Belaga District is one of the most remote and biggest districts in Sarawak with a size area of 19,403.27 sq km, where mega Bakun Hydro Project (BHP) is situated. BHP is projected to supply cheap electricity power for the country and even being proposed to be exported to neighbouring countries like Brunei, Indonesia and even to Thailand. Belaga District is part of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), encompassing an area of 70,000 sq km.
The Beauty of Belaga
Belaga beauty lies in its isolation. It is sited off the well-beaten tourists trek and accessibility to Belaga, also called Heart of Borneo, due to its fauna and flora found there, has been fairly limited until today. Therein lies Belaga’s greatest asset; it’s unspoilt and its charms remain unsullied by tourism industry.
The most spectacular sights in Belaga such as in Usun Apau are found in its interior nature where nature is at its glorious best, still undisturbed by any tourism activity. Accessibility into these parts is either by road, logging road, air or river. Here, green-clad mountains dominate the skyline. Occasionally, a waterfall gushes down a sheer cliff, catching the sun rays in the process and forming a rainbow. Underneath, the ubiquitous rivers move at lightning speed, forming rapids as they weave their way through rocks.
As the largest district in Sarawak and straddled in remote central Sarawak, Belaga encompasses within its boundaries some of the world’s richest forest, one of important archaeological finds in Malaysia and some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. Indeed, one would be hard put to find another area in the world that has so much diversity in nature, people and culture in one neat package.
Borneo’s Biggest Man Made Lake
Belaga District is also home-to-be the biggest water catchments area in South East Asia when Bakun Hydro Dam project completes sometime in 2011, that supply 2400 mw of electricity power. The artificial lake will stretches up the upper Balui River, Murum River, Linau River and many medium size of rivers and streams that will form a lake that is bigger than island of Singapore. Immediately beyond the artificial lake, visitors can see beautiful lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, with drooping trees overhanging the rivers. River transport is the main mode of communication here. The rivers are fast flowing and during dry periods, the water level gets quite low and visitors can pleasingly enjoy spectacular beautiful scenery nature.
Over and beyond the wealth Belaga derives from its land, however, are its people, its single richest asset. Its many ethnics groups, more than 15 in all and that is only the official figure, combine to lend Belaga a uniqueness that is all its own. The result is a colourful stew pot of culture, heritage and tradition.
The Indigenous People
Almost 100% of the district’s population are Orang Ulu ethnics (Orang Ulu means interior people) which consisting of Kenyah, Kayan, Penan, Punan, Kejaman, Lahanan, Sekapan, Tanjung, Ukit, Seping, Lisum and Sihan. Other bumiputera minorities are Iban, Malay and non-bumiputera Chinese that forms a total population of approximately 30,000 people.
Orang Ulu, which consists of many tribes in Belaga have the most colourful costumes. In most longhouses in Belaga, you will find ornaments and accessories, which have been inherited from their descendants, proudly displayed and jealously guarded by the owners. The skill of beadwork, passed on from generation to generation, has resulted in a kaleidoscopic assortment of colours and designs in their crafts. The important role the hornbills play in the daily lives of the Orang Ulu also comes to life in their most popular Orang Ulu dances. The dancers clutch clusters of hornbill feathers in their hands and mimic a bird in flight, swooping and soaring. Movements are graceful and flowing.
The accompanying music is provided by the sape, which is one of the most popular musical instruments in Borneo. A lute-type, four-stringed instrument, it produces a rich and delicate tone. It is made and carved out from a single tree trunk. Traditionally, the four strings are made of split rottan. Today, steel wires are used. Costumes are again elaborate. The rich beadwork of the Orang Ulu adds a colourful dimension to the dance.
Little town of Belaga is situated at confluence of Belaga River and Balui River. About 37 km beyond and up river of Balui is Bakun Hydro Dam. Bakun Hydro Dam is located rights at the confluence of Bintulu-Bakun Highway and Sibu-Kapit-Belaga-Bakun express boat ply route along Rejang River, Malaysia longest river. This location gives Belaga an advantage as a very strategic point as an ecotourism centre in the heart of Borneo.
Ready access and an efficient transportation network is the basic component of a successful destination. Belaga has fairly good road access from neighbouring countries like Brunei and Kalimantan Borneo. While it is good to have a ready market at hand, regional cross-border traffic does have its limitations because of its nature and size.
Air access into Sarawak is also fairly good component of the system which has great impact towards Belaga as a destination. Location and juxtaposition of one destination to another are factors which contribute to travelling patterns. Sarawak is divided by South China Sea from Peninsular Malaysia by hundreds of miles. Belaga in the heart of Borneo so to speak, is isolated in the heart of Borneo. Travellers who go to Kuala Lumpur can disperse to destinations within Peninsula Malaysia by direct flight to Bintulu via Kuching; travellers who land in Singapore can go to Belaga by direct flight from Singapore via Kuching and tourist to Bangkok can go to Belaga using direct flight via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to Kuching. Tourists from Kota Kinabalu can come to Belaga by direct flight to Miri or Bandar Sri Begawan and than proceed to use land transport to Belaga or Bakun.
Domestic air access is another important factor for destination. Belaga has its airfield since colonial era which is few km away down river of Belaga little town. Frequency of domestic air service access is fairly poor. Arrivals in Belaga are mostly by river and road although there is an alternative route by air.
Within the domestic market, tourism in Belaga is still in its infancy which is steadily and aggressively growing with opportunity to set in place the basis for planning and developing a sustainable industry. The Heart of Borneo is free from the spoils of tourist stampedes and can learn from the mistakes of other districts or states in Malaysia. Feel free to Contact Us at http://belagahomestaysarawak.com