Before traveling to Brunei, I already knew that the number one thing to do there was visiting the Ulu Temburong National Park. After all, it is one of Brunei’s main sights, and for a nature lover like me, a trip to the park was the highlight of my Brunei trip. The park covers 50,000 hectares of pristine rainforest and is full of rare plants and over 40 butterfly species.
Booking the Tour
The park is huge, but only a small fraction of it is open for tourists, and the only access there is by boat, so the most common way to visit the park is with a tour. You can either choose a day trip (like I did) or opt for a multi-day trip.
The day I arrived in Brunei, I checked out tour companies’ addresses online and headed for the first one: BorneoGuide. Their office is located in the city center, near the central bus station. The cost is $125 for a day-trip when you book for more than two people. They also offer a “Complete rainforest experience” where you spend two nights in the park. But this time, a day trip was enough for me. After all, it included all of the highlights of the park, like the canopy walk and waterfall swim. Also, all transport, water and food were included in the price.
I hadn’t done that much research about the different tour companies beforehand, but I was happy with my choice. BorneoGuide is an eco-friendly tour company employing local people in Temburong and offering overnight stays at their Sumbiling Eco Village.
If you are traveling during the high season, I would recommend booking the tour ahead by emailing the tour company.
Day trip to Ulu Temburong National Park
The day started at 7:30 am when the driver picked us up from our hotel. We picked up three more people on the way to the jetty: an elderly German lady and two Japanese women (mother and daughter, I assume).
At the jetty, we were met with a local woman who was helping us with the boat tickets. We were told that the next speedboat is full, and we would have to wait for another boat that leaves in an hour. I’m was a little baffled why she didn’t buy the tickets beforehand, but I guess when you have been traveling for long enough, it has become a norm that things never go as smoothly as they would in your home country.
Around nine o’clock, we boarded a small speedboat and started our 45-minute boat trip to Bangar, the only town in Temburong. The boat trip already got me excited as we first went through Brunei River, then the ocean and finally the small river channels of Temburong River.
In Bangar, we were greeted by Seha, a lovely young woman who would be our tour guide for the day. We soon learned that unlike most of the women in the west of Brunei, she is not Muslim but instead a member of Iban tribe. It was fascinating to hear her stories and learn more about her culture and traditions during the day.
The first thing we did in Bangar was to buy some snacks at the market, and then we continued driving to Sumbiling Eco Village, where BorneoGuide has their park lodge. Seha explained to us that the grounds were actually her ancestral village, and her relatives had made a deal with BorneoGuide. BorneoGuide rented the land and also hired the local Iban people to work for them.
At the Eco Village, we ate our snacks for breakfast (delicious fried bananas and vegetables) and had a short briefing about the day’s schedule. There was also a chance to use the toilet and refill water bottles. After seeing the lodge, I kind of regretted not booking the multi-day trip as the place looked so lovely and peaceful nestled among the rainforest, river flowing just next to it.
We then grabbed life vests and started another 45-minute long boat trip – this time with a lot smaller boat that fits seven people sitting right behind each other.
I enjoyed this boat trip even more than the other one. Being in a small boat like this offered even better views of the rainforest as we weaved through the small river channels. We stopped at UluUlu resort’s jetty to register and wrote our information down before finishing the last bit of the boat ride.
Ulu Temburong Canopy Walk
The highlight of the trip was definitely the famous Ulu Temburong Canopy Walk. After the boat ride, we started our climb of around 800 stairs up to the canopy walk.
The climb seemed pretty easy at first, but soon the humid and hot weather hit me, and I was sweating like this was the worst workout of my life. Luckily, there were four “rest stops” along the way with benches to sit and catch your breath.
After reaching the top, we still had to climb a metal scaffolding to get to the canopy walks. Finally, there is a walkaway with three towers to climb for the best views.
We were told that there couldn’t be more than five people at a time on the canopy walk and no more than two people at a time on the towers and walkaways.
Besides our group, there were no other people, so we got the canopy walk to ourselves. I headed to the first tower as Seha has told us that the best views are from the first and third towers. Upon reaching the top, I was greeted by a breathtaking view of the endless looking green rainforest.
The canopy walk is definitely not the place for someone with the fear of heights, but for everyone else, the views are worth every effort. I couldn’t stop admiring the beautiful views, but finally, after spending quite a lot of time in the first tower, I climbed down and spent some more time taking pictures of the walkaways.
After the canopy walk, we walked back to the boat and headed for the waterfall. We arrived at the small waterfall with two different sections: a waterfall at the bottom with a natural pool and smaller upper falls with a pool as well. I climbed back and forth the two separate pools and also enjoyed the “fish spa.” There are tiny fish that nibble the dead skin cells off your feet if you just stay still for a while. The waterfall swim felt very refreshing and relaxing after spending so much time sweating when climbing the canopy walk.
Lunch and Returning to Bandar Seri Begawan
After the waterfall swim, we headed back to the Sumbiling Eco Village for lunch that Seha’s aunt had prepared for us. I hadn’t informed anything about my vegan diet beforehand, but I was happy to notice that the lunch consisted of rice, mixed vegetables and some greens that reminded me of something I’ve eaten in Africa before. There was chicken as well, but because everything was cooked and served separately, I could easily skip this. The food was delicious, and everyone seemed to be really hungry after a long day.
Soon after the lunch, we headed back to Bangar to catch our boat back to Bandar Seri Begawan. Just like in the morning, we didn’t get on to the first boat that was leaving because Seha could only buy the tickets when we got to the jetty. But at this point, I didn’t mind waiting as there was nothing to look forward to anymore – except getting back to the hotel for a shower. Back in the capital city, the driver was already waiting for us and dropped us off at our hotels. It had been a long but very rewarding day – something that I will remember the rest of my life.
Wow, such a great experience. Can’t wait to travel again after Covid ends.
Hello! I stumbled across this today and have enjoyed reading it. I would just like to take the opportunity to recommend visiting (the Republic of) Georgia sometime soon – I’m surprised you haven’t visited already given the love of food, it has one of the best cuisines in the world, including loads of vegan possibilities! Also it has a fascinating and little-known history and beautiful scenery. 🙂