Why you should consider an overnight with a headhunter tribe

We took on our Borneo adventure together with our good friends Caro and Peter from Ghent. It has been a crazy holiday, which we only wanted to do together with them. Lots of fun and new experiences… and it all started in Sarawak county.

While being in Sarawak, the largest state of Malaysia, we couldn’t miss out on visiting the Nanga Sumpa longhouse. It offers a glimpse of the lifestyle of the tribes who have lived for generations in the remote rainforest of Borneo.


Arriving at Nanga Sumpa Lodge


The Nanga Sumpa lodge is the centre where all Borneo Adventure’s tours and activities are located. It’s an area of splendid natural beauty – at the banks of the Delok River. After having arrived at Batang Ai Lake (from Kuching city), it took us about 1/2 hour to get to the lodge by longboat. An experience all on itself. The clear river waters surrounded by forest narrow down as you seem to glide to your destination.

The lodge itself is all you expect and more. It was established in the 80’s together with the people of Nanga Sumpa longhouse and aims at giving the tourist a “village stay”, although it’s separated from the longhouse in which the Iban live.

There’s a common area where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served – the perfect location to indulge the great food with the most stunning views. The lodge offers 3 Forest Rooms, which are very spacious and have the typical Iban-style. It has an en-suite bathroom. There’s a generator supplying electricity for the main lights and fans from 6.30 am to 10.30 pm. Charging other personal electronics is in principle not possible, but if you ask, the friendly Iban operating the lodge will see what they can do as long as it’s manageable.

After a long day of travelling to this heaven-on-earth type of place, we decided to take a swim in the river, just down the lodge. The water was wonderfully refreshing. It didn’t take too long before a few kids from the longhouse joined us in our water-fun. We didn’t really understand one another, but that didn’t matter. Having a good time doesn’t require a common language.

After a delicious dinner, the thunder and lightning created a whole other unique atmosphere. We enjoyed it to the fullest and then called it a night.

Searching for our first Orangutang


Rise and shine early the next day – time for a morning exercise: hiking the jungle trails along the river. Given the early hour, it was still quite misty, bringing a mystic vibe. We had to be pretty silent, in order to be able to spot an orangutan. We really tried to, but didn’t catch one. The closest we came was our guide Lemon smelling some orangutan pee… No worries though, we enjoyed the – sometimes technical – hike to the fullest.

After the workout we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at the lodge. Man, do we love those banana fritters!

A waterfall in the middle of the rainforest


As soon as we got our energy levels back up, it was time to kick it again. We went back into the jungle and then took a longboat to the scenic Enseluai waterfall. We had it all to ourselves, so could fool around and get refreshed. Heaven…

While we couldn’t get enough of the amazing setting, our Iban hosts were starting to prepare a traditional BBQ lunch, which we enjoyed sitting just along the river. Could it get any better than this?

Just after we finished lunch and helped to clean up, the skies were turning darker and it looked like it was going to start to rain again. With the heavy thunder of the night before fresh in our minds, we knew this could get heavy. We had just taken off by longboat when we felt the first drops of rain. And then those few drops of rain turned into pouring rain and thunder. Fun! We stopped for a few minutes at an open spot in the river, as it could get dangerous with trees falling down. But before we knew it, the storm set again and we could continue our journey back.

Visiting the longhouse


Short after we returned to the lodge, it was time to pay a visit to the Iban people living across the river in the longhouse. The infamous headhunting tribe living amongst the orangutans are the original inhabitants of Borneo. Whoever expected to see blood thirsty savages would be disappointed. We were happy to see that they didn’t put on a show. Of course, time has moved on for them as well and with influences of the outside world, their traditional longhouses also got electricity, running water, internet and other modern facilities. They are known as “Guardians of the Rainforest”, taking up their role as guides to tourists, learning them how to make a life in the jungle and retaining their traditional heritage and culture.

The people we met were very friendly and hospitable. We talked to a few of them, who spoke English and played with balloons we brought along for the smaller children. The Iban are famous for their tuak, a sweet rice wine the different families make. It’s typically served during celebrations and festive occasions. After we met some of the inhabitants, we were invited for a drink together with the chief of the village. The wine was really good – nice and sweet – put pretty heavy. After 3 shot drinks, I politely declined another one – otherwise it would get difficult to cross the bridge back to the lodge…

After enjoying the drink, we went outside – walked around the small village and ended up with another great family where we again were offered some strong stuff. The whole time we were there two young girls were following us around. One of them was playing with us in the water the day before. So cute.

When it was time to go, some children – including the cute girl – went together with us and so we got back to the river to play some more. Good times.

Night cap


After our second round of water fun, we had another tasty dinner in the lodge and afterwards we got back to the longhouse – together with 2 other couples. And you guessed it – we couldn’t deny another round of rice wine. Then again, there’re worse things in life. We talked a little while longer with the chief, the guides and our hosts and then turned to bed, moved and impressed with all the amazing experiences of our two days in the jungle.