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BRUNEI DARUSSALAM'S NATIONAL PARK
A country endowed with forests should endeavor to preserve them at all costs if ecological balance, which is so crucial to life, is to be maintained. Forests can be perpetuated by afforestation of vacant land or turning a forest reserve or part of it into parks.
Brunei Darussalam must rate itself as one of the lucky countries in the world because it has abundant forests, most of which are still undisturbed. In fact, about 80 percent of its land area are covered by five types of forests, namely mixed dipterocarps; peat swamps; montane; kerangas and a mixture of these. Through its Forestry Department it has carried out various afforestation as well as reforestation programmes and transformed several forest reserves or part of them into recreational parks.
The biggest of these natural gardens is currently being prepared in Temburong, which is regarded as the most verdant of Brunei Darussalam's four districts. The designated national park, which has an area of 48,857 hectares, is located within the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve, approximately 10 kilometers upstream from the end of the Batang Duri Road.
To reach the park, the visitor has to travel by a long narrow boat called temuai along the Karangan River. The journey usually takes an hour because of the existence of large stones on the shallow river bed but the wonderful sight of limestone and rock formations as well as sundry evergreens on either side of the river banks makes it all worthwhile. The clear water of the fast-flowing river and its tributaries indicative of an area abounds in rainfalls.
On arrival at the park, one is immediately struck by the beauty and serenity of the place. Huge dipterocarp trees stand majestically, reaching dizzying heights of up to 60 metres or more. The trees include quality timber such as kapur bukit (dryobalanaps beccarii) and meranti (shorea albida). The whole park consists of a virgin forest, containing a multitude of fauna and flora and and is thus a rich source of biodiversity.
In addition, there are four minor waterfalls within the park for those interested in cooling off after a trek in the forest.
The park is being developed as a place of both recreation and study, with the needs of local as well as foreign visitors in mind. The Forestry Department has allocated $5 million to furnish it with a host of facilities.
Thus far the department has constructed footpaths leading to the various parts of the park; four chalets, each can accommodate 10 people; 30-metre tall hide for animal watchers; a camping site; huts for the weary to sit and relax along the footpaths at every 150 metres; footholds for climbing hills or slopes; bridges and an information hut. The main attraction is a 90-metre high and 100-metre long suspension bridge spanning the Karangan River. Although the bridge offers a magnificient view of the park and strong enough to take five persons at a time, not many people are willing to be coaxed into walking across it.
The creation of the national park does not only show Brunei Darussalam's determination to conserve its forests for posterity but also a demonstration of the country's resolve to contribute to the protection of global environment.
Article written by: Bolhassan Haji Abu Bakar, 1994
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