Batang Ai National Park
Introduction and history
The Park is located at Sarawak about 250km from Kuching City with a covering area of 24,040 hectares of rainforest and the artificial lake. The lake is also the Sarawak’s only artificial lake, which stretches up to Skrang, Lemanak, Engkari and Ai Valleys. The artificial lake now acts as a water dam that feed to the Batang Ai Hydro Electric Complex to generate the electricity for Sarawak’s use. Batang Ai National Park was gazetted as a protected area in early 1991.
Visitors can take a boat ride upriver from the dam, about an hour’s of boat ride to see beautiful lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, with drooping trees overhanging the rivers. The rivers are fast flowing, clear and very refreshing. The water level gets quite low during the dry seasons where visitors normally have to help push their boats upstream. Here, the main mode of communication is river transport.
Attraction and activities
The park is home to many protected species like the Orang Utan, hornbills and gibbons.
Other major attraction upriver is the Iban longhouse. This longhouse gives the authentic atmosphere as most of the longhouse dwellers still practise their traditional lifestyle. The Ibans produce local handicrafts, like their ‘Pua Kumbu’, rattan backpacks ‘selabit’, rattan mats and even gourd for collecting water. Please note that, if you are staying in Iban longhouse, you need to be aware of local Iban customs so as not to offend anybody.
For those who like to learn more about the local tribes, they can go for the several nature trails, which are available in the park. These trails pass through mixed dipterocarp forest, old secondary forest, active shifting cultivations areas and ancient burial grounds.
This Park is unique in having the local communities involved in its management that helping the Forest Department to conserve the park. Visitors are encouraged to use the boating facilities offered by the communities as their funds are kept within the community for continued park development purposes.
Independent travellers will find it difficult to enter get to this isolated park.
Getting there and away
Travelling will be long and difficult during the journey to Batang Ai from Kuching especially for independent travellers. Visitors can access via the sizeable town of Sri Aman, which sits upriver on Sungei Lupar, 150km southeast of Kuching. Bus leave from Lebuh Jawa or Penrissen Road terminal, Kuching. Batang Ai is around 40km southeast of Sri Aman. Buses to Batang Ai via Lubok Antu cost an additional.
Organized tours from Kuching take about 4 hours in mini buses to the dam of Batang Ai. For those who want to stay in Iban longhouses, it takes an additional one hour to further upstream by longboat.