Batang Ai National Park shelters many protected animals within its extensive wilderness. It also serves as a water catchments area for a huge artificial lake.
In the Sri Aman Division covering some 24,040 hectares is the Batang Ai National Park. Gazette in 1991, it shelters many protected animals within its extensive wilderness. It also serves as a water catchments area for a huge artificial lake, created by the construction of the Batang Ai Hydro-electric dam. The lake extends up to the Engkari and Ai valleys, its wide scenic expanse lending an atmosphere of peace and tranquility to the surroundings. The main mode of transport is by river-fast flowing and reflecting the forest canopy in its crystal clear waters.
FLORA & FAUNA
The terrain is rich in lush lowland mixed dipterocarp forests which is home to the Orang Utan. High on the endangered list, this primate is the largest among its kind and can grow to 1.5m tall and weight 200kg! It makes a nest in the trees to sleep in at night. The park also shelters many other protected species of wildlife such as the hornbills and gibbons.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
A few days stay is recommended for those who want to take in the beauty of the tranquil surroundings and acquaint themselves with the local culture. The trip upriver can be most exciting in itself. Imagine cruising up fast flowing rivers with the trees drooping their leaves over the water’s edge on their side. During spells of dry weather, when the water level gets low during the day, visitors alight to help push the boat upstream. There are four marked jungle trails within the park for those hankering for a bit of adventure. In addition to the usual treks through mixed dipterocarp forests, these trails also go through old secondary forests and areas of active shifting cultivation. And to satisfy the “Indiana Jones” in you, one trail actually passes through the ancient native burial grounds! Drop by the Iban Longhouse and learn a bit about their traditional lifestyle. The Ibans are noted for their intricately fashioned handicraft items such as the beautifully woven “pua kumbu”; the “selabit”, rattan backpacks woven in a variety of fascinating designs; rattan mats and gourds for collecting water.
Accommodation facilities are not available within the park but there are several longhouses outside the park area that offer basic lodgings and the chance to experience local lifestyle. Stays in these longhouses are normally arranged by Kuching based tour operators. Independent travellers may experience problems if they arrive unannounced. The Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, much furtheraway, provides luxurious longhouse-style accommodation. Bookings are generally done through the Hilton Hotel in Kuching. There is no food available for sale inside the park or in the immediate vicinity of the park.
The local Community Cooperative provides boating services for trips to and within the park. Visitors are encouraged to utilise the Cooperative’s services as the funds from this source are used for on-going development purposes.
The park is located about 275km from Kuching. The journey by road from Kuching to Batang Ai Dam takes about five hours, while the boat trip from the dam to the park takes another two hours.