Borneo.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Stream & Waterfall in Ulu Temburong National Park

Follow a stream inside the jungle of Ulu Temburong National Park until a small waterfall (2 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

TRAVEL MAP – Ulu Temburong National Park

Visualize on the map the precise locations of panoramas in the virtual tour and places of interest to help you prepare your trip to Ulu Temburong National Park.

Click Here to View The Map

The map opens in a lightbox. Zoom in to explore!

An Alternative or Complement to Ulu Temburong National Park: Bukit Patoi

I wouldn’t really call it an alternative to Ulu Temburong National Park because the experience is totally different, but if for some reason you can’t go to Ulu Temburong and still want to have a glimpse of Brunei’s jungles, the Bukit Patoi hike is a nice option.

It is probably the second most common jungle experience to be had near Bangar, after Ulu Temburong National Park. Located within the Peradayan Forest Reserve, Bukit Patoi (Patoi Hill) is a typical jungle hike, on a muddy trail sometimes among large trees with buttress roots.

It took me an hour to hike the 2 km (1.24 mi) to reach the top of the hill at 310 m (1,017 ft), and its surprising clearing. The ground is made of a huge rock slab on which there is no soil for trees to grow. This naturel clearing sometimes serves as an helipad.

Bukit Patoi is easy to reach: it is located 12 km / 7.5 miles from Bangar, following the road heading east. I just had to talk to my guesthouse in Bangar for them to quickly find me someone ready to drive me there, wait for me and drive me back to Bangar.

Depending on how lucky you are you might be able to spot some wildlife, but it is usually very discreet. At the top of the hill, I heard a hornbill but didn’t manage to spot it. On the way down, I spotted the strange silhouette of a Blue-eyed Anglehead Lizard or Forest Dragon (Gonocephalus liogaster).

If you don’t mind a big sweat, it is not a difficult hike, and definitely not as strenuous as my jungle hike in Koh Chang, Thailand, for example.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Bukit Patoi

Hike to the top of the Bukit Patoi hill for a great view over the surrounding rainforests (2 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

Wrapping Up

The Temburong District is a true paradise for nature lovers. It is true that when we think of Brunei, mosques with golden domes might first come to mind, but its real wealth lies here, deep into its rainforests. Its wealth it biodiversity, and the privilege to own one of the least disturbed natural environment left on the planet.

Ulu Temburong National Park – the Green Jewel of nickname totally diserves its nickname. If you can afford spending several day at the Ulu Ulu Resort, do it. I kind of regret not doing it and spending only a few hours in this exceptional national park. No matter what you chose to do, you can at least be sure that you will remember this place many, many years after visiting it.

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