Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei

Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort
Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort

What have you gotten yourself into this time? You’re on a traditional longboat in the middle of the Temburong River. It started slowly. The boat maneuvered around a long sandbar and big boulders. You passed palms, enormous ferns, and geckos trying to blend into the trees. Then the slow-moving river became a fast-moving river. It wasn’t as easy to avoid those boulders in the quick current. You rode through a mangrove swamp, down rapids, and into the dense rainforest. You heard Müller’s Bornean gibbons screeching in the trees and saw pygmy squirrels jump between the branches.

Then you saw a dinosaur. It might have actually been a Rhinoceros Hornbill, a prehistoric-looking bird. But when you tell the story later, it will always be a dinosaur. You consider yourself adventurous and daring. Some would even say crazy. But this takes the cake.

Your journey began in Bandar Seri Begawan, the oil-rich capital of Brunei. You could have seen the palace, the mosques, and the glitzy shopping areas like a normal tourist. Instead, you road a boat to Bangar, transferred to a vehicle to reach the end of the road at Batang Duri, and climbed aboard this longboat that is taking you deep into Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei’s first national park.

Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort
Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort

You can finally disembark when you arrive at the Ulu Ulu Resort, the only accommodations in the park. You’re at the edge of the rainforest and the river. You hear rushing water, rustling leaves, and bird chatter. You’re welcomed with a nonalcoholic drink (this is a Muslim country) and shown to your chalet-style room. You expect the worst, but you’re pleasantly surprised to see comfortable bedding, a modern bathroom, and a porch with a river view. Not that you’ll be spending much time in here. It’s already time to start moving.

Along the banks of the river, follow the steep, muddy path through the jungle to the canopy walkway. You’re drenched in sweat—and glad you brought the stainless steel water bottle from the resort—when you reach the top. Almost the top. Now you have to disregard your fear of heights to actually climb on the walkway itself. It looks like a metal cage and seems to be supported by metal cables, but it’s still swinging 50 meters high. No one is chickening out, so you can’t either. You climb the ladders, grip the handrails, and hesitantly walk toward the center. Your breathing slows, and you finally look out. It’s green—every shade of green imaginable—in every direction. Bushy-crested Hornbills (more dinosaurs) and Black-and-yellow Broadbills fly overhead. You can finally see the tailless gibbons swinging between the trees. You hold your breath, but out of amazement, not fear.

You’ll spend the rest of your trip hiking through the rainforest, swimming under waterfalls, and searching for frogs during night treks. You’ll go tubing down mini rapids, listen to cicadas from a hammock, and eat chicken fish. You’ll have plenty of stories to tell when you return home. And each one will begin with “I saw dinosaurs in Brunei.”

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