Batang Ai National Park
This ancestral home of the Ibans has long been established. Before the hydroelectric dam was created, there were at least 40+ longhouses located along the river. When the dam was completed, the water rose by 60m flooding the low-lying areas; inundating some 8500h or 33sq miles of jungle. The government had to relocate tenants from 26 longhouses to Lubok Antu and the higher areas. The hydroelectric dam now serves Kuching and surroundings with uninterrupted supply of water. Being a water catchment, the government also gazetted this area a National Park in 1991.
Batang Ai National Park itself is not easy to get to. For the odd traveller, it's possible to take a bus from Kuching to Sri Aman and then change for another bus to Lubok Antu. From Lubok Antu, it's possible to hire a boat to Batang Ai National Park but once there, no accommodation is available. It may be a little easier to take a tour with the local travel agents who can arrange accommodation at the Iban longhouses or if there is a place to indulge a little, then perhaps try the Batang Ai Hilton for a change.
Staying at the Batang Ai
Wanting to visit the longhouses, we were determined to make a trip to Batang Ai. The only accommodation we could get at the reservoir is The Hilton Batang Ai. Built in the style of traditional Iban longhouse architecture, it was as far as we could get to staying at a longhouse without having to arrange a tour package that included a stay at a 'real' longhouse.
Nice basket weaving for a fraction of the price in Kuching. But remember to bargain. A little market in the morning is a nice place to walk around. The ladies bring out their produce like little bags of rice, perhaps access from their bountiful harvest this season.; and sometimes even wild game meat are for sale at the market.
A suggestion though, perhaps you may want to stock up on bottled water for your stay at the resort and this stop is the last place for a last minute buy.
We arrived at the Batang Ai Dam and were ushered to the guests' waiting area. Within 15min we were sent to the jetty and onto the boat - speeding off to Batang Ai Hilton. The resort itself is well hidden from view, which is a pleasant surprise. Although the resort is made up of a complex of longhouses, it really doesn't feel as though the resort is sprawling. In fact, as first impression suggests, it's kinda snug and intimate.
Around the resort
For those not prepared to just sit out the day in the cool shades of the pool area with a long cool cocktail or tropical fruit juice... one could always take a walk round the grounds. Of which i did. Walking over a wooden bridge along the way, a gliding snake startled the daylights out of me and I was pretty sure I did the same to it as it fell off its perch. Stunned for a few short seconds, it quickly recomposed itself and slithered away into the undergrowth. A beautiful creature with distinct crimson red and black stripes.