Tribal expedition with rainforest camping in Sarawak

The north coast of Sarawak is hardly developed, but it's more 'rural' than 'wild'. Head inland to the Batang Ai region, however, and you’ll find yourself in Iban territory - this is real rainforest living, a contemporary tribal lifestyle that has evolved here for millennia. Facilities are simple - you’ll stay in local longhouses and camp beneath the rainforest canopy. Place your trust in your expert Iban guides, keep your mind open to the unexpected, and this trip guarantees a superb rainforest experience that will not be easily forgotten.

What to expect in the Batang Ai rainforest...

Lying near the border between Sarawak and Kalimantan, Batang Ai National Park encompasses 93 square miles of biodiverse rainforest. It’s the perfect setting for a jungle adventure, and a trip through the region promises to satisfy even the most intrepid traveller.

From the end of the road at Batang Ai reservoir, you’ll travel by boat upriver to the Mengkak Longhouse to greet the Longhouse Chief, and share dinner with your Iban hosts. Be prepared to throw yourself into eating, drinking and socialising, with plenty of rice-wine fuelled tall tales from the men told after the meal.

Make sure you get a good night’s rest, though, as the next day sees you disappearing into the rainforest – travel by long-tail boat to the remote Lubok Pantau Longhouse for a traditional Iban style campfire lunch, then jump back in the boat to search for a good camping spot for the night. 

You’ll be collecting materials to build a riverside shelter - this will be constructed by your expert guides, who will also be responsible for building a solid raft for tomorrow’s river-rafting trip, so don’t worry about your forest-craft skills, or lack thereof - you’ll be in good hands. Building complete, settle down for an al fresco dinner and a night under the stars.

Waking up to morning chorus in the rainforest is a breathtaking experience by anyone’s standards, and sets the tone for a day of voyage and discovery. Your pre-breakfast challenge is a trip back downriver on the hand-made rafts, and then the rest of the day is yours to explore, meet local people and find out more away the rainforest way of life. 

Whilst every effort will be made to stick to the itinerary, weather conditions do vary in the rainforest, so prepare to be flexible. Your local Iban guides have an astonishing connection to their environment, and even when it may not seem obvious to you, they will know what’s around the corner. 

Simon recommends taking the time to really get to know the local people: 'Spending time with the indigenous Iban people is not only a lot of fun, but eye opening and mind boggling in equal measures. They are truly at one with their natural surroundings and watching them operate in this environment with consummate ease is really special. Furthermore, they are fun loving and if you show willing, they are always keen to let the outsider in on the fun.’

Location: Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

Duration: 3 nights

Accommodation: as well as staying in local longhouses, you’ll be collecting materials to build a temporary riverside shelter

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Our client John said...

'Really hard to choose highlights as there were so many. The longhouse stay was really good. I think that the Iban liked me as I was able to hold my own on the rounds of rice whisky.' 

Good to know...

If camping in the rainforest is too extreme for you, but you still want to experience the wild side of Sarawak, we can also arrange overnight stays in one of Gunung Mulu National Park's well-established base camps, or a visit to Semonggok Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

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