| Shahminan Ibrahim |
SCATTERED within the vicinity of the Brunei bay and well-known among the locals, there exists several small uninhibited forest-covered islands. Some of these islands are Pulau Baru-Baru, Pulau Berbunut and Pulau Kaingaran, to name just a few. These islands, mostly known to travellers along the Brunei River, are particularly very popular among local fishermen. Another island in this bay, attached to the northern-most tip of Brunei’s second largest district of Temburong, is the uninhibited Selirong Island or the Selirong Forest Recreation Park.
It is one of Brunei’s conservation forests, famous for its elevated concrete walkways cutting through the forest, enabling visitors to walk and enjoy the gorgeous nature.
Precisely 11 kilometres from the end-most-tip of the Serasa beach in Muara and roughly 23 kilometres from the capital city Bandar Seri Begawan, this conservation forest can only be reached by boat. It usually takes 45 minutes by boat from Bandar Seri Begawan along the historical Brunei River.
Home to some of the largest mangroves in the Sultanate, the island is manned by personnel from the Forestry Department and the Police Reserve Unit stationed at the modern post, located at the mouth of one of the many winding rivers. While at this post, visitors can get almost all the information they need about the island.
On the other hand, to anyone planning to visit the island without any tour operator, a permission letter has to be forwarded to the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.
With a size of around 2,566 hectares and covered largely by unspoilt mangrove forest, mainly by the Rhizophora species, the Selirong Conservation Forest is truly one of the most unique forests in Brunei. It has proved to be extremely useful for students, scientists as well as tourists from inside and outside the country.
The mangrove from the Rhizophora species, known to the locals as Bakau Minyak due to its oily-looking bark, with roots providing an oyster habitat and slow water flow, is reputedly to be the largest in the region.
Over here, one can continuously hear the sounds of a species of primates known as the Macaques, chirps of various types of birds and also encounter several species of mangrove snakes. Here visitors are enraptured by the glimpse of the captivating sights while enjoying sounds and smells of the pristine mangrove forest.
While the trees are inhabited by primates, snakes and birds, the deep channels on the other hand, are home to varieties of fish, crabs, shrimps and prawns including cockles (an edible albeit rather small saltwater clam) and also one type of arthropod called barnacles.
It is also quite common to see the amphibious fish of mud skippers (which seems to be rather large than usual), monitor lizards and crabs. To those who are lucky enough, they will be able to spot the arboreal gliding mammals called Colugo, which are found only in Southeast Asia.
Those who are planning to visit the island, should be well prepared and equipped with not only cameras and binoculars, but also, most importantly, with lots of water. Humidity is very high so one will be constantly sweating. Other basic preparations include an insect repellent and shoes or sandals with good grip as the concaved-surface concrete plank wood can be quite slippery.
Walking along the concrete plank bridges, which have platforms with benches and tables all made of concrete, and the observation towers, makes for a unique visit.
Selirong Island is quite an ideal place for birdwatchers – provided they protect themselves well from the mosquitoes.