Only 45 minutes from Miri, Lambir Hills has possibly the richest rainforest in the world, and the trees are gargantuan. Trails range from an easy family walk to a picnic area next to a pretty waterfall, through to tough full day hikes up to peaks with spectacular views. A tree-tower offers a unique way to experience life in the canopy.
The mixed dipterocarp rainforest in Lambir Hills National Park contains the greatest biodiversity in tree species of any Malaysian National Park, and is possibly the richest forest anywhere in the world. Many of the trees are huge, magnificent giants that dwarf the trekker.
Lambir Hills is located 30km southwest of Miri, Sarawak ‘s largest northern town, and its irregular sandstone escarpments appear like rugged vertebrae when glimpsed from Miri ‘s viewpoints on clear days. Trekking the rainforest-cloaked ridges beneath this backbone gives you an opportunity to experience mixed dipterocarp rainforest in its enormity, variety and primordial beauty. The park also has a number of picturesque clear creeks and waterfalls, in which hot trekkers can cool off.
Lambir Hills National Park has a wide range of trails, described within the park brochure as primary (linking trails) or secondary (off-shoots to particular destinations). For the purposes of this website, we have taken three destinations, which could appeal to a range of ages and walking abilities, and have described the trails that can be used to reach them. We have also described some trails to additional attractions within the vicinity of these three main walks; these are detours but should be manageable within the same trip (if you have the energy). Alternatively, they can be visited separately.
These three main destinations are as follows (click on the name to take you to the full trail description):
Latak Waterfall (Main Trail)
This short, easy trail is very attractive, and provides an excellent introduction to the richness and diversity of mixed dipterocarp forest. The trail follows the Sungai Latak (Latak creek). There are three waterfalls along the trail. The third, Latak Waterfall, is the highest and most spectacular, and the pool at its base is a great swimming spot. There are picnic tables, change rooms and toilets nearby.
Bukit Pantu View Point
This medium length (1/2 day) walk will take you through some magnificent mixed dipterocarp forest composed of massive trees, up to a rugged sandstone escarpment. From Bukit Pantu on a clear day, there are good views to the south-east and this a great point for viewing the multi-layered canopy of the dipterocarp forest below. Making a detour to the Pantu Waterfall is a good way to cool off and relax after a hot walk. The Inoue Trail provides a more direct route back to the park HQ.
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 better 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 escarpment of the summit offers superb panoramic views out to the South China Sea. There are some stunning waterfalls which are short detours from this main trail.
Lambir Hills was gazetted as National Park in 1975 and covers an area of 6,952 hectares, much of which is still primary lowland rainforest.
The Park’s area ‘s botanical richness has attracted a lot of international scientific research. The accessibility of the Park and its many other attractions (picnicking, swimming, bird-watching and trekking) have also made it a favourite destination for local people. In fact, Lambir Hills is the most visited National Park in Sarawak, and is a frequent site for local school visits and community education programs.
Unfortunately, the National Park ‘s small size and accessibility means that sightings of larger animals within the park are not common. However, a wide variety of bird species, squirrels, frogs and insects can easily be seen if you look and listen. Without question, the main attraction is the trees – in this relatively small area you can still appreciate the grandeur of one of the richest forests remaining in the world.
Local people tell a legend of seven fairy princesses who resided around the Latak waterfalls, and these spirits enticed young men to bathe in the pools. Anecdotally, seven young men have drowned in the pools, providing weight to local belief in the legend. Fortunately, because the seven princesses are now believed to be paired-off, the area is now considered safe again for single young men.
Lambir Hills was used as a vantage point by the Japanese when they occupied Borneo during World War II. Miri, with its rich oil resources, was the first place seized by the Japanese during their invasion of Borneo. The old oil well in the middle of the park was used by them during that period. After the liberation of Borneo, Lambir Hills became a hideout for resisting Japanese troops. Along certain trails, there are trenches in the ground, some of which are said to persist from this time.
The Japanese connection with Lambir Hills remains today, but now in a much more positive context. The Japanese and Sarawak Governments have established a 360m long canopy walkway, which is being used in cooperative research to study the impact of El Nino on rainforest, as well as researching plant/animal interactions at the canopy level.
In addition, ongoing long-term research into tropical trees is being jointly conducted by the Smithsonian Centre for Tropical Forest Science, the Japanese Government and the Sarawak Forest Research Centre. This project was established more than 10 years ago and covers a 52 hectare forest plot within the Park. Within this plot, all trees above a certain size (over 500,000 trees in total!) are identified and measured every 5 years. More than 1,100 different tree species have been identified in this area!
For more background information on Lambir Hills National Park, check out:
- National Parks of Sarawak, by Hans Hazebroek and Abang Kashim bin Abang Morshidi.