Hi, I have just found out about a vast river in Sarawak. Sarawak is a less visited region of Borneo. It lies on the South-East side of the Island and encompasses a vast area of remote jungle. Now in Sarawak there is a mighty river call the Rajang. The Rajang is the longest river in Malaysia, and was made famous by the book ‘Into the heart of Borneo’ by Redmon O’Hanlon. The Book is a description about his trip into deepest darkest Borneo. Many people have heard the name but to this day very few people have ever been there. The river has always been very important to the local people. The Iban people have long inhabited the surrounding area and treat the river with great respect.
One of the local legends concerns a mighty snake called Nabau who changed into human form, so that he could capture the wife of a local warrior. The warrior caught the snake, took his great knife, and killed Nabau. He then chopped Nabau into pieces and threw the remains into the river. It is those remains that form the Pelagus rapids (according to legend, at least). You can still occasionally see the local inhabitants making offings, to the spirits at the rapids. The Rapids are about half way up the 600 km course of the river and they form a very effective boundary, only the smallest and nimblest of boats can navigate there way through. Only a very few outsiders have ventured beyond the rapids!
From the look of it the area will make a great location to shoot the white water. The Sarawak government, in conjunction with some local companies are opening up the Pelagus rapids as an area for rafting. By the way there are quite a few spots for rafting in Borneo, some of them have become well known. Rivers such as the Padas have brilliant areas to fly down the river.
Traveling up the Rajang offers many opportunity to visitors, you can engage with the local culture, wildlife and have an adventure on the rapids.
All most all people wishing to explorer the great Rajang river will end-up at some point in Sibu the biggest settlement on the river. Sibu is 60 Km inland from the coast but already the river can be as much as a mile wide. Controlling of the town of Sibu, has always be key to the control of the the lower reaches of the Rajang. The White Raja, Raj Brooks built a fort here, to protect this vital trade route. Sibu is a very lively bussling places with exotic markets.
Much further up the river there is the settlement of Kapit. A small but lively village, here Raja Brooks also built a fort. This one has survived, mainly because it is built out of an incredibly hard wood called Belian. The fort was first built in the 1880 to control the upper reaches of the Rajang river. Today it is a museum and and artisan center.
As you penetrate deep into the heart of Borneo you begin to feel as if you are in a time warp with the clock moving backwards, there are no roads here and electricity can be hard to find. The river is the life line to these remote communitys, and there is always activity on the waterway. Many of the community’s which you visit still embrace the traditional ways of there forefathers. Although they have now given up headhunting, there are still human skulls adorning many of the buildings. Notice the lush jungle that surrounded you as you push on up river and the sights and sounds of the wild.
Now by far the easiest way to travel up the river is by boat. Walking can be done but there are steep climbs and leaches and a world of other nasty encounters to be made! The most famous boat to cruise the Rajang today is the RV Orient Pandaw. The boat takes you back to an older time it feels like an old river steamer but with all the luxury of modern day living and at 180 ft long there is plenty of room onboard. The RV Orient Pandaw is not the fastest boat in the world it cruises very leisurely up the river, allowing passengers to relax and take in the spectacular views.
For those who want to explore a little further up the shallow rivers the RV Orient Pandaw has a selection of support craft that can navigate the shallow waters to care right into the deepest jungle.