The Iban live in a state of Sarawak Borneo and Malaysia are mainly Christian and animist. They are among the Dayaks and are sometimes called Sea Dayak. In Sarawak, they form the largest population group.
They were also known by the locals panjamon called, which means Headhunters. They did therefore with people of other villages that quarrel was caused by the hunt trespassing.
The Iban lived mainly from hunting and gathering and hunting especially on boseekhoorns, boar, clouded leopards, honey bears, slender monkeys, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, rats, hornbills and beyond everything else that is edible and lives.
The Iban were tattooed on their hands if they had one or more heads rushed. Jean-Yves Domalian lived with the Iban and was also accepted, married there and lived like a real Iban. He has also written a book about: Panjamon, headhunters in Borneo.
After a fascinating evening of dancing and games, we were able to witness some of the daytime activities of the Iban people. One of these was a blow pipe demonstration and a chance to try our own hand at it. The blow pipes are almost two metres long and fire a small dart. In the jungle, the tips of these darts contain a poison that anaethetises small animals. The long pipes are not easy to direct, and while our hosts hit the mark on almost every attempt, some of us had trouble just blowing through the long tube.
Besides the human skulls hanging inside hessian bags at the entrance to the family rooms in the longhouse, traditional jewellery and headwear is also put on display for tourists. The heavy, thick earrings must take some time to get accustomed to - replicas of these can be purchased in Kuching. There are some intricate bracelets and neckwear, along with 'feathery' head-dresses worn by men during ceremonies. The longhouse also has examples of traditional knives - were they used for beheading?
At the longhouse, you can also buy examples of Iban art work, including wood carvings and matting.
Perhaps the highlight of a visit to Serubah Longhouse is the evening cultural performance. Welcomed with glasses of a highly potent alcoholic drink by the head of the household, we were treated to traditional dancing and singing by the Iban inhabitants of the longhouse and were then invited to join in on some danicing and games. It was both culturally enriching, and at times hilariously funny, as the householders tried to hide their smiles at our clumsiness. If you have the opportunity, even for an overnight trip from Kuching, this is a must do.
After an amazing boat ride passing lush vegetation along the Lemanak River, the Serubah Longhouse comes into view. And its not hard to understand why it is called a longhouse. We were invited to climb the steep entrance steps to see the living quarters in day light. The communal gallery stretches for 100 metres. Off the gallery are the private quarters where families eat and sleep. Initially the gallery appears bare until we see hessian bags hanging from pillars outside the living quarters. But it is what is in the hessian bags that surprises - human skulls. While headhunting has now ceased, the skulls are kept as traditonal reminders of the past.
A great tour option from Kuching is an overnight stay at Serubah Longhouse, home to Iban people. The best way to get there is to travel by bus to Lemanak Jetty and then board a longboa for a one hour trip down the Lemanak River before arriving at the doorstep of the longhouse. The trip down the river takes you through some peaceful, picturesque countryside.
Serian Town is located about 65km from Kuching. There is a daily market selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and chicken, along with freshly made sweet delicacies. The market also sells clothes, jewellery (that you should bargain for) and pharmaceuticals. It is a very clean market. The store holders are happy to explain their wares. Great for a day trip or a stop off on the road to the Lemanak river.
Just a short trip from Kuching is the Semonggok Orangutan Reserve. Here you can see semi-wild orangutans who mostly fend for themselves but sometimes come to the specially erected feeding platform if there is a shortage of food in the jungle. The centre is well run in terms of rehabilitating orangutans to live in the wild - most of the funding is through tourism but it is a no touch policy and there is no guarantee that you will see an orangutan (although both times I have visited I was lucky enough to see several travelling through the trees and the largest of them all, Richie, getting a free feed at the feeding platform.) If you are visiting Kuching, put a visit to the centre on your 'to do' list! Many agents in Kuching will organise tours for around $30 US per person
If you are doing a tour from Kuching to one of the Iban longhouses, make sure to stop off at one of the pepper plantations en route. Liew's pepper farm is open to the public. You can walk through the fields and learn the diffference between white and black pepper. You can watch the pepper being seperated and ground, and buy some fresh pepper to take home with you. Something a little out of the ordinary and well worth a visit.
The two limestone caves near the former goldmining town of Bau are worth a visit, you won't find any gold here but in the wind cave you can see bats and various types of swifts.
There are also alters where you can light a incense stick and maybe pray for some gold.
If you like to see some of the amazing things in life you must try to see the Rafflesia flower.
Gunung Gading is one of the places you might just manage it, but check with the park office first or the tourist info centre in Kuching to see if any are blooming.
If there aren't any you might like to visit anyway it's a nice place to spend a night or two with good walking trails and a good swimming area near to the park office.
Bako National park is maybe one of Sarawaks most famous ones it is also one of the most interesting. Best time to go is April to September
You need to buy a permit if you are staying overnight in the park which really you will need to to take in one of the hikes, you also have to pay for cameras, videos etc.
permits can be obtained from the National Parks booking office in Kuching (082-248088)
There are numerous hiking trails, beautiful beaches, waterfalls and an abundance of flora and fauna.
To get here you have to catch a bus from Kuching near electra house Petra Jaya bus company bus no.6 to kampung Bako then you need to charter a boat. Ask at the office near the jetty if anyone else is going as it will work out cheaper for the boat.
The park HQ is at Telok Assam and you must register when you get there, this is where you get your camera/video/ accomodation keys and lots of useful information etc.
There is plenty of accomodation at Bako so I reccomend at least one overnight.
There is also a shop and small cafeteria for simple food dishes and drinks.
One Major word of warning "DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS" the long tailed Macaques might look cute to watch but they are clever and very naughty, do not leave anything unattended, food, drink or valuables on beaches or verandas close all bags lock all doors and windows.This may sound like overkill but believe me they are sneaky oportunist and will make daring raids to steal everything.
The males can be aggresive and can be very threatening specially when fed a little ,they always want more. If you see them in the bins walk swiftly past avoiding eye contact if possible. Don't let this put you off though, just be carefull.
If you have any problems on the canteen the park staff will help you out with a very nice catapult.
Other wildlife in the park includes the famous Proboscis monkies, Silver leaf monkies, Bearded pigs, several types of lizards and snakes several types of birds.
All in all it is a great hideaway.
We booked an organized trip here through the tour desk at the Damai Beach Resort. We must have looked weak and weedy as the girl at the desk did not seem sure we would be able to cope with it. It turned out to be less strenuous than the jungle walk we had done the day before.
Bako National Park was very enjoyable. We were taken by minibus from our resort, then caught a boat to the park. We passed by some interesting rock formations on the way. Our Chinese guide was knowledgeable and informative. At one point he stopped to show us a stock of grass which to our amazement turned out to be a snake. We saw several poisonous snakes, wild boar, macaque monkeys and, though I've no good photos to prove it, proboscis monkeys.
The tour was very enjoyable and included lunch. Having a guide enabled us to see things we would probably have missed on our own.
There was a marked jungle trail nearby the Damai Beach Hotel. It was only a couple of kilometers but was marked as taking 2 hours. We thought there would be no way it could take so long. In the end it took us around two and a half hours as there was a lot of climbing over fallen trees etc. It was great fun but hot and tiring. I'd gladly do it again, but it is only for those who like walking and don't mind the heat.
We spent hours here and loved it. The setting is stunning - a lake in the centre, mountains all round. The village has lots of houses in different cultural styles. You can visit them all. Some tribes put on dance shows: others demonstrate traditional crafts, such as making blow pipes; others sell traditional snacks. It's very interesting to have a look at. The different styles of houses are interesting, too. Plus you get to examine the interior at your leisure. The day ends with a dance show demonstrating traditional tribal dances. When we visited the performances were linked together to tell a long traditional story. The show ended with members of the audience, including me, being dragged up to dance. My husband was able to torture me with a video of me getting all the dance steps wrong for months after our visit.
A lovely day out. Open from 9am to 5.15pm; entry was around RM45.
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Jalan Kampung Nyabor, P.O. Box 1762, Sibu, Sarawak, 96008, Malaysia
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples