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Escape into the wilds of Lawas

Small town, big fun: A 3-day/2-night adventure in Lawas

The District of Lawas may not have all the things other bigger towns and cities like Kuching, Miri, Sibu and Bintulu have. But its rustic charms and pristine nature are what make it so special. Where its town centre now stands – ever growing and moving with the times, simple settlements once stood. And though modernity has extended its reach here, Lawas remains quaint, life is pretty much laid-back and the people are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. Its foremost attractions lie deep in the mountains and out in the mangrove forests. They offer unforgettable experiences and are worth a visit.

One noteworthy attraction is the Penawan Waterfalls Eco Park near Kampung Pengalih. Getting there is a mere 15 minutes from Lawas Airport, albeit through very rough terrains that offer rollercoaster-like ride once you get off the main motorway and into the mountain paths.

Located at Jalan Sungai Penawan, off Jalan Kg. Pa’ Puti, off Jalan Merapok Lawas, the park is a community-based project that promotes sustainable tourism, responsible tourism and conservation initiatives. Managed by Koperasi Kota Penawan Lawas Berhad, it includes park amenities for visitors wishing to organise activities like family day, teambuilding and trekking to the waterfalls. Basic accommodation is offered to those who want to spend the night there. For those wanting to sleep out under the stars and amidst nature, a campsite by the river offers enough space for four sizable tents.

Penawan Waterfalls Eco Park boasts 10 tiers of cascades, each one a beauty in their own right. The first tier (Batu Meregeb Waterfall) is the easiest one to get to, requiring a mere three minutes or so trek from the park’s main building. The cascade measures 70 feet in height and drops into a large pool down below. A large flat rock below it makes a perfect platform on which one can sit and enjoy a refreshing natural shower. It’s also an ideal spot for stunning group photos. If you’re up for a bit of hiking, the second, third, eighth and tenth tiers are just as breath-taking.

The rivers and waterfalls here are teeming with the much-prized Semah (Tor Duoronensis) and other fish species. So if you’re not too busy having fun at the waterfall, you’d probably spend much of your time looking at the fish swimming about. Also if you’re in luck, you might just catch glimpses of hornbills in flight, making your trip all the more special.

Roughly three hours or so from Penawan Waterfalls Eco Park and about 70km away from Lawas town centre is Merarap Hot Spring Lodge. It sits snugly next to the raging rapids of Trusan River and accessible only via 4×4 vehicles customised for off-roading.

The ride is all rough and tumble through logging roads that climb high up the hills and mountains until you reach the newly built main entrance, at which point the drive will be down a very steep road all the way to the valley where the lodge is located.

There are four pools, with naturally bluish hot spring water pumped in directly from the source spring nearby. The pools have different temperatures and are of variable sizes. A dip in one of these pools is extremely invigorating.

Accommodation with basic amenities is available for those who wish to spend the night. An open dining hall lets you enjoy a meal amidst a lush jungle setting, fresh air and the sound of water rushing through the rapids several steps away. It’s an ideal retreat for families and friends.

Closer to Lawas town centre, some 12km to be exact, is Kampung Punang, an idyllic coastal village in the Brunei Bay. The village is famous for its iconic product known as Tahai- smoked Tamban fish (Fringescale Sardinella). But its mangrove forest also holds a secret that can only be revealed in the dark of night.

Go on a mangrove river cruise after sundown and discover magic in the form of flickering lights in the trees around you. This “magic” is conjured up by sprinkles of fireflies in an attempt to attract potential mates or ward off predators.

If you’re lucky, you will see a huge sprinkle of these fascinating bugs gathering on a single tree, lighting it up just like fairy lights on a Christmas tree. Photographing them is incredibly tricky, but if the boat is still, the water stagnant and you’ve got a tripod with you, you might be able to capture that magic moment.

With all of the above to experience, plus so much more, Lawas is truly destination of wild wonders. Come discover the marvels here in this wonderful place.

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