Batang Ai: An Introduction
Just half a day’s drive from Kuching but you will feel like you’re a million miles away – any journey to Batang Ai is like escaping to a place that time forgot.
Coupled with the region’s rugged, natural beauty, Batang Ai is also home to the Iban, Sarawak’s largest ethnic group and best known for their reputation as headhunters, a tradition that only died out in the mid-20th century. Visiting this area of outstanding cultural interest means you get to spend time with the Iban, some of Borneo’s oldest residents, who still live in a way that has suited them for centuries.
The Iban reside in traditional longhouses, where communities work and live in the immediate vicinity of each other, creating a bond and brotherhood you are unlikely to have come across back home. Accommodation can be arranged in the longhouses, so you can experience first hand the community lifestyle that these people lead. Despite the now all too familiar televisions and mobile phones, the principal of kinship remains, as important now as it was hundreds of years ago. For those seeking a little more comfort, there is always the Batang Ai Hilton Hotel. However, you can forget an ugly high-rise - the hotel is set out in a traditional longhouse format.
The trekking in the region is exceptional, and there are options ranging from afternoon excursions to week-long hikes, staying in longhouses and purpose-built jungle camps en route.
A stay with the people of the ancient tribe of Iban is undoubtedly the highlight of any stay in the culturally diverse state of Sarawak.