EXPLORING SELIRONG ISLAND

Written by root. Posted in BEST OF BRUNEI

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Published on January 07, 2019 with No Comments

A wilderness waiting to be discovered.

Words JUSTIN JEFFREY
Images JUSTIN JEFFREY & MARKIM BIN HJ RAHMAN

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Kayaking a narrow channel on Selirong Island.

 

Wild places are important not only for the habitats and creatures they sustain, but also to provide a footstool for contemplation; a place to escape the cacophony of life and the stresses that come with it. In Brunei Darussalam, such places of refuge and silent reflection are many. High on the list are the mangrove forests and waterways surrounding Selirong Island.

What makes the island even more appealing is its close proximity to Bandar Seri Begawan. There is a subversive thrill to finding such tranquility and seclusion so close to an urban sprawl. And, with its easy accessibility, Selirong can be visited by tourists with limited time on their itinerary.

Selirong is one of the 33 islands spread across Brunei’s shores that have been developed as an ecotourism destination. It was gazetted as a Forest Reserve in 1948 (Gazette Notification 99/1948) under the Forest Act of 1934 and is now classified as a Forest Recreational Park. Special permission needs to be granted for a visit, though this can be arranged by your tour operator.

On a recent recce of Selirong on a kayak, arranged by husband-and-wife team Mark and Wann who run Mark Putera Delima Tours Sdn Bhd (markputeradelima@gmail.com), it was clear that Selirong has a lot to offer. The journey out to the island takes just under an hour and began at the Temburong Jetty beneath the impressive Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge or commonly known as Sungai Kebun Bridge in Bandar Seri Begawan. From here, we took a boat ride down Brunei River, past mosques and kampongs (villages) that come alive with the chatter of the residents and the muezzin’s call to prayer. The new bridge to Temburong, a marvel of modern engineering, also comes into view shortly – its sinuous form floating in the silvery expanse of the river at first light. Early mornings are often calm. However, a boat ride in a calm sea with distant views of raging clouds marching down the Crocker Range can quickly become wild and thrilling with a sudden storm. The journey is never dull.

Arriving Selirong Island and upon registering at the guard post, we began paddling at the eastern extremity of the reserve on the Malaysian border in the broad channel of Sungai Raya. If you are lucky, you will make a start in the company of the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins. Countless tributaries and smaller channels flow into the river proper, providing passage into the stands of the many mangrove species that flourish in this plastic-free wilderness. The route can be challenging for inexperienced kayakers, but thankfully, there is another option to enjoy Selirong’s pristine environment. Visitors can enjoy slow walks on the boardwalk that takes them past the island’s impressive mangroves. The route is dotted with rest huts perfect for a snack break or to take in the sights and sounds of the forest. For those with a keen eye, sightings of the curious colugo or flying lemur and the proboscis monkeys with their comical nose and pot belly are not rare. But Selirong is not only for nature lovers. It provides an attractive option to plan an escape from the daily grind. An ecological habitat buzzing with life just in Brunei’s backyard, Selirong indeed is an amazing place waiting to be discovered.

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