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Places To Go
There are three main areas where large concentrations of longhouses are easily accessible.
Skrang & Lemanak
These two rivers are tributaries of the mighty Batang Lupar, in Sarawak's Second Division. They have been home to the Iban for centuries and their banks are dotted with dozens of traditional wooden longhouses surrounded by pepper gardens, rubber smallholdings and rice fields. They are easily accessible from Kuching and offer a very good introduction to the Iban way of life. The longhouses here generally receive more visitors than other areas, so English is quite widely spoken, allowing visitors to communicate easily with their hosts.
This area covers the Batang Ai river and its tributaries (including the Engkari and Delok), which feed the massive lake formed by the Batang Ai Hydro Scheme. It is the ancestral home of the Iban in Sarawak and was the last area in Sarawak to come under the control of the White Rajahs, after decades of dogged resistance. Many longhouses here are built in a traditional manner, and the people here are very proud of their well preserved customs and lifestyle. Many of the older men have spectacular tattoos all over their bodies, and are pleased to pose for photographers.
The mighty Rejang, Sarawak's longest river, and its major tributaries the Katibas and the Balleh, are home to countless Iban longhouses, which can be easily visited from Song (Katibas) and Kapit (Rejang & Balleh). Longboat journeys up the Balleh are the stuff of real adventure travel, negotiating frequent sets of rapids to visit large, thriving and very hospitable Iban longhouse communities.
Further upriver are the longhouses of the various Orang Ulu communities of the Upper Rejang and its tributaries, the Balui and the Belaga. Visiting these longhouses can involve travelling considerable distances by river, and visitors should be prepared to spare at least a few days. The time spent is well worth it, as many of these longhouses receive very few visitors.
Tour operators can organise trips to Kayan and Kenyah longhouses on the Upper Baram river system. For the truly adventurous and energetic, the remote and beautiful Bario Highlands offer superb trekking, staying overnight in Kelabit and Lun Bawang longhouses along the way. Organised tours to Bario are available and the area is also very suitable for independent travel.
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