Blessed with an abundance of sun-kissed beaches caressing stretches of coastline, Brunei Darussalam’s sanday retreats are easily accessible most days of the year, coupled with bright sunshine and an absence of admission fees, they are a popular destination for both locals and visitors.
One of the more popular beaches in the sultanate is situated in the Brunei-Muara district, less than 27km from Bandar Seri Begawan’s town centre. Practically all of the beaches in this peaceful kingdom comprise smooth sand and clear waters, which contributes to their increasing popularity.
Muara Beach has long been know for its long, quiet esplanade that beckons all to enjoy leisurely strolls. Amenities at the locale include a well-equipped picnic area, children’s playground, restroom facilities and the weekend food and beverage stalls.
Serasa Beach, recognized by most in the modern day Brunei as a magnet for water sport enthusiasts, is a mere 10-minute drive from Muara, and is a beach where people indulge in jet-skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, regatta sailing, power boat racing, aqua-sports training and waterskiing. All this is made possible by the comprehensive facilities offered by the Serasa Water Sports Complex.
Scuba Diving in Brunei can be considered a relatively new activity for locals and a very much unknown occurrence to foreigners and enthusiasts abroad. Brunei has some 4,500 hectares of coral reef, with a very colourful array of tropical fishes, soft and hard corals, anemones and seafans crowding the reefs.
In Brunei waters, divers can partake in their passion by diving for reefs, for wrecks, and at disused oil-rig platforms.
The best time to dive is between the months of March and October, twhen the lighter Southwest monsoon (Brunei’s dry season) results in calmer winds. In addition, the condition of dive sites is extremely good due to low volume of diver traffic in areas of interest.
Some of the major wrecks of interest to divers in Brunei waters include the Blue Water Wreck. According to divers, it is the best wreck location due to ery good visibility, and its contribution to the local’es name. The wreck in question is a Philippine trawler, the Mabini Padre, which snak in 1981 after a fire broke out onboard the vessel. The marin life around the immediate area is abundant as it is far offshore and less disturbed than other wrecks. Experienced divers may find a long list of marine species: lion fish, barracudas, white-tip sharks, trevallies, jacks, mackerels and tunas – all of which are just some of the many who call this place home.
Other wrecks include the Bolkiah and many unidentified World War 2 wrecks. According to the Panaga Divers, the other shipwrecks are speculated to be the Toho Maru (1944), Pacific Boxer (1982), Petani Mistral (1995), Southern Glory (1993), Atago Maru (1944), Seng Ling II (1958) and a BLNG sand barge (1970).
With dive locations in and around the sultanate under continuous development, it is quite clear that there will be many more areas available to diving enthusiasts in the future.
Local travel agents offer half-day boat tours (one hour in duration) to Pulau Selirong, a 2,200-hectare island that is covered with a rich variety of plants that come in all sorts and sizes, including mangrove trees whose trunks are reputedly bigger than any found in neighbouring countries. The facilities on the island include two kilometers of broadwalks, four berths, several platforms for visitors to attend briefings, huts and observation towers.
Brunei’s largest lake, Tasek Merimbun, is in a hill resort in the Tutong district just over an hour’s drive from Bandar Seri Begawan. It offers peaceful picnicking, bird-watching facilities and jungle trails that meander through unspoilt areas only accessible from other districts by boat.
Temburong district is home to largt tracts of virgin rainforest and traditional longhouses, and many travel agents offer day or overnight tours to the Ulu Temburong National Park. Equipped with forest canopy trails on wooden walkways, visitors are invited to truly appreciate the beauty of a tropical rainforest as they travel through swathes of jungle at tree-top level. In addition, activities like rafting and swimming are available in the area.
Many traditional longhouses – including rampoyah – can be found in the Belait district near Kampung Labi. River safaris up the Belait River offer opportunities to visit remote forest communities, longhouses, hot springs, waterfalls, and if visitors are lucky, they may even catch a glimpse of Borneo’s unique proboscis monkey, a primate equipped with a larger-than-usual nose. Recreational parks in the Belait district include Luangan Lalak, a picnic area with woodedn walkways and a sparkling lake.
Swimming, sailing, jet skiing, skydiving and fishing are popular activities in Brunei, especially around Brunei Bay and its islands where yachting, water-skiing and wake boarding courses are available.
Many traditional sporting activities available include Gasing – a game involving highly polished giant tops – and kite-flying. Most hotels will have more details of the activities on offer.
Golfing is a popular sport in Brunei and the sultanate has some of the best championship-quality golf courses. Beautifully manicured lawns in the midst of stunning natural landscape are bound to enhance your golfing experience here.
The Empire Gold & Country Club
Designed by Jack Nicklaus, one of the world’s golfing legends, this 18-hole floodlit championship course is often referred to as one of Asia’s best. Its breathtaking location overlooking the South China Sea guarantees a refreshing experience for golfers.
The Empire Golf & Country Club has hosted the Brunei Open, Asian Tour and the Aberdeen Golf Masters championships, as well as other prestigious golfing events.
The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Kampung Jerudong, Tel: (673) 241 8888
Royal Brunei Golf & Country Club
This club caters to the most exclusive golf enthusiasts, and offering a challenging experience, is considered one of the best in the world. Designed by renowned American landscape architect Ronal Fream, the course is consistently maintained to the high standards set by the USA PGA. The par 72, 18-hole championship course covers 6,175 metres.
Jerudong Park, Kampung Jerudong, Tel: (673)261 1582
Pantain Mentiri Gold Club
About a 15-,inute drive from the city centre, this golf course features many water hazards and offers scenic views of the Brunei Bay. The straightforward 6,105-metre par 72 course challenges the golfer’s ability to avoid water hazards.
Jalan Kota Batu, Bandar Seri Begawan, Tel: (673)279 1021
Royal Brunei Airline Golf Club
Located next to the Brunei International Airport, the Royal Brunei Airline Golf Club is spread along the west runway of the airport. This 18-hole public holf course is characterized by its generally flat layout with manmade lakes dotting the area, adding to its beauty.
Brunei International Airport, Kampung Berakas, Tel: (673)234 3724
Generally, food served in Brunei is halal as most of the population is made up of the Muslim community. A halal logo or brand must be displayed at all restaurant outlets serving halal food.
This area is located just a short distance away from the heart of Gadong. Here, one can experience the flavours of Brunei through its local street market, serving great food at unbelievably cheap prices.
From the freshest of grilled fish to chicken, meats, or even barbequed sausages, the Pasar Malam also offers local Bruneian “kueh”, namely biscuits and fried savoury delights such as pulut panggang, kueh cincin, penyaram, tapai, kueh Malaya as well as pais, all of which are available at many of the stalls.
Most of the foods and drinks on offer here sell for as low as one dollar.
Other popular street markets are Tamu Selera, Tamu Tutong, Pasar Borong Kilanas, Tamu Bangar and Tamu Kuala Belait.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Year Book