Sungai Brunei Nigel Jane Hembury
If you are travelling to Sungai Brunei – whether you are in transit or a long or short stay, then you need to discover its hidden treasures, and believe me there is a lot of these! You can cram more adventure into little Brunei than you can anywhere else in Asia
Brunei is a bit of a funny place. It is the only country outside the UK that has English FM radio stations Capital Radio and Capital Gold piped in live because, apparently, some of the royalty who studied in England missed their favorite DJs! You’re driving around in the late afternoon and you get live traffic reports of the morning rush hour on the M5. Weird. Nice…but weird.
The tiny Sultanate is, of course, better known for its oil and opulence rather than its rich nature and its intact cultural traditions. Some 5 years ago, Brunei Tourism was getting feedback from savvy travelers, stopping over in Brunei on their way to the well-established tourist attractions in East Malaysia. They were saying that today’s Brunei was what Sabah and Sarawak had a generation been before: colorful Malay water villages, desolate beaches, and of course, the untouched rainforest ………. well it still is!!!.
The potential for tourism in Brunei is fantastic, but remains fairly untapped. The people are gregarious, engaging to the point where it’s impossible to walk the road without being asked if you want a lift, they are also very proud of their vibrant heritage. Add to that a young population (60% of Bruneians are under 23 I’ve never seen so many mobile phones in my life in the shopping centers) who are looking for a sustainable economic resource once the oil runs out (which it will in another 20 years or so), and it’s easy to see why Brunei has jumped on the tourism bandwagon.
But here’s the important point: Because Brunei has always had wealth; the tiny Sultanate has not stumbled into tourism unprepared, and suffered the ravages that uncontrolled tourism can bring. Brunei has had the opportunity to make choices. The king is a great supporter of wildlife and has set aside large areas of forest and land that is protected and the wild life can roam freely.
The people have been able to embrace modern things like the internet, but where they want to, have chosen to retain their traditional lifestyle.
The best and most beautiful example of this is the absolutely charming Kampung Ayer water village (actually 18 separate villages). Fully 1/3 of the neat little capital of Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB for short) is built on stilts out over the broad Brunei River. if you take a water taxi ride with one of the main water taxi operators they will take you in to one if you ask be prepared to be amazed as is side the wooden tin shack is elaborate furnishings, huge flat screen televisions opulent bathrooms chandeliers designers furniture a fantastic example of what happens when Bruneians
pay no tax …yes! No. tax on there earnings how good is that
One of the hardest things for many tourists when visiting is that alcohol is banned apart for very tiny amount that a tourist can bring in which is @ 2 litres its available in some of the hotels but you feel very uncomfortable asking for it .we didn’t think it was to bad a thing we looked upon it as getting it out of our systems and giving our kidneys a rest for a change ,besides it was to hot to drink alcohol anyway and it was nice not to see anyone drunk on the streets on a Saturday night we felt very safe there .
Are you interested in wildlife? Then check this out:-
We went bird watching and had an amazing time
You start before the sun comes up ! yes that’s early but we have to tell you its well worth it we were met by our guide he introduced him self as
jungle Dave he was a amazing character with such passion it was really great to see.
Jungle Dave manages a company called Mona Flora fauna Tours and what he doesn’t know about the Brunei jungle and its wildlife isn’t worth knowing!
He was given the name ‘Jungle’ Dave by no less a person than Sir David Attenborough himself when he was visiting Brunei to make a documentary about proboscis monkeys. Sir David was so impressed with the way that Dave was able to talk to the monkeys in their own language and call them over that he gave him the epithet Jungle Dave and the name stuck!
Jungle Dave – Brunei’s leading guide, environmentalist, cultural anthropologist, and general rainforest Renaissance man. This 37-year old as been guiding intrepid adventurers deep into the uncharted Bornean rainforests for the past 21 years. In that time, he has become the leading expert on Brunei’s wildly diverse flora and fauna. He is the undisputed go-to guru for one of the most intense jungle experiences in the region.
In recent years, he has taken this intimate knowledge and has become a one-man beacon for the environmental and cultural protection of Brunei’s pristine rainforests and we loved him first he took us for breakfast at a real locals café there he answered all our questions on Brunei that we had been dying to ask ,he also put our minds at rest telling us about the main religion of Brunei Islam this was such different view to the one people have at home we were very impressed and made notes of which mosques to visit in the next few days and insisted on paying .
He took us to a area of woodland close to the maim mosque there was a wooden boardwalk that led to a fishing village and the local school we sat on the path a watched as the sun came up over the trees the cicadas sprung to life followed by the dawn chorus of so many birds, Dave was pointing them out one it was amazing how he could see them without the binoculars we all had .
Suddenly a huge monitor lizard ran in the tidal mud beneath us it was huge we were so excited we almost forgot to take pictures it walked around below us all around him were mud skippers strange fish that get out the water and laze around in the mud it looked a prehistoric scene .
As the sun got higher monkeys appeared all around there were kingfishers fishing in front of us lizard’s butterflies birds of prey above us and just so many birds it was just fantastic.
We stayed until the sun was at its highest then made a break for Dave’s air conditioned vehicle but instead of taking us back to our hotel he offered to take us on a tour of Bandar Seri Begawan we were only to pleased and he proceeded to show us the city with a running commentary on all that we passed not only that but he waited for us while we looked at Brunei’s amazing heritage centre at his insistence and that was so interesting Islam’s and Brunei’s history as well as exhibits of creatures that can be found in that area .
On the way back we talked about many of the things we had seen as well as everything we were passing fantastic .
Can’t recommend it enough
We had such a good time that we booked another trip
with jungle Dave
this time to the jungle
Dave picked us up and we drove for an hour or so with the traffic getting less by the mile until we arrive at a forest track we drove slowly along it paying close attention to everything that Dave was telling us every now and again he would point at things and we would eventfully see them.
You need to have your binoculars on standby as there’s critters everywhere, the picturesque scene is accompanied by the song of the rainforest, rhythmic with the call of insects and other wildlife including the squeals of the rare Proboscis (big-nosed) monkey which only lives in Borneo and the amazing hornbill would tease us by flying overhead making there strange sounds I think eventfully we saw 4 different types
At the end of the track there was a river with a local boat moored to the bank a man appeared from nowhere and dave introduced him to us and he helped us on he started a quite engine and of down the river we went past old abandoned villages deep in to the jungle it was great the Varity of different plants was incredible creating a lively spectacle in a green wonderland. especially the huge range of orchids
dave told us his wife is an expert on them and grows them at home, we also saw macaques, monitor lizards, insects and a wide variety of other birds living in the trees.
After exploring the waterways we went for lunch to a example of a jungle longhouse
Where we met some locals and ate with them while learning of there costumes and traditions and got to see some skulls from the time when they were head hunters .
The scene is simply awesome as you feast your ears in peaceful contemplation.
Keep your eyes and ears alert and you may encounter innumerable species of plants and animals, just around the building ,then its back on the boat to the car and a slow ride back through the forest stopping every now and then to listen to the crashing sounds coming from deep within on the track you can frequently see tortoise and snakes crossing in front of you
You can do all this in the dark if you are brave enough take a leisurely cruise in an open traditional boat through the mangrove forest at night where your guide takes you along the river and almost immediately you will be amazed by the hundreds of glowing fireflies which light up the mangrove trees ,some so weird they look like aliens in miniature there bodies flashing different colour as they pass.
By using the search light, you can scan though the mangrove trees for nocturnal wild animals such as the Proboscis Monkey (the largest monkey in the world) with his extra long nose he is easily recognised other animals you are likely to see are flying fox,. snake, slow Loris and tortoises and if you like a bit of excitement you can ask to look for the two species of crocodiles the freshwater and saltwater crocodile which are both resident to Sungai Brunei they can be seen swimming patiently at the waters surface hunting for their potential preys. Weirdly their eyes will glow red when they reflect the torchlight.
At the end of any tour you should take time to explore and enjoy the scenic views of Bandar Seri Begawan and if you have done a night tour make sure that you see the lights at the Sultan’s Palace, “Istana Nurul Iman”. Most tours finish around 21:00 hours and its pretty dark then .
They provide guests with:
Hotel pick up, Boat, Life Jacket, rain jacket, Insurance, Local Dinner, mineral water & Local English Speaking guide.What to bring:
Hat, Insect repellent, binoculars, camera or Camcorder, spare battery, and plastic bag to water proof your camera.
What’s more, you’ll save a great deal of money and almost everyone in the family or your friends can join in the holiday too!
Selirong Island Mangrove Park is Brunei’s largest mangrove island covering up to 2,566 hectare in total land size. It is known to be the best tropical mangrove forest in Southeast Asia. The island is home to many amazing flora fauna species. The existing of Bakau Minyak, Bakau Kurap, Nyireh Bunga, Nipah Palm and the Linggadai provides enough food and shelter for the wild animals. Observe carefully through the mangrove leaves and branches for the great climbing Lottorinid snail and the giant mud skipper usually found among the roots within the mangrove.
Proboscis Monkey is the largest monkey found in Selirong Island and the Estuarine crocodile is the largest reptile. Over 40 species of birds, 10 species of mammals, 8 species of reptiles and insect species are all resident in this park to be discover by you. The colugo or flying lemur is the most impressive mammal that can be found here. we really recommend jungle dave and his company Mona Flora Fauna Tours.