Kubah Main (Palmarium) Trail

The incredible variety of palm species found in this national park can be experienced along this trek, and there is extensive botanical labelling of plants along the first few hundred metres (which can be done on its own if you want to skip the rest of the trail). Kerangas forest with clusters of pitcher plants, stately mixed dipterocarp forest with some huge trees, and lush creek vegetation are all found along this trail. This trail joins up with the Kubah Waterfall Trail and the Gunung Serapi Summit road (via a set of steep stairs) – the road offering a short-cut back.

Difficulty
5/10 (some steep bits)
Distance
1500m one way
Scenic value
6/10
Walking Time
1-2 hours one-way
Flora & Fauna
7/10
Trail Markings
White
Download a PDF file providing information about some of the labelled trees on the Palmarium and Ulu Rayu Trail —> Here (80kb)

 

Trail Description

The trail commences from park HQ as a boardwalk next to the signboard with the NP trail map. (This is located to the left of the Park HQ entrance, amongst the cement renditions of local fauna.)

The short boardwalk leads through replanted secondary forest where lots of plant species bear botanical labels. These labels, which continue for the first couple of hundred metres of the trail, provide an excellent way to learn a bit about the amazing diversity of the rainforest and the uses to which these trees were traditionally put by local people.

The trail winds up the slope past the bungalows on the right hand side before it turns right into young secondary forest with some small dipterocarp species. There’s a small track up to the right to a pondok (shelter); this shortcuts the main trail which does a short loop around to the left. The two trails rejoin at a pondok. From the pondok, the trail goes straight up a low ridge until it comes to a T- junction. This marks the end of the Palmarium section of the trail, and the end of the botanical labelling. The Main Trail continues to the left. The trail to the right returns to HQ and bungalows.

Continuing on the Main Trail, you’ll pass the water supply for the park HQ on the left of the track. The Main Trail continues uphill from here, which also leads to the Selang View Point Trail, the Ulu Rayu Trail (to Matang Wildlife Centre) and the Kubah Waterfall Trail.

Licuala orbicularis
Licuala orbicularis

The trail climbs onto a ridge through open forest, with a steep, roped drop-off to the right hand side. Some benches provide a spot to break if you need to catch your breath. The trail gradient flattens into forest with small trees and lots of active squirrels. There’s a marker which states a distance of 500m from park HQ here. Tree-breaks allow views to the small river valley on the right hand side, with hills undulating up and down behind. The Selang View Point Trail branches off on the right (yellow markers), with the Main Trail continuing to the left. To reach this point from the Park HQ takes between 15-20 minutes (unless you get wrapped up in the labelled plants). You may notice that the forest here is more established, with some sizeable trees.

Macaranga Bushes
Macaranga Bushes

The trail skirts horizontally around a slope where there are many elegant Licuala orbicularis palms. As Beccari (who ”discovered” them) noted, these look like large Chinese fans. There are also tall, thin Nibong palms, with their viciously spined stems, to the left of the trail. The forest under-story here is composed of many palms as well as gingers,  and other ground herbs. The trail passes over an area of tree fall, where a single massive dipterocarp stands, wearing the tensed earthward-reaching roots of a young strangling fig. The forest here has a very sandy floor and secondary growth is widely evident. The trail crosses a rocky creek bed and then up slope and over the ridge where lots of macaranga bushes (colonising trees with large wide, three pointed leaves – not a latin dance craze)  are filling the gaps. Heart shaped, fleshy leaved aroids (related to taro or wild yam, but with irritant sap) and fish-tailed rattans (climbing palms) are also common here.

Selunsor trees
Selunsor trees

Selunsor trees (Tristania sumatrana, reminiscent in appearance of Australian eucalypt trees) can be identified by the piles of shed bark at the base of the smooth trunk.

Climbing the ridge, you may notice another type of large fan palm (with a split leaf) in this area (Licuala valida), some of which may have small, bright red fruit. These are said to be edible. The unopened leaves are used by local people to make the circular hats that are used for working in the field. Scattered seeds from dipterocarp trees may be germinating, covering the forest floor with uniformly sized seedlings. Only one or two of these will survive to maturity.

The trail skirts around a hillside scarred by an old landslide. This open gap in the canopy again allows lots of colonising plants to move in. Continue alongside the ridge

Nepenthes hirsuta
Nepenthes hirsuta

into disturbed forest with a sandy floor covered by a thin, peaty layer of roots. Pitcher plants (Nepenthes hirsuta and N ampullaria) occur throughout this kerangas forest. Kerangas is an Iban word which means  ”unable to grow rice”. Pitcher plants are uniquely adapted to survive in this infertile environment. The pitchers are in fact leaves, specially adapted to entice, trap, drown and digest insects. The pitchers have a slippery, waxy rim, and chemicals secreted into the liquid in the pitcher reduces surface tension (so insects can’t float). Along with with digestive enzymes, they make an excellent trap for unwary insects. The plant gains nutritional benefits from the digested insects, enabling it to survive in poor soils.

As the trail passes downwards through open country with rattans, pandanus plants, and more pitcher plants, into a creek gully, the vegetation changes. Cross the wooden bridge over a small creek, where lots of mosses, tree ferns and stilt root trees grow in a damp environment. Some large dipterocarp trees loom over the creek. The trail rises again before dipping into an eroded creek bed. From here there’s some steep uphill walking, to a marker noting 1500 m distance from HQ. This is followed shortly by a pondok (shelter) marking a trail junction (now about 50 minutes from leaving the Park HQ).

Here the Main Trail intersects the Ulu Rayu Trail (to the right, marked by orange paint on trees). To the left, the trail leads to the Gunung Serapi summit road – it takes less than 10 minutes to reach the road and a further 20 minutes to follow the road downhill back to the park HQ.

Licuala orbicularis
Licuala orbicularis

The Ulu Rayu Trail is a 2.4-3.5 hour walk across the park to Matang Wildlife Centre. The white-marked trail straight ahead leads downhill to join the Kubah Waterfall Trail (please note that the time marker here says 15 minutes to the Waterfall Trail, not the waterfall itself (about another hour away), and it in fact takes about 20-25minutes to get to the Waterfall Trail junction from here).

If you want to continue the Main Trail, follow it downhill. Here the forest consists of large dipterocarp trees and there are many Licuala orbicularis fan palms in the otherwise open understory.

You’ll cross a planked creek, then continue walking up and down through dipterocarp forest for about ten minutes before you reach a dilapidated A-frame hut in a very damp, leechy jungle setting. The trail continues to the left across a creek and marshy ground spanned by a series of narrow, slippery planks.

 

 

The forest here is particularly dense. Of note are luxuriant tall gingers which line the creek banks, and stocky wild sago palms with thorny stems. There are also several examples of strangling figs (Ficus sp). These are parasitic trees. Fig seeds deposited in bird or squirrel droppings germinate in the host tree’s upper branches. The roots of the fig grow earthwards, thickening and surrounding the host tree, eventually overpowering it. The Iban term for strangling figs is kayu karak (“karak tree”). The word karak is consequently used to describe someone who borrows something but does not return it.

After about 20 minutes from the junction with the Ulu Rayu Trail, you will to meet up with the Kubah Waterfall Trail. To continue to the waterfall, follow the blue marked trail right (a further 35-45minutes).

To return to park HQ, you can backtrack the way you came, or turn left. It’s a steep 5-10 minute walk up a wooden staircase to the Gunung Serapi Summit road, and then 30 minutes of easy downhill walking back along the road to the park HQ.