Batang Ai – located approximately 275 km from Kuching – is the site of the oldest Iban settlements in Sarawak. The Iban first arrived here from Kalimantan in the 15th Century, before spreading out along rivers in the Skrang, Saribas, Rejang and Lundu areas, and onward throughout Sarawak.
A hydro-electric scheme completed in 1980 dammed the Batang Ai river and created a 24 sq km reservoir fed by four crystal clear tributaries of the Ai River. Whilst many communities were resettled as part of the dam project, a number of Iban longhouses remained above the floodwaters. Travel in the area is still by traditional longboat and the Batang Ai Lake is the staging point for Borneo Adventure’s up river trips to the Iban longhouses of Ulu Ai, including Nanga Sumpa.
Batang Ai’s original inhabitants did not however live in longhouses; they were (and still are) orangutan. In recognition of the high conservation value of this area of Sarawak, the State government established the Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (192,800 hectares) and the Batang Ai National Park (24,040 hectares). These protected areas provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, protecting water catchments and providing a source of jungle produce for the local communities.
Sarawak’s population of orangutan is estimated at 1,600, with 95% living in the Batang Ai – Lanjak Entimau landscape. This area of Sarawak is a key component of the Heart of Borneo initiative. This government-led and NGO-supported project involving Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei aims to conserve the biodiversity of the Heart of Borneo, the central core of the island where forests remain in tact.
Wildlife surveys at Batang Ai in 2013 found that a significant population of up to 200 orangutan lives outside the established protected areas. Plans are now afoot to expand the protection zone with park extensions or new orangutan conservation areas.
The relative isolation of the wider Batang Ai area has meant that the rainforest outside the protected areas has also been left undisturbed (except for local farming activities), providing ample area for both the Iban people and orangutan.
Borneo Adventure has been involved with the communities of Batang Ai for over 30 years, providing employment through responsible tourism and promoting conservation under our Ulu Ai Project. Through these efforts a sustained conservation presence and consciousness has been established and this has resulted in the increased sightings of orangutan in the area. Many of our tours at Batang Ai include treks to search for orangutans.
The clear rivers, cool waterfalls, amazing rainforest, orangutan and the vibrant culture of the Iban all combine to make a trip to Batang Ai a true Borneo Adventure.
We operate a lodge and one jungle camp at Batang Ai. These serve as bases for our tours and activities over the whole area. Nanga Sumpa Lodge is a 90 minutes longboat ride from the lake. The lodge overlooks the Delok River and is a short walk away from the longhouse and Iban community. Lubok Kasai Jungle Camp is located a 30-45 minute boat ride upriver from Nanga Sumpa. It has a stunning location on the banks of the Lalang River in an area where orangutan are sighted.
Most of our Batang Ai trips visit the Delok River. However, we also offer trips to Menyang Tais longhouse which is located closer to the lake.