Most of the territory of Brunei Darussalam is a tropical rainforest, and its protection level is one of the best in the world. Responsible tourism in Brunei is trying to preserve virgin rainforest with unique flora and fauna as well as local communities living there. You cannot imagine how big surprise it was for me to see the greenery of the country. Trees are literally everywhere, and the capital of Brunei Darussalam is the greenest in South East Asia. After going through the palm trees plantations in Malaysia, I was relieved that at least Brunei takes care of nature left on Borneo Island. Of course, they have much more money than Malaysia, and no matter how much you disagree with the country’s policy and how boring can be site seeing of Brunei Darussalam. Facts are facts and responsible tourism in Brunei as well as nature protection are on a very high level, worth following.
Responsible tourism in Brunei Darussalam
After spending some time discovering area of Kota Kinabalu, I came to Brunei with curiosity for this small, yet unique country. The capital didn’t impress me much but it was fascinating to see sultanate and its own rules. I really loved how green is the country! Brunei rainforest is surrounded by palm oil plantations in Malaysia, which makes the rainforest even more precious and puts it in the risk of forest poaching. Agarwood and mangrove products are very expensive and some people try to take advantage of it. In addition to chopping off trees there are cases of stealing ever-popular ‘Kelulut’ (stingless bees) and hunting deers.
Yet, forest protection level brings Brunei to one of the top 10 countries in the world. Chopping trees without approval, taking forestry products without permission, disposing rubbish in the forest, hunting animals and lighting up fires inside the reserves are strictly forbidden.
As before Timor Leste, Brunei is the less visited country in SEA, tourism industry tries to make ecotourism new trend to drive visitors. Volunteering services for planting the trees, jungle trekking or eco farms are being more and more popular. Moreover, in the middle of lush and pristine jungle, eco-tourism is bringing economic opportunities for local people.
My jungle escape in a sustainable camp
I had a chance to stay for few days in Sumbiling Eco Village which is in Temburong District of Brunei. It’s a little camp near the river which offers tents as well as bamboo huts for rent and outdoor activities. From these my favourite was relaxing in the hammock with a cup of tea.
On the first evening, we went for the night trekking to the jungle. We met weird insects, snake sleeping on the tree and lots of frogs. Local community in the village is trying to be sustainable, therefore frogs is regular food they get from the jungle. It was the first time I saw someone hunting frogs, jumping after them looked hilarious.
The next day we went for trekking to discover various plants important as medicines. We didn’t see any wildlife, though. Even though rainforest of Brunei is rich in animals, they have such a huge territory so don’t come close to the villages. Unlike in Malaysia, where animals are trapped in a small reserve, so surely you see them a lot. Therefore, no regrets, it’s enough knowing the animals in Brunei’s rainforest are safe. If you are seeking for wildlife, you rather head to the east of Borneo. Sumbiling Eco Village is a typical glamping experience where you can relax near the jungle, with all inclusive facilities.
The tent I stayed in Sumbiling Eco Village had fan, mattresses and view on the river. There is a common bathroom with simple showers and sitting toilets. I really enjoyed the food, always fresh and delicious. One evening we had chicken cooked on the fire in the bamboo, which was very original.
Sumbiling Eco Village ideology
Sumbiling Eco Village minimises the impacts of ecological effects on the environment. They collect rainfall water and purify by organic filtering in septic tanks before emitting back to the surrounding soil. They try to keep structures to a minimum, with huts built from bamboo as well as reused and new wood. Not to mention they plastic-free policy and great waste management. For cleaning they use eco-friendly products to don’t disturb nature abord.
What’s more, they plant hundreds of threes every year and try to use local products, such as herbs or honey. It’s very important to support local community, give them place to work. At the same time, working in Sumbiling Eco Village make them feel proud of the Iban (also called Dayak) culture. Staying there you support responsible tourism in Brunei and rise life standard of the local people.
How to get to Sumbiling Eco Village?
There is no public transport to Sumbiling Eco Village and there are just few vehicles passing throuout the day so no hitch-hiking here. If you have the luxury of having or renting a car, you can reach the village by yourself. Sumbiling Eco Village is just 5 min. walk to the main road and 25 min. drive from Bangar (Temburong main town). However, the village provides packages which include transfer from the capital of Brunei – Bandar Seri Begawan. The tour from Bandar to Bangar (such a confusing names) is by boat. The jetty is in the capital’s center, near the water village in Bandar. From there you will go across the lush green river with beautiful views around.
Sumbiling Eco Village offers range of different length tour packages from rainforest discovery treks to canopy walking including visits to nearby Ulu Temburong National Park. The popular trend, nowadays, glamping is surely a great way to let your hair down and relax under the shady trees.
Heading to Borneo? Check out my other jungle experiences in Malaysian rainforest: Kinabatangan River Cruise and Danum Valley as well as Kutai National Park and wild orangutans watching in Kalimantan, Indonesia.