Similajau is a nice place to just chill the fuck out. Yes, there’s a hiking trail, there’s always a hiking trail, but the accommodation is a very short shuffle to the beach where you can watch the sunset for as long as you can stand the sandflies. Fucking sandflies. I hate them. As if sand isn’t miserable enough without throwing biting insects and blood theft into the equation. That’s the only downside to Similajau; the blood loss. It’s the kind of place where you could bathe in DEET and still leave with a shit tonne of new mozzie holes in your flesh.
We spent two nights here. We arrived in the afternoon and spent it checking out the information in the office. It’s not turtle hatching season right now which is a shame, they have a little turtle hatchery there, but they do have a butt-load of other stuff revolving around conservation including a thing put together by Petronas, the Malaysian gas and oil company. You wouldn’t generally associate them with conservation, they have a huge plant clearly visible from the national park, the towers constantly alight, but they’ve invested millions of ringgit in 1500 of these odd looking concrete things with holes in that they’re calling reef balls.
Basically, the waters here have been completely over-fished by massive trawlers and all marine life, including turtles, have suffered. These reef balls trap and tangle nets thus making it prohibitively expensive for them to fish there so they stay away. The balls also act as an artificial reef, growing coral and attracting all manner of sea life. So that’s nice then. Petronas have also funded a room with a load of information boards detailing the flora and fauna in the national park which leads you round to a big screen that plays a video telling you all about the BEACON project, the name given to the reef ball thing.
This walk then, because of course we jumped at the chance to deny our lower bodies any chance at rest. Similajau protects the forest, the ocean and the beaches where turtles lay eggs and the walk takes you through the trees along the coast. We shovelled some breakfast into our chops and registered our intentions to head to the furthest beach, Golden Beach, 10kms away. You’ve got to register and you have to remember to tell them when you’re back so they don’t send out a search party when you’re actually just kicking back on the balcony with a brandy. It’s a really rather pleasant walk too, it’s predominantly flat. As in, actually flat and not Borneo flat where there’s a little bit up and a little bit down. Yes, there’s the occasional incline but for the most part it could legally be defined as flat under EU ruling.
Another wonderful thing is the complete lack of leeches. It measures exactly zero on the leech-o-meter. Possibly because of the salty air, I don’t know, but it’s great being able to wear shorts and not have to tuck trousers into thick socks. That doesn’t mean nothing is out to get your blood, you’ll still need your trusty can of DEET and you’ll need to be reapplying it because you’ll sweat it off in four minutes flat. Shitting hell, it’s humid. Despite it being all lovely and manageable we’d already figured out that no way were we going to make it all the way to Golden Beach and still have enough fluid left in our bodies to function. You need to bring a lot of water for this.
The trail doesn’t deviate too far from the coast, you can hear the ocean as you walk and catch glimpses of it through the trees, and there are little paths veering off the main track to hidden little beaches and coves. A lot of them are covered in rubbish washed up with the tides but that’s kind of standard now. I hardly even notice the piles of water bottles and food wrappers anymore, but the fridge door did raise an eyebrow. I wish I was shitting you but I’m not. There was a fridge door washed up on the beach from fuck knows where.
We made it to Turtle Beach I after clambering through and around several trees which recent storms had upended into the trail. We’d been warned about this, but not in a “you should’t go” kind of way. More of a “let us know where is blocked when you’re back so we can clear it.” This beach is about 6kms from the office and we chilled there for a little bit before heading on to Turtle Beach II, a kilometre further up the trail. I know it’s not the season for it but I did have a little look around for turtle tracks up the beach. There are some pretty badass looking rocks here too, I wish I knew how they were formed, and I think we found the rest of that fridge, but unless you’ve brought a picnic there’s not much to do here.
We’d been warned against swimming here, the beach drops off quite rapidly into deep water, the waves were epic and we’d been told the currents were treacherous. That hadn’t stopped a group of locals playing in the shallows but it was enough to put me off. I do not wish to be a statistic. God dammit it looked inviting though, nothing makes you feel more gross than a combination of DEET, sweat and grime.
There’s plenty of hermit crab bothering to be done, there’s a shit tonne of those buggers. I harboured not so secret desires to see a horseshoe crab, which isn’t actually a crab but a prehistoric looking thing. No joy there. We’d like to have seen a crocodile too, we stopped on every bridge and looked around but we weren’t lucky. Though would it be considered lucky to see a massive crocodile with a penchant for human flesh? I would say so as long as it didn’t have it’s chops wrapped around your face at the time. No one has ever been taken by a saltwater crocodile in Similajau but hey, there’s a first time for everything, and they’re massive. They have the skull of one in the little information section at HQ, its head was as big as my torso.
Heading back we stopped by the viewpoint where you can look out over the vast ocean and back towards HQ and the suspension bridge that links the trail and the office over esturine crocodile infested waters, and if you stare out to sea long enough and you’re a little bit lucky you might, just might, spot a dolphin. We did. I’ve no idea what kind of dolphin it was but we watched as it slowly made its way through the water, only its fin breaking the surface every now and then. That alone was worth the sweaty walk. We left just as a hoard of teenagers showed up. If you’re coming here and like a bit of peace and quiet, try not to time it for a public holiday or a weekend or you might end up being woken up by a church group who like to use sirens and megaphones to motivate their flock at ungodly hours in the morning. Apparently the Lord loves you but not enough to let you sleep.
Similajau National Park, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
Stayed at: Similajau National Park
Useful shit to know…
- It seems there are buses from Niah Junction to Bintulu, the jump off for the national park, every hour or so. It cost RM15 per person.
- There are no buses to Similjau National Park and standard taxi prices are RM60 from the town and RM83 from the airport. You can get it a lot cheaper with Grab.
- If you have’t already arranged your transport back to Bintulu just ask at the park’s customer service desk and they’ll call a taxi for you. You can’t hail a Grab from there.
- As with most Sarawak national parks you can book your accommodation online. We paid RM15 each for a bed in the hostel accommodation but we had the four bed room to ourselves.
- Park entrance fee is RM20 per person.
- There’s a canteen close to the customer service desk. If it’s closed there’s a number you can call or WhatsApp and someone will bring you food.