Waterfalls Trail

This fantastic walk takes you past the enchanting (and enchanted?) waterfalls of the upper Sungai Lundu. Although steep in parts and requiring a bit of scrambling, the trail is not too long, and the waterfalls and pools are well worth the effort. If you go on a weekday, you’ll probably have the pools to yourself.

Difficulty
5/10
Distance
600m to Waterfall 1
1050m to Waterfall 3
1530m to Waterfall 7
Scenic value
9/10
Walking Time
25 minutes to Waterfall 1
40 minutes to Waterfall 3
1 hour to Waterfall 7
Flora & Fauna
6/10
Trail Markings
Red & White

Trail Description

Gading Falls
Gading Falls

The Waterfall Trail can be accessed directly from the top of the road running up the left side of the Park HQ. It branches off the road on the left, before you reach the base of the water station. The first 10-15 minutes of this trail runs through disturbed secondary forest, with concrete stepping-stones over the occasionally boggy ground.

A more scenic and interesting alternative is to follow the Rafflesia Boardwalk, which adds 20-30 minutes to the trekking time, and joins the Waterfalls Trail at the 10-15 minute mark.

From the junction of the end of the Rafflesia Boardwalk, the Waterfalls Trail continues through scrubby secondary forest for a few minutes.

Good indicators of disturbed or secondary forest (and former farmland) are the banana palms and the macaranga trees (benuah), with their distinctive large three-pointed leaves. Macarangas play an important role in the regeneration of rainforest. They grow quickly in disturbed areas, creating shade which protects the young saplings of rainforest tree species from the sun, and giving them a chance to grow back. Macarangas also provide an important food source for browsing animals such as deer; and many macaranga species have an interesting symbiotic relationship with ants, which live in their hollow stems. Local people traditionally used the leaves for wrapping rice.

About 50 metres along the trail from the Rafflesia Boardwalk turnoff, there is a junction in the trail. Straight ahead, a set of concrete steps leads quite steeply up the hill. This is the SESCO Trail, which leads up to the SESCO dam (and provides a longer alternative route to the trail below Waterfall 7). The trail signs are slightly ambiguous here – take the left-hand trail along the side of the hill, not the SESCO trail.

Waterfall 1
Waterfall 1

The trail soon starts to climb quite steeply. The forest gradually becomes more open with larger trees, as the disturbed secondary forest gives way to older secondary forest and primary forest. The sides of the trail are lined with ferns, gingers and begonias, as well as other small plants. After a couple of minutes climbing the trail flattens out slightly, and you soon reach the turnoff to Waterfall 1 – which can be heard through the trees down to the left.

Just before the turnoff is a small footbridge, next to which is a fish-tail palm (so named because of the shape of the leaves). This is probably a Caryota no (entibab). The Kelabit and other Indigenous groups make extensive use of this palm. The shoot is edible raw or cooked; the trunk is used as a building material for floors, the black hairs from the trunk are woven into bangles, and the leaf spines can be used to make blow-pipe darts. The decaying trunk may also host edible worms. This is also one of several species of wild palms which the Penan use as a source of their staple food, sago. Sago is extracted from the stem – a laborious process, which involves scraping out the pith, shredding and mashing it, and then washing it in water to extract the starch, which must then be dried.

The side-track down to Waterfall 1 is quite steep, and requires some scrambling over boulders and tree roots (keep to the right to start, then switch to the left just before reaching the creek). It can be slippery. On reaching the waterfall, you are rewarded with beautiful clear pools amongst the boulders, and a series of shallow falls running down the face of large granite rocks, dropping a total of approximately 15 metres. As with all three of the accessible waterfalls, this is a great spot to cool off in the water, sunbathe on the warm rocks, or have a picnic. If you look closely on the sides of the shadier boulders, you might see pretty little black-spotted rock frogs, which spring off into the water or onto other rocks as you approach.

Waterfall 3
Waterfall 3

From the turnoff to Waterfall 1, the Waterfalls Trail continues steadily uphill. It flattens out near a very large overhanging boulder, known locally as Batu Apek. (The story of Batu Apek and its little shrine are told in the Background section). Small insect-eating bats occasionally take shelter under the overhanging parts of Batu Apek. A small stream of water trickles from the base of the rock.

A further 5 minutes of climbing leads to a pondok (shelter), at the top of a ridge. A short steep descent from here leads to the turnoff to Waterfall 3.

The track down to Waterfall 3 is slightly easier than the track to Waterfall 1, but can still be slippery when wet. Waterfall 3 is a single 15-20m drop in a narrow cutting in the rock, which opens into a deep pool and a wider boulder-strewn creek-bed. Several tall tree-ferns line the sides of the creek. The falls themselves are cool and shaded by trees; sunseekers can sprawl on the downstream boulders.

From the turnoff to Waterfall 3, the Waterfalls Trail climbs steeply, following the creek. After 10 minutes, it climbs onto the wide, concrete-paved SESCO Dam trail again. About 100m to the left, at the end of the SESCO trail, there are views down a steep waterfall, the top of which has been dammed.

waterfall 7
Waterfall 7

The Waterfalls Trail continues to the right along the SESCO trail, for about 50m, before plungung back into the rainforest, up a steep slope (on the left). The trail climbs and descends into and out of several small creek beds, and past some large boulders. After 15-20 minutes, there is a junction. To the right, the trail (initially yellow and red markers) continues to Gunung Perigi, Gunung Gading and Batu Bekubu.

The track down to Waterfall 7 is to the left. It goes down past some large boulders to a pondok, where you can leave your bags or have something to eat. The waterfall is quite open and wide, and falls in several steps. There are  numerous clear pools to cool off in, and you can shower under some of the falls. It is a very beautiful location. If you are there early in the morning, keep an eye out for Princess Gading (or a mermaid, depending on which legend you follow) bathing in one of the pools!