Travel Features > Budget Travel
Lundu to Telok Melano & Tanjung Datu
Wayne Tarman offers some travel tips on Southwest Sarawak's
coastal strip & the Kampung Teluk Melano Homestay Programme.
The strip of coastline from Lundu to Tanjung Datu is probably
the most beautiful in the whole of Sarawak. You'll find long stretches
of beach, small secluded bays, a few traditional fishing villages,
two national parks and a wildlife sanctuary. But you want find
much information about this area in the popular guidebooks, perhaps
because most travellers come to Sarawak for its culture and national
parks rather than its beaches. Although the beaches in this area
are the best in Sarawak they are not comparable to the backpacker
beach zones found in Thailand and the Philippines. If you come
here looking for beach nirvana you'll be disappointed but if you
want to see a different side of Sarawak then a journey through
Southwest Sarawak is well worth the effort. You can take in a
national park, hitch hike up the coast in a small fishing boat,
stay with a family in a fishing village, and maybe rent a small
boat to check out the small bays and beaches of the coastal tip
of Sarawak, perhaps stopping briefing at Tanjung Datu National
Park along the way.
The Southwest Sarawak coastal strip essentially begins at Lundu.
From Kuching, it takes two hours to reach Lundu, a small upcountry
town bordered by the various mountain peaks of Gunung Gading National
Park, home to the Rafflesia, the world's largest flower. Regular
public buses ply the Kuching-Lundu route. The town has two budget
hotels and some great food stalls serving unbelievably cheap seafood
(e.g. a whole steamed fish, a portion of jungle fern and a veggie
soup for RM 8!). Accommodation is also available at the Park HQ.
(For a more detailed overview of Gunung Gading see In Search of
the Rafflesia, A Rainforest Experience And Mountain Highs also
on the Sarawak Alive website).
Two pleasant beaches - Pandan & Siar - are situated near Lundu
and are accessible by local buses from town. There are some chalets
but these are overpriced so it is better to stay at the Park HQ
and make a side trip to Pandan if you want to spend an afternoon
at the beach. There are a few rarely visited beaches further up
from Pandan. The first of these can be reached from the far end
of Pandan at low tide. The others are reached by following a sandy
trail which begins where the tar road from Lundu to Pandan ends.
The small fishing port of Sematan is situated approximately 30
kilometres away from Lundu. By local bus the journey takes around
30 minutes. When you arrive in Sematan the first thing you should
do is check to see if there is a boat heading up the coast, preferably
to Kampung Teluk Melano, a traditional fishing village that sits
in one of the most beautiful bays in the area. Its possible to
stay with a family at Teluk Melano as the village is involved
in the Sarawak Fishing Village Homestay Programme, a community
based project set up by the Malaysian Fisheries Board and the
village's fishing association. A trip to Teluk Melano is only
possible in the dry season as during the monsoon season from October
to March there are high seas.
During the dry season there are two ways of getting to Teluk Melano.
You can rent a speed boat from the Fisheries Board to take you
to Teluk Melano. This is a good idea if you're in a group of 5
or more. The price is RM 250 return and the boat is a powerful
twin-engined beast that whisks you to the village in around 45
minutes. If you're on a budget, or travelling alone or in a small
group, the best option is to hitch a ride on a local fishing vessel.
Almost everyday during the dry season at least one boat from Teluk
Melanau comes to Sematan, normally arriving around 10 am and leaving
at midday or after lunch. There is no fixed schedule so make your
way to the jetty and ask around. If that fails to bring results
ask around at the bazaar area. Sematan is a tiny place and everyone
knows each other and what they're up to so it shouldn't be too
long before you are pointed in the right direction. The local
fare for the Sematan-Teluk Melano trip is RM 10. Bear in mind
this is the fare for local residents, which normal means friends
or relatives of the boatman. Outsiders are expected to pay a bit
more although there does not seem to be a fixed price yet. RM
15-20 is normally acceptable.
If you've found a boat, you may have to wait around a bit at the
jetty for the boat owner to complete his purchases in town, or
wait until the tide is favourable for the boat journey. If you
have to spend a night in town the Sematan Hotel has rooms for
between RM 20-45. There's not much to do in Sematan although if
you are stuck there you are sure to find someone to chat to or
something to do. For example, there's a long beach that stretches
from Sematan town to Kampung Pueh. Pueh itself is a an attractive
village and can be reached by sealed road form Sematan.
Sematan itself consists of a row or two of shophouses, a jetty
and a very busy timber dock located just outside of the bazaar
area. A collection of food stalls is located near the jetty selling
mostly Malay food. This stall area seems to be the place to be.
Its a hang out for local residents who go there to eat, sip coffee
and watch the world go by.
The jetty area is good for passing away a few hours. There's usually
some kind of activity going on. With the Indonesian Rupiah crashing
to ridiculously low levels, products from Indonesia are cheap
by Malaysian standards. A whole new industry has grown up in Sematan
with all manner of things being imported from West Kalimantan
for onward sale within Malaysia or for re-export. With Indonesia
only a few hours boat ride away, Sematan is the first Sarawakian
berthing point for boats rounding the tip at Tanjung Datu. Indonesian
fishing vessels can invariably be seen unloading both fresh fish
and dried prawns at the jetty whilst and a whole armada of wooden
boats, rusty barges and modern ships can be seen on the coastal
horizon and manoeuvring around the harbour. The majority of these
vessels are used to transport timber from Indonesia to a large
log pond at Sematan. From there the logs are trucked to Kuching
for onward shipment to the rest of the world.
The boat trip from Sematan to Teluk Melano takes 45 minutes or
so in speedboat or about two hours in a traditional fishing boat.
Whilst the speedboat skims the surface with the two outboards
powering you along, the traditional fishing boat chugs along the
coast, rolling up and down to negotiate any swell, with its diesel
engine groaning away with the occasional splutter of diesel fumes.
This is fine if the sea is flat but if the seas start to roll,
as they occasionally do during the dry season, you may wish you've
laid out the cash for the speedboat. Whilst the boatman takes
everything in his stride you may will end up mentally noting the
distance of nearby islets and rocky outcrops, and pondering whether
those hard earned swimming certificates from your school days
will save your butt if the wooden tub goes down in the South China
Teluk Melano is home to around 40 families (200 plus people) who
live in traditional wooden Malay houses scattered around the bay.
Previously the entire community was dependent on fishing for its
livelihood. Nowadays about twenty five percent of households derive
the bulk of their income form fishing whilst the rest have switched
to small-scale farming. 11 families are participants in the Fisheries
Development Authority of Malaysia's homestay programme which allows
visitors to stay with their host family in a traditional Malay
house, eat home-cooked food prepared by their hosts, and take
part in everyday village activities. In addition to soaking up
village life and gaining insights into another culture there's
also plenty to see and do at Teluk Melano.
In addition to the main beach there are number of small isolated
bays and beaches a short distance away. Perhaps the best in the
area is at Tanjung Datu National Park, a 10 minute boat ride from
the village. Although Tanjung Datu is not officially open to the
public for overnight stays it is possible to cruise up the coast
from Teluk Melano and stop off at the park along the way. The
park is one of Sarawak's smallest and essentially consists of
a small strip of beach backed by a protected corridor of rainforest.
Tanjung Datu is an important conservation area as it contains
one of Sarawak's few turtle beaches. There is a small turtle hatchery
at the ranger's post.
A short distance offshore from the park there is a small coral
reef, a rare occurrence in Sarawak's waters. Further offshore
there are a number of artificial reefs which where first established
by the Fisheries Development Authority in 1986. These artificial
reefs were added to create an additional fisheries resource for
the communities in the area and also to prevent commercial fishing
vessels from trawling. Ten years on and the reefs are starting
to take shape with both soft and hard corals clinging to the concrete
spheres and tubes of the original structure, and various marine
life taking sheltering amongst the coral. It is possible to dive
on these reefs and the Fisheries Development Authority can help
to organise diving trips in this area and on small reefs located
to the south of Teluk Melano.
The Teluk Melano area is also good for jungle trekking. Its possible
to trek from the village to Tanjung Datu National Park or even
trek all the way back to Sematan, a full day's walk for most people.
Another option is to head inland along well-worn walking paths
that lead to small farms and vegetable gardens. In addition to
subsistence crops most villagers grow cash crops such as pepper
and rubber. Visitors staying at Teluk Melano are welcome to try
their hand at tapping rubber, harvesting pepper or, if they are
up for it, a full day's work in the fields.
Beyond the farms of Teluk Melano lies the Indonesian province
of West Kalimantan. From the coast it only takes 25 minutes to
walk to the border which is marked by a small wooden arch welcoming
you to Indonesian. Without the arch you would never know that
you are leaving Malaysian and entering Indonesian. The border
here is not an official crossing point. There are no immigration
or customs officials. All official matters are dealt with by three
policeman on the Indonesian side and one policeman at Teluk Melano.
There are a number of villages just across the border and many
of the residents of Teluk Melano have relatives on the Indonesian
side. Community relations are therefore excellent and residents
of these villagers regularly criss-cross the border to visit family
and friends or play a friendly game of soccer or sepak takraw.
Although, crossing the border is fine for local residents, outsiders
are not officially allowed to cross from Malaysian Sarawak to
Indonesian Kalimantan. But this being friendly upcountry Borneo,
it is sometimes possible to get permission to nip over to Indonesia
for an hour or two. From the border it takes 45 minutes to walk
to the Indonesian coastline and the nearest village, perhaps the
most isolated fishing village in the whole of West Kalimantan.
This is a very picturesque and peaceful stretch of coastline made
up of curved sandy bays, rocky coves and white sand beaches dotted
with and small fishing villages. After quick coffee and chat with
the local villagers its time to head back to Sarawak. If you don't
fancy walking, it's possible to hitch a ride back to Teluk Melano
on the back of motorbike. This cross border taxi service costs
RM 5 one way and gets you back to your house at Teluk Melano in
Further information regarding the Kampung Teluk Melano homestay
programme can be obtained from the Kuching office of the Fisheries
Development Authority of Malaysia.
Mr Abg. Ahmad Zulkipli B. Abg Mohd Nerawi
Coordinator "Projek Perintis Homestay."
Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM)
2nd Floor, Bangunan Bank Negara,
Jln Satok, PO Box 2201,
93744 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.