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Ulo Temburong National Park: The Powerhouse Frontliner for Brunei’s Push for Tourism

Brunei, being a small territory is hardly noticed in the tourism radar and is often under the shadows of its tourist heavyweight neighbor Malaysia. Brunei is a rich country with GDP per capita 2nd only to Singapore in Southeast Asia. It is perhaps because of this fact that people mistake it to be an expensive country and therefore skip it. Little do people know that Brunei could be cheap especially on food and accommodation and that this tiny Kingdom also packs attractions that could rival most of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Indeed, Brunei punches above its weight in terms of attractions especially with culture and nature.

When it comes to attractions, Temburong National Park is definitely at the forefront of Brunei’s push to attract more tourists. This natural rainforest park packs adventures for nature lovers.

Nature adventures to look for includes water tubing, kayaking, waterfalls with resident doctor fish, night walk and of course the famous Canopy walk. And you can enjoy all these on top of staying overnight at one of the three (3) campsites in the forest park. Camping might sound like an ordinary activity but doing it in a 150 million year forest takes it to a different level.
Photo Credits: Justelle Blaza -of https://www.gadventures.com/destinations/asia

How To Get To Temburong National Park 
1. Take the speed boat from Bandar Sei Begawan to Bangar - the capital town of Temburong District. The speed boat ride takes around 45 minutes and is a thrilling one. Be exhilarated by the gravitational joy-ride of fast turns along Brunei river amidst its wonderful mangrove-laden banks. 

2. From Bangar town -- take a van transfer to your designated longboat dock --25 minutes. Take Note: You need to contact a travel agency prior to visit. Once you get to Bangar town, the only way to proceed is through your arrangement with a local travel agent. The national forest park does not allow d.i.y visits so as to control foot traffic and therefore preserve the delicate balance of the forest.
3. Take a long boat to your designated campsite ( if staying overnight ) or to the canopy walk or other attractions ( if on a day tour ).

Is Day Trip Possible? 
Very much yes! Public transportation in Brunei, although not frequent on schedule is quite efficient. Therefore, you can get to Temburong National Park from BSB in less than 3 hrs. A whole day to spare is more than enough. Again, via travel ok? But of course, if you ask me personally, I would suggest staying here overnight. Choose the package that fits your time and budget.
The Longboat Adventure 
And did I mention the long boat ride? Yes, your adventure starts the moment you take the long boat. On this particular trip, my eyes were set on the Canopy Walk which I will detail later. Little did I know that there is a need to take a longboat to the forest park as it is the only mode of transportation possible to get into the heart of this massive forest. Navigating Temburong river either going upstream or downstream is an adventure in itself. It rained the day before our visit and the river was obviously fast when we arrived. The fast flow that we had to go against combined with the perils of rock and log deposits on many sections of the river makes the ride an adrenaline-filled one. I was nervous at first, not so much for my safety as I am confident I am good at swimming but for the safety of my stuff especially electronics but it only took a few minutes to establish my confidence to our boatman. 

The Ibans, the local tribe folks who has lived in the area and who have been the expert boat navigators of this river live to their expertise of crisscrossing the intricacies of Temburong river. It was obvious that they can navigate these rapids at ease, even in a dark night with only flash light at hand. Be ready to get a little splashed, relax and enjoy the ride. Oh, during summer by the way, also get ready to go down the longboat in some sections to push it. Yes, the river can get that shallow at a certain time of the year. Again part of the adventure of riding a longboat.


AZ Back To Nature Camp
It is a rare experience to camp in a very old forest. To say the place is very peaceful at night could be an understatement. We stayed at Az Back to Nature, one of the three (3) camp sites allowed to operate in Ulo Temburong National Park. This accommodation is rather simple, consistent with the idea that you are supposed to be back to basics. They offer (1) hut accommodations or (2) tents. Most of us stayed in the huts complete with beds and mattress. Food is provided by the camp as part of the tour package so one doesn't have to worry about preparing food. They have a generator which operates starting 6:00 pm until such time that everybody is asleep so there is ample time to charge gadgets.

AZ Back to Nature Contact Information:
Tel: +673 224 0529 / +673 813 7159 / +673 884 5695
Fax: +673 224 0529
Email: back2nature.tour@gmail.com / zbhjharun@yahoo.com

The quietness here is only interrupted by the noise of insects and other forest animals -- a different kind of noise that is a welcome break from the annoying commotion of the city.
Camping in the national park overnight was indeed a good call. Not only that we were able to start our activities really early like going to the Canopy Walk in time for sunrise, it afforded us one activity that day tours cannot -- Night Walk.


A Very Unique Night Walk 
Night Walk might sound like an ordinary activity but it is not. It was actually for me one of the most memorable experience ever in Brunei. I am from the Philippines where nature abounds but never have I tried one like this. We walked trough the thick, dark jungle with only hand-held torch for 30 minutes or so and were amazed by the parade of different nocturnal animals at almost every turn.

I Never Though 
Water Tubing Could be this Fun!
Right off the bat, I never tried water tubing before. I guess because most water tubing locations in the Philippines fall on the category of extreme adventure due to heavy rapids that I find a little to risky for somebody with a weak back. I imagine hitting the rocks and severely injuring myself. Seeing how calm Temburong river is in most sections convinced me to give it a try. So we were taken by longboat to the upper section of the river a few kilometers from our campsite and set off from there.

My only complain is that the water was really cold so it took quite a reckoning to go for the dip. I said that most of Temburong river is calm but it is not to say that it is boring. Still, some sections have rocks deposits that water cascade in these sections tend to go a little rough adding fun to the experience. We did water tubing twice during our stay here. The first time, I missed the end point so our guide had to go get me, the 2nd time though, I was able to to do it perfectly. Indeed, I never thought water tubing could be this fun!
Mutong Waterfalls
Having seen lots of waterfalls of all shapes and sizes so it was really a tall order. When I saw the waterfalls at first, I thought, that is it? Nothing grand, nothing to wow for. But there is something cunningly unique about Mutong Waterfalls, on its shallow basins resides janitor fish. Never have I seen janitor fish in the wild, more so in a waterfalls. And these janitor fish are not the shy-type. They swarm to feast on your dead skin the moment you submerge a part of your body in the water, and they come in huge numbers so even if you come in a group, there are janitor fish to accommodate and tickle you.This makes Mutong waterfalls unique and special.

The Canopy Walk
The Canopy Walk is without a doubt the "ultimate adventure one can have in Brunei. Isay your trip to this kingdom will not be complete without experiencing climbing up 43 meters into four towers of metal scaffolding connected by three (3) narrow bridges just above the tall canopy on one of the peaks in the national park.

Before that, you need to hike up stairs of around 850 steps. Though safe thanks to the well, maintained trail, going up could prove to be a bit challenging especially if you have low stamina. Make sure to take advantage of the pondoks or huts that are strategically positioned along the trail. The trail is shady thanks to the giant trees along it but still make sure to bring enough water as you will surely sweat a lot. One of the highlights of the climb up the canopy walkway is crossing a beautiful  hanging bridge.
I highly suggest that you hike up early in the morning in time for sunrise or late afternoon for sunset although the former might be a better option as it might be a bit challenging going back to the city after late afternoon if you are not staying in one of the campsites inside the national park. If you have an accommodation, either is good depending on whether you are sunrise or sunset lover. In our case, our call time was 4:30 am. It took us as little as 10 minutes to get to the set-off point then hiked all the way up. Unfortunately, no epic sunrise that day but the weather was still good and we were afforded an amazing view up the canopy walk. Climbing up was quite nerve-wracking, you really have to be steady and make sure not to do big movements as the scaffolding easily shakes adding to the scare if you are afraid of heights.

I highly suggest you climb up the highest section of tower 1 before going for the bridge to tower 2 and then to towers 3 and 4. You can go down tower 4 so as you don't have to go back to tower 1 or simply do the reverse. By the way, one of the best things of going here early is that we had the whole canopy walk almost to ourselves during the entire stay. The perks of being an early bird.
Photo Credits: Justelle Blaza -of https://www.gadventures.com/destinations/asia
Photo Credits: Justelle Blaza -of https://www.gadventures.com/destinations/asia

It was really a very memorable experience. This canopy walk was the first thing that captured my attention when I checked Brunei Tourism's website --- https://bruneitourism.com/ -- and it certainly lived to all my expectations, even beyond. Best of all, I was able to done my signature red cape at one of the towers of the canopy walk. Thanks to our friend, Justelle Blaza of https://www.gadventures.com/destinations/asia/, I had a drone shot with this cape as I dreamed of. Truely epic!

Kudos too to our local travel agent Grace Travel and Tours https://www.gracebrunei.com/ for making this epic trip possible. Shout out to Alex of Grace Travel for taking care of us. He served as our tour coordinator in Temburong and our entire trip. Alex is a young,warm,energetic, witty and funny guy.
 We couldn't have asked for a better guide. He made our stay extra special and we have become friends and we really miss him so much!

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Planning To Go To Brunei?
You can visit these links for more information:

Brunei Tourism Website: https://bruneitourism.com/
Brunie Tourism IG: https://www.instagram.com/brunei.tourism/
Brunei Tourism FB: https://www.facebook.com/BruneiTourismBoard/

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