Our day trip out to the Ulu Temburong National Park started with the alarm clock going off at 7am, as we had to meet with our guide for the day just down the road at 7.30am. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the only people booked on the tour and that we had our own private guide for the day. First stop was the boat quay where we boarded a speedboat bound for Bangar. This ride soon woke us up! 45 minutes of action straight out of a James Bond film. It was ace. Our guide impressed us with the necessary facts: we were travelling at speeds of up to 80kmh. For those who weren't impressed by the speed then there was of course the beautiful scenery whizzing by as we sped down the narrow waterways lined with Nipa Palms. Once safely back on ground in Bangar, we were transferred by car to Sumbiling Village out in the middle of nowhere. We were looking forward to a healthy breakfast on arrival to set us up for the long day ahead, and were slightly disappointed to be served banana fritters, local speciality coconut/sugar sweets with sweetened tea to drink. It tasted lovely, but talk about sugar rush. This was all the energy we were getting to get us through the next few tough hours!
After breakfast, we were given a lifejacket and helped into a longboat on the River Temburong. Another hairy boat ride ensued. I began to wonder if I had now been on one too many boats during this RTW trip. However, I focussed on the fact that the beauty of the Ulu Temburong National Park is that it is only accessible by longboat, and tried to relax. Once we were signed in at the National Park we followed our guide into the rainforest.
After a few steps, he checked with us if we were ok with the steep climb, 'Yeah sure,' we answered, 'only two weeks ago we climbed Mount Kinabalu, so we should be ok'. After about 8 minutes, I'm perspiring, my legs are complaining and I'm breathing heavy. Our guide looks at us both struggling and I can see him thinking 'Mount Kinabalu? Really?'. Haha. Once our legs had got over the shock that we were climbing more steps, we finally made it to the platform area of the task for the day: walk along the Canopy Walkway.
The Canopy Walkway hangs 350 metres high so you can look down on the rainforest from above. Sounds breath-taking. What I hadn't realised was that we had to get up there first before we could walk it. With all the hiking we had already done, I kind of assumed we would be at the walkway already, and that we would be able to just step onto it and go...How wrong was I? Very. When our guide pointed at the tall slim scaffolding and told us we had to climb it to get to the top of the Canopy Walkway, I laughed at him thinking he was joking. He wasn't. He told us he'd wait at bottom and meet us when we got down - again I thought he was joking. He wasn't. When I exclaimed in disbelief 'What? You're not coming with us?!' he obviously took pity and changed his mind. I stood staring at the scaffolding for some time shaking my head saying I couldn’t do it.
It was so high and so, well, scary. When I finally plucked up the courage we started the climb. The guide led the way, then Mark next with me following at the back. As we started clambering up the steel structure I was still muttering to myself how this was the stupidest thing I had ever done. Just the thought of the height was awful. I promised myself I wouldn’t look down until we got to the top, else I'd probably freak myself out. About this time, Mark decides to shout down from above me that he doesn't like heights either. Oh wonderful, why are we doing this then?! Ahhh yes, for the views, of course, I forgot.
Time stood still for me as I put one foot after the next on the steel ladder rungs until we finally made it to the top. As we walked across the Canopy Walkway, I felt more comfortable again and was able to enjoy the awesome views over the rainforest. It was a beautiful clear day and scorching hot too. We spotted a family of monkeys playing in the trees below us, but they didn't stick around for long and we guessed they were probably frightened away by the noise of us clambering up the steel scaffolding! Disappointingly we didn't see any more wildlife after this.
Having taken some photos and got our breath back, we climbed back down, and onto safer ground. After trekking back down the hill to the river where we had left our longboat and driver, we cruised back down the river to another stopping of point where this time we had to get wet. With trousers rolled up and shoes off, we waded from the main river down a side-stream which was so cool and refreshing after the heat of the trek and Canopy Walkway.
After about 30 minutes we came to a picturesque waterfall. This waterfall is famous locally for it’s natural ‘fish spa’. Basically, you stand bare foot in the water and before you know it, lots of small fish come and nibble at your toes and feet eating the dead skin cells! It’s a very strange sensation to be able to describe, but I suppose ‘ticklish’ is pretty close! It had Mark and I in fits of laughter. After this light relief, we waded back to the long boat and were taken back to the village where a delicious hot meal was waiting for us, and this time thankfully it wasn’t sugar!
After some relaxation time it was time to move on. On the way back to Bangar to catch the speedboat ‘home’, we stopped for a visit at a local ‘longhouse’ – communal living in long houses. Our guide explained that this was the infamous ‘Head Hunters’ community until this custom was stopped after the 2nd World War. The locals seemed friendly and smiley enough towards us though, and we didn’t lose our heads.
We were dropped off back at the river and caught the thrilling speedboat ride back to our base in BSB, from where it was back to our favourite coffee shop for the evening with free wifi.