Finding peace in the heart of a rainforest

The way of life at the Ulu Ulu Resort is a slow peaceful one. Insects are left to do their work and getting your hands dirty is learning to be a part of nature. Borneo’s rainforests are among the most biodiverse places on Earth and Ulu Temburong is no exception. More species of tree can be found in a single hectare here than in the entirety of North America. While you might immediately think of squashing a bug or spider in an urban setting, here everything is to be preserved and studied so you stop, watch, learn and leave them alone.

In Ulu Temburong, there are no use for mobile phones, no computers and no knowledge of what is happening in the outside world. It could be World War 3 and we would still be happy lounging in one of the many hammocks or day beds, enjoying the sun, fresh air and listening to the flowing river.

“You get peace of mind not by thinking about it or imagining it, but by quietening and relaxing the restless mind.” ~Remez Sasson

Without the distractions of daily modern living, the Ulu Ulu experience helps to create genuine bonds between our group as well as with the nature all around us. I could stay there all week just absorbing the beauty of nature. Humans are meant to be in the great outdoors but due to our rapid development, most of us spend our days pent up in concret buildings. It’s amazing how a little quality time with nature can change your mindset and ease the tensions within you.

The water sounds from the river right in front of our rooms is delightful. We’ve forgotten all our impending bills and deadlines and are happy to play in the water just like children are. At Ulu Ulu, you naturally live in the present, in the now and in the today. Your past doesn’t matter and your future is forgotten. Such a refreshing feeling.

Our lunch was a pretty sumptuous one as we needed all the energy for the physical activities we would be doing later on.

The star dish was this huge river prawn which I couldn’t take (again, due to shellfish allergies. Argh!). Thankfully, there were lots of other dishes to fill me up.

As far as living in the wilderness goes, this is probably one of the luxury versions. Great for those who want a taste of nature but aren’t ready to forgo all comforts just yet.

Shortly after lunch, it was time to burn off all of those calories!

We took the long boat and some rubber tubes, heading further upstream from the resort.

Once we found a suitable spot, we put on our helmets and we were ready to do some tubing! The river water was pretty cold so it took some getting used to when we first got in but once you are all soaked, it doesn’t matter anymore!

We were going to be doing free-floating tubing which basically means, we each get into our own tubes and leave the rest of the work to the  currents and the rapids of the river.

Tom, our guide, predicted that Tiffany and I were likely to be bumped off the tubes when we go over the rapids because we were the lightest in the group. Surprisingly, both Tiffany and I had no such issue and instead, it was Malcolm who got bump off his tube twice!

Even though we started off together, everyone travelled at varying speeds down the river. Rui Long was the fastest and we lost sight of her in no time. The rest of us tried to wait for each other and stick together by hooking on to each others’ floats.

Every time we went over an area of rapids, we’ll lose grip of each other and we’ll once again try to fight the currents in order to find each other and hold on together again. It was really a whole lot of fun!

Peacefully floating on the river with nature surrounding you is an experience you must try when you go to Brunei. If you look carefully, you can even spot huge hornbills flying across the river. We floated pass this suspension bridge that was recently destroyed by lightning. What a pity, I’d love to walk over that.

I ended being in the same group as Andy and Malcolm as we floated passed the Ulu Ulu Resort. We were heading further downstream to check out a walking trail that would lead us to a waterfall. By this time, it had started to drizzle lightly but we were all so wet and happy that nothing could possibly put a damper on our mood.

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We couldn’t be happier! Lol!

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I didn’t take much photos of our trek because it we were sloshing through lots of water so concentrating on the journey and making sure we don’t slip was utmost priority. The other reason was that I only had my water camera with me for this activity instead of my usual DSLR and I couldn’t take much good quality pics in the low light situation. In a virgin rainforest that has attained great age without significant disturbance, the trees are packed very densely and there are multiple layers of undergrowth causing the forest trails we went to be shaded from the sun.

You can see Rui Long running away in my poor quality pic because if you go into the pool near the waterfalls, there will be fish that come up to nibble your feet. It’s similar to the fish spa that you see in Singapore and it doesn’t hurt except that these fish were way bigger. Personally, I wasn’t too game to being fish food so I pretty much stayed out of that pool to snap photos of the rest while laughing at their shocked expressions.

It was time for us to head back to the resort to wash up and fuel There was a lot of bonding sessions where we each shared a little of ourselves, our hobbies and our personalities. I shared a couple of concepts to the group that I’ve created in previous team building events, much to the amusement of everyone. It’s fun but what happens in Ulu Ulu stays in Ulu Ulu so I won’t go into details!

After a hearty dinner, we took the longboats out again for a night trek. Because we are in the middle of a rainforest, away from the towns and city, there is no light pollution and you could see the beautiful sky dotted with sparkling stars. It’s so beautiful staring at them in the darkness of the forest, listening to the forest coming alive with all the animal sounds.

There were also quite a few fireflies which were shining brightly, happy flying down the river. Despite having done quite a number of treks and hikes over the years, this was the first time I’ve done night trekking in a rainforest. When we were deep in the trail, we found a spot and switched off all our torches. At first we were completely blinded but slowly the eyes adjusts and you can barely make out the shape of your hands in front of you or the t-shirt of someone next to you. In this hypersensitive mode, it was the perfect way to experience the forest; it was also in this condition that we were able to spot faint “foxfires”. This is actually quite rare because most forests are not far away from light pollution enough for you to spot it. It’s actually a glow emitted from bioluminescent fungus that grows on rotting wood.

After our night walk, we went back for some simple supper and more chit chat sessions. In the absence of technology, the conversations you have with people become more in-depth, more sincere and more intimate. I think it’ll do anyone some good to do a digital detox and spend some time with nature.

By the time I washed up and headed to bed it was close to 1am and we had to be up by 4am. Sounds like boot camp but when it brings you peace and happiness, waking up is not a chore at all.

Thank you OMY, Brunei Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines  for making this trip possible.

If you would like to know Brunei better or check out more Royal Brunei Airlines promotions, check out their Facebook page.

PS: I have a couple of photos that I’ve put up in this post without my usual watermark as these photos are used courtesy of Malcolm Sunny, Rui Long, Tiffany and Andy Storm.



  1. Noor Fadilah
    June 10, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    Looking good doll x

    • June 15, 2013 / 1:05 am

      Thank you Fad! Let’s catch up over lunch next mth!

  2. Noor Fadilah
    June 10, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    Looking good doll x

    • June 15, 2013 / 1:05 am

      Thank you Fad! Let’s catch up over lunch next mth!

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