Bukit Lambir Summit

This is a long, and sometimes strenuous and challenging day-walk. The length and the fine scenery add up to a very rewarding trek. If you’re still not convinced, remember that food always tastes great at the end of a day like this! It involves some very pleasant ridgeline walking through towering old dipterocarp forest, a few beautiful creek crossings and some tricky scrambling up steep sandstone. The eroded sandstone summit has superb panoramic views out to the South China Sea. There are some stunning waterfalls in the vicinity which are short detours from this main trail.

Difficulty
8/10
Distance
Length 7.3 km one way, 6.3km if using Inoue trail
Scenic value
8/10
Walking Time
One way walking time 3.5 –4.5 hours(using Main, Pantu, Leboh Ridan and Summit trails) excluding time spent at summit and at waterfalls. Plan for an early morning start (preferably before 8:30 am) and allow an entire day.
Flora & Fauna
8/10
Trail Markings
Inoue Trail – Pink
Main Trail – Red
Pantu Trail – White
Lepoh Ridan Trail – Yellow
Summit Trail – Blue & Red
Bukit Lambir Summit
Bukit Lambir Summit

Trail Description

From the Park HQ take the Inoue trail or the combination of Main and Pantu trails to reach the Bukit Pantu junction in the middle of the park (see map). The Inoue Trail is more direct and has less up and down than the combined Main and Pantu Trails, although the latter gives an opportunity to check out the morning bird-life from the tree-tower on the way (if you have the time and energy!).

From the pondok at the Bukit Pantu Junction, follow the Leboh-Ridan Trail (marked by yellow paint on trees) which descends steeply westwards through mixed dipterocarp forest. (It takes about 1 1/4hrs along this trail to reach the junction with the Bukit Lambir Summit Trail.)

After 10 minutes of steep downhill walking, you’ll reach the turn-off (on the left hand side) to the Pantu Waterfall. This side trail is a steep 10 minute descent to a pretty waterfall and small pool.

The Leboh-Ridan trail continues down into the Sungai Letik valley. The Sungai Letik is a small creek which must be crossed by rock-hopping, and you may have to get your feet wet. This point on the creek is just upstream from where it flows over the Pantu Waterfall.

The trek continues a steady ascent through mixed dipterocarp forest and reaches the turn-off to the Old Oil Well after 10 minutes. The brittle, corrugated leaves on the forest floor here are mostly from keruing trees (a generic Malay term for Dipterocarpus sp). The majority of the large trees in this forest belong to the family Dipterocarpaceae; these are valued for timber, resin (called damar, and used for incense and caulking boats), and some produce an edible oil in their nuts (engkabang trees, which produce the illipe nut).

In addition to these towering trees, this type of forest supports a variety of palms – fan palms, pinanga palms and walking palms with ‘legs’ up to 2m in height. Fan palms have been used traditionally for food wrapping, weaving and making hats. Some fan palms also have religious uses – during festivals, leaves are tied together to form brooms which are used for ritual cleansing. Orchids, lianas (climbing vines), and gingers are some of the other plants you may see in this forest.

The Lepoh Ridan trail continues undulating along a ridge and then veers left. The left side of the ridge drops away steeply, providing some good views into the forest canopy below.

dipterocarp-trees
Dipterocarp Trees

Some large meranti trees are growing in this area. Meranti is the Malay name for the most commercially important group of dipterocarp timber trees, which come from the genus Shorea. Meranti are semi-hardwoods. The seeds from these trees have 3 wings, and may be scattered across the forest floor.

Over the next twenty minutes, the trail descends, climbs again, and then drops stepwise, passing more massive dipterocarp trees, into the valley of the Sungai Lepoh. This clear creek is a pleasant resting spot; after crossing the creek the trail ascends steeply through more dipterocarp forest. Eventually the ridge flattens and the forest becomes very open. There is a massive meranti tree located down to the right as the trail curves up and around onto the flank of the ridge. The head of the trail soon joins the Bukit Lambir Summit Trail, about 25 minutes after crossing the Sungai Lepoh.

To the left at the junction is the Bakam Trail and the Tengkorong and Pancur Waterfalls.

The Bukit Lambir Summit Trail continues up the ridge to the right. In patches, the ridge opens up, due to an old landslide, and there are good views on the right hand side towards the escarpment. Growing in this disturbed environment are some impressive aerial pitcher plants (Nepenthes rafflesiana). Pitcher plants are an example of vegetation adapted to depleted soil types – the pitchers are actually special leaves which entice insects. The ‘soup’ in the pitchers that forms as insects drown and are digested supplements the sparsity of nutrients in the soil.

The Bukit Lambir Summit Trail continues up the ridge to the right. In patches, the ridge opens up, due to an old landslide, and there are good views on the right hand side towards the escarpment.

Nepenthes rafflesiana
Nepenthes rafflesiana

Growing in this disturbed environment are some impressive aerial pitcher plants (Nepenthes rafflesiana). Pitcher plants are an example of vegetation adapted to depleted soil types – the pitchers are actually special leaves which entice insects. The ‘soup’ in the pitchers that forms as insects drown and are digested supplements the sparsity of nutrients in the soil.

dingding waterfall
Dngding Waterfall

The trail descends off the ridgeline into valley forest, and twenty minutes from the last junction, there’s a trail branching off to the Dinding Waterfall (100m) – a great place to cool off on the way down.

Further on, the trail crosses a sandy bottomed creek (the Sungai Liam Libau) which is the source of the Dinding Waterfall. The creek contains several large apeng palms (Areca undulatifolia). This palm has an edible shoot, and parts of the leaf have in the past, been used to make blowpipe darts.

After crossing the creek, the trail rises and levels out into more dipterocarp forest. The trail crosses a couple of minor creeks, which drain into the creek bed on the right of the trail.

As the trail meets the creek ahead, note the massive enkabang tree (Shorea macrophylla), just to the left of the trail, and the huge liana wrapped around it. Engkabang were once a commercially important source of edible oil – processed from the seeds (illipe nuts) – and said to be similar to cocoa butter.

The trail turns right, crossing the creek, which splits across a flat rocky bed. Some scrambling may be involved in crossing this area, as several a large treefalls had occurred in the creek bed at the time of writing. From the far side of this area, the trail rises quite steeply. (It takes about 50 minutes to reach the summit from this point.)

As the trail climbs, tall nibong palms (Oncosperma tigillarium) with slim but very spiny trunks can be seen in the valley below the ridge, to the left. There are some wild durian trees (Durio spp.) along here which may produce spiky, grapefruit sized fruit, in season. For those unfamiliar with the durian, cultivated durian fruit is an obsession for many South East Asians, who call it “the King of Fruits”. (Durian defy description, but here goes – it is like pungent garlic-flavoured vanilla ice-cream, with the texture and richness of mushed avocado.)

The trail continues to ascend and the vegetation gradually changes again from mixed dipterocarp to kerangas forest. Kerangas forest (kerengas is an Iban term meaning ‘unable to grow rice’) typically grows in poor sandy soils and on ridges. In contrast to the dipterocarp forest the vegetation is quite scrubby, with dense undergrowth including many young and small trees. The transition between the two forest types is gradual, and may not be immediately apparent. Dipterocarp trees often grow in kerengas forest as well, but the average tree size is smaller.

The trail leads up to a clay escarpment, where there are some large spiky pantu palms (wild sago, Eugeissonia sp), and a few white-barked selunsor trees (Tristania sumatrana) on the left of the trail. The latter look like Australian eucalypts, with their white trunks and peeling bark. The trail skirts around the escarpment, and then there’s a switchback in the trail, with a huge dipterocarp tree (selangan batu – Shorea sp) marking the outside of this bend. More ornamental palms (pinanga sp) and ferns appear along the trail.

The trail continues along this sandy/clay ridge until you reach a narrow ravine climbing steeply up the hillside.

From here, it is a 20 minute climb to reach the Bukit Lambir Summit. Parts of the trek from here are very steep in several places, and some involve some simple climbing. Do not proceed if you have doubts about your ability. The steepest sections have ropes and tree roots to provide support, but the soil can be quite loose and the rocks slippery.

The trail soon crosses a ridgeline, continue straight ahead (follow the sign), shortly after which there is more steep scrambling on an eroded path through kerangas vegetation. The trail emerges out of the forest and skirts around some sandstone boulders. From here, there are some fixed ropes on rock boulders which you can use to haul yourself up to the summit ridge. To the left is a small tin shed in a flat area protected by trees, which previously served a radio relay point. To the right is a large sandstone slab – there are terrific 360-degree views from the top of it.

From the vantage point of the boulder, a long stretch of beach south of Miri can be seen, as can the offshore oil rigs. The view extends 60km north to Kuala Baram (easily identified by the brown plume of topsoil rich-river water flowing into the blue ocean). On the landward side, the National Park boundary is marked by the steep drop in height of the forest canopy, down to the uniform crowns of oil palm trees in massive surrounding plantations. From this viewpoint, amidst the butterflies, swooping swiftlets, pitcher plants and spiky wild sago palms, there’s a pleasant sense of isolation – of being washed up on a lost-world island.

On the return walk, the Dinding Waterfall is a beautiful place to take a break, but keep an eye on the time (the return walk may take 4-5 hrs depending on further breaks).

In case of emergency, you can probably take the Bakam Trail straight down the ridgeline from the Summit Trail, to the main road.


Special Considerations

If you are not comfortable with heights, do not attempt this walk. Heavy rain could make for an unpleasant, potentially dangerous walk, and would defeat the purpose of getting the superb views. The last running water source before the summit is the Liam Libau creek (with the treefall across it). If drinking from creeks here, treat the water.

Always inform the park warden if undertaking this walk – the national park may require you to take a guide. Note also that camping outside of designated areas (eg. at the summit or in the vicinity of watercourses) is not allowed without express permission from the Park Warden.