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Getting There (and Getting Back in One Piece)
If you are travelling on an organised tour, all travel arrangements will be taken care of. The Sarawak Tourism Board has a list of approved tour operators
The access points for Skrang, Lemanak and Batang Ai are all roughly four hours by road from Kuching. Trips to Skrang and Lemanak involve a longboat journey through typical jungle scenery to reach the longhouse, whilst visitors to Batang Ai will be ferried across the large lake formed by the Batang Ai Hydro Scheme before proceeding upriver to the longhouse.
Independent travellers visiting Skrang, Lemanak and Batang Ai will need to take a Biaramas Express bus (082- 249148, 3 times daily, non-stop) or Sarawak Transport Company bus (082-242967, 8 times daily, stopping) from Kuching to Sri Aman - check for times. From Sri Aman, take the Sarawak Transport Company bus to Lubok Antu. For Skrang, get off at Pais and walk to the jetty. For Lemanak, get off at Rumah Bareng and arrange transport at the modern longhouse. For Batang Ai, continue to Lubok Antu and take the local bus to the reservoir jetty (times vary). In each case, you will be told which longhouses welcome guests, and the (generally negotiable) price for boat rental. On all of these rivers, the boat ride is every bit as enjoyable and interesting as visiting the longhouse itself.
Sibu, Sarawak's second largest town, is the jumping off point for Iban longhouses on the mighty Rejang, Sarawak's longest river, and its major tributaries, the Baleh and the Katibas. Local companies run tours to all of these rivers, either direct from Sibu or from the upriver towns of Song and Kapit. Belaga, four to seven hours upriver from Kapit, is the best place for visiting Orang Ulu longhouses. To find out which longhouses welcome visitors, just ask at any of the small hotels or coffee shops. Prices of boats are sometimes negotiable, sometimes not.
To get to Kapit from Sibu, take one of the frequent express boats from the Express Wharf in the town centre. From Kapit, there are express boats to Belaga. Make sure you get a permit for Belaga from the Resident's Office in Kapit first. MAS operates a twice weekly Twin Otter flight from Sibu to Kapit and Belaga. Call 082-246622 for details.
The Baram river system above Miri is not as well served by public transport, and visitors are advised to go on an organised tour or with Sarawakian friends.
Unless you are prepared for a week-long guided trek, the only way to reach Bario is by daily MAS Twin Otter flights from Miri. Call 082-246622 for details. Please note that these flights are sometimes cancelled due to bad weather conditions, particularly in the rainy season (Nov-Jan).
When visiting longhouses, visitors usually sleep on the covered verandah or in the family quarters. Many Iban longhouses have simple guest houses available for visitors. If you prefer a more luxurious 'longhouse experience' there are longhouse resorts at Batang Ai, Bukit Saban (near Sri Aman) and Pelagus Rapids (near Kapit).
Visitors may need to make overnight stops in Sibu, Kapit or Belaga. Basic but comfortable accommodation is available in all of these towns (rooms with hot water and air con), whilst Sibu has a number of good medium class hotels as well.
Independent travellers are welcome at many (but not all) longhouses in all of these areas, but on the much-visited Skrang, some longhouses have exclusive arrangements with tour operators and you may not be welcome without a recommendation and a contact name. Visitors should always bring a few presents for their guests, and some food when travelling in remote areas. Most longhouses will charge a small sum for meals and accommodation.
Once you arrive at the jumping-off point for your particular river destination, just ask around or wait to be invited to a particular longhouse. In Kapit and Belaga, on the Rejang, there are a number of freelance tour guides offering trips.
Trips to Orang Ulu longhouses can also be arranged in Kapit or the remote river town of Belaga, but a permit is required from the Resident's Office in Kapit to proceed to Belaga and beyond. Independent travellers are particularly welcome in the dramatic Bario Highlands, but there are no roads or navigable rivers and the trekking can be hard going for the unfit.
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