Iban longhouses and wild orang
utans are among the many attractions of Batang Ai National Park on the
banks of a 24-square-kilometre lake. Travel by boat up the rivers that
flow into the lake or trek on the jungle trails looking for the wildlife.
Or stay at Iban longhouses and sample their traditional way of life.
beautiful national park is home to one of the world's most endangered
species, the Orang Utan. Besides being home to many other protected
wildlife like the hornbills and gibbons, it is also the water catchment
area to Sarawak's only artificial lake. This huge lake stretches up the
Engkari and Ai valleys and is part of the Batang Ai Hydro-Electricity
the artificial lake, more than an hour's boat ride upriver from the dam,
visitors can see beautiful lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, with drooping
trees overhanging the rivers. There are 4 trails to choose from and they
pass through mixed dipterocarp forest, old secondary forest, active
shifting cultivations areas and ancient burial grounds. River transport is
the main mode of communication here. The rivers are fast flowing, clear
and very refreshing. During dry periods, the water level gets quite low
and visitors have to help push their boats upstream.
major attraction upriver is the Iban longhouses. Visitors can get to
experience the authentic longhouse atmosphere as most of the longhouse
dwellers still practise their traditional lifestyle. The Ibans also
produce local handicrafts, like their 'Pua Kumbu', rattan backpacks 'selabit',
rattan mats and even gourd for collecting water. Through a cooperative,
the Ibans have a direct say in how the park is run. They earn money by
operating boat services, providing accommodation, working as guides and
selling their distinctive handicrafts.
The journey to Batang Ai from Kuching is long and difficult, especially
for independent travellers and may experience problems in arriving at
The Park is located about 250 km from Kuching City. While not cheap,
visiting the Park is best done as an organized package. Organized tours
from Kuching take about 4 hours in mini buses to the dam wall of Batang
Ai. Visitors staying in Iban longhouses further upstream require an
additional one hour travel by longboat from here. Visitors staying in Iban
longhouses need to be aware of local Iban customs so as not to offend
anybody. Several days should be allocated for visiting Batang Ai. These
packages include transfers to Batang Ai, accommodation (hotel or
longhouse), meals, guide and park transport.
Hilton Longhouse Resort and several longhouses provide accommodation
facilities just outside the park. For those wanting a real experience,
staying in Iban longhouses can also be arranged.