Latak Waterfall (Main Trail)

Difficulty
2/10
Distance
1 km each way
Scenic value
6/10
Walking Time
20-30 minutes each way
Flora & Fauna
6/10
Trail Markings
red

 

This trail starts from the entrance gate next to the carpark and public toilet. The trail is very obvious. Follow it down over the bridge which spans disturbed forest around the creek, then up a small rise.

Look out for the pale, smooth-barked column of a tapang (Koompassia excelsia) tree trunk, through the scrub on the left hand side of the trail. Tapang has a very hard and heavy wood, and is the third tallest tree species in the world. It is valued by indigenous groups because it is a common site for wild honey bee nests. Tapang wood is used by the Iban in crafting certain important objects, such as beliau (beaters for traditional weaving). Usually, only part of the buttress is used, and the tree is left standing.

The forest here is mixed dipterocarp forest, the predominant forest type in Lambir Hills. The pan-tropical family Dipterocarpaceae, after which this forest was named, includes some 470 species, of which 267 occur in Borneo. These tree species dominate this forest in every sense.  The scientific name comes from the Greek diptero carpus, meaning “two-winged fruit”. In season, you may notice these seeds carpeting the forest floor. The seed of one dipterocarp species, the engkabang (Shorea macrophylla) is particularly large and can be processed to extract an edible oil (one an important export product). Many dipterocarps also produce a fragrant resin, traditionally used for caulking boats and as candles (albeit very smoky ones). However, the most economically important aspect of dipterocarps has been (and continues to be) as a source of timber.

Another tree you will pass in the beginning of the trail (on the left) is a large strangling fig. (Strangling figs may be any of a number of species. This one is a Ficus kerkhovenii). Strangling fig seeds are deposited in the droppings of animals or birds in the upper branches of trees of other species. The seeds germinate up here, and send their roots earthwards. The fig initially uses its host for structural support, but may eventually completely encircle the trunk of the host tree with its strong, taught roots, and literally ”strangle” it to death (although not all strangler figs actually kill their host). Try strumming the thin, fine roots – there may be enough tension in some of these to generate a bass note. Eventually, the dead host tree rots away, leaving an open hollow up the middle of the now free-standing fig tree.

The path descends and continues to the right of a shallow sandy-bottomed stream. A suspension bridge crosses the stream from which lots of fan palms (Licuala spp.) can be seen to the left. Apart from being very ornamental, these palms have a range of traditional uses – for example, the radiating leaf pattern is perfect for making the flat, wide hats that people often wear while working in the field.

Pandanus plants (or screw-pine, Pandanus spp.) can also be seen in this area – the elongated, pleated leaves spiral outwards from the stem. There are many species of pandanus but one which is used throughout South East Asia is Pandanus odoratus; juice extracted from the leaves is bright green and fragrant. It is an essential ingredient in South East Asian cooking – almost all sweets are flavoured with pandan (which give them a sometimes disturbing shade of green). It is South East Asia’s equivalent to vanilla.

Tristania beccarii
Tristania beccarii

After crossing a suspension bridge, you’ll see the first waterfall. It’s a small pour-over to the right of the trail, 10-15 minutes from the start of the walk. Through this area, the trail is wide, with many exposed tree roots. On the right hand side of the trail, the vibrant smooth orange trunk of the Selunsor (Tristania beccarii) tree, resembles Australian gum trees, to which it is related. Look out for the walking palm (Eugeissona minor) in the middle of the path. It is supported by numerous ‘legs’ (aerial roots) which extend downwards from the base of the stem, which may sometimes be as high as 2 metres off the ground.

Eugeissona minor
Eugeissona minor

There are several tracks down to the creek along along here where pondoks (shelters) have been constructed. The creek pans out into wide pools where water erosion has created strange ‘swiss-cheese’ formations in the rock of the creek beds.

As the trail continues, a solid set of concrete steps branches off to the left. This trail leads to the tree tower (a short, steep climb) and beyond that, the Pantu Trail. The tree tower provides a great vantage point for viewing the rainforest canopy, and is a bird watcher’s dream.

The Latak waterfall trail continues past the base of the concrete stairs and over another bridge. This spans the creek just above the small second waterfall. On the left, there’s an area with public amenities (toilet and changing facilities, as well as several shelters with picnic tables). Cross over another small bridge, and continue on to the Latak Waterfall. At the Latak Waterfall, the creek drops vertically some 25m into a deep, wide pool which is suitable for swimming. Sandy beaches and surrounding tables makes the area an attractive picnicking spot. It’s very popular on weekends.

Graceful white selunsor trees dot the left hand rim of the top of the waterfall (these are probably Tristania sumatrana) . There are a lot of wild fruit trees in this area, such as jambu liar (wild water apple, Eugenia schortechinii ), which produces a less palatable version of a popular local tropical fruit, jambu air (water apple). Terap (Artocarpus elasticus), a type of jackfruit tree, can be found on the right hand bank of the pool (looking towards the waterfall). The large smelly fruit are popular with many of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples.

Avoid contact with the tall, solitary tree shading the picnic table and overhanging the pool on the right hand side of the Latak waterfall. This is a binjai tree (Mangifera caesia) – a type of cultivated mango, with lavender blue flowers. Like most trees of the mango family, it produces a highly irritant sap, which can cause a nasty rash several days after contact (mangos are related to poison ivies and poison oaks). Even rain dripping through the leaves above can cause a reaction!


Special Considerations

This walk is very easy and should be doable in any weather conditions – just be careful of slipping in the wet. If you’re planning on climbing the nearby tree tower, bring some binoculars – you’ll be able to see (and not just hear) woodpeckers as well as numerous other varieties of birds.