Bandar Sri Aman, or previously known as Simanggang, is a town located and serving as the capital of Sri Aman District in the state of Sarawak. It is situated near the Lupar River, at a distance of approximately 3 hours drive away from the state’s capital, Kuching. Sri Aman is the 2nd administrative division in Sarawak. The name Sri Aman means ‘Town of Peace’ in Malay, to commemorate the historical signing of Sri Aman Declaration on 21st October 1973, between the government and communist insurgents. The change of name was enforced through SWK.L.N.42/80 of Part 11 of Sarawak Government Gazette under the title Simanggang (Change of Name) Order 1980.
By road, Sri Aman is connected to other towns and cities via Trans-Borneo Highway. The town is accessible from Sibu and Kuching by bus, a journey that traffic permitting, takes 4.5 hours and 4 hours respectively. Alternatively, you can also take the same mode of transportation from Sarikei, Sibu dan Bintulu. Within the town itself, given its small and compact nature, it is easily to travel around on foot or by taxi. To go further interior however, travel by longboat is a must, of which many tour operators are present to offer their services.
Batang Ai National Park is arguably the biggest draw to the region of Sri Aman. Located within the vicinity of Lubok Antu in the Sri Aman division, it together with Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary of Malaysia and Bentuang-Karimun National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia, forms the largest trans-national protected area for conservation of the local tropical rainforest. It has been gazetted as a protected area since 1991 for several species in endangered status, such as Bornean orangutans, clouded leopard, Bornean gibbons and not forgetting, Sarawak’s state bird, the Rhinoceros Hornbill. Covering an area of almost 10,000 square kilometers, the park boasts incredible diversity of animals and plants within, accessible via five trekking trails of differing difficulties. An experienced ranger’s presence is mandatory at all times, upon which depending on the trail chosen, you may reach sites such as Iban burial grounds, Iban longhouses to spend the night, Batang Ai Hydro Dam or even a late 19th century fortification called Kota Enggam. Truly experiences not to be missed!
More than just a river, Batang Lupar is famous for its tidal bore occurrences. Originating from the river mouth, the tidal bore result in the filling of the river in approximately 10 mins, with wave crests as high as 2-3 metres high. At an estimate, this phenomenon happens only in 47 other locations worldwide, with the one present at Sri Aman being one of a kind for its daily repetitions. A good location to view this would be from the nearby Taman Panorama Benak. If possible, plan your trip to coincide with the annual Benak Festival, of which tidal bore surfing, water sports, longboat paddling competitions will be available for the adrenaline junkies with food and trade fair and tidal bore viewings present as alternatives. Regardless of what your preferences are, there’s something for everyone!
On a nearby hilltop lies a reminder of the White Rajah’s reign over Sarawak in the form of Fort Alice. It was constructed following Rajah Charles Brooke’s victory over the local Iban chieftain, Rentap, in 1864, named after his beloved wife. From its high position and numerous cannons, it was designed to protect the Rajah’s interests, from threats of piracy and head-hunting from upriver. Subsequently, the fort supported trades and strengthened his authority over the immediate vicinity. At one time, the fort acted as a key center of administration for the local government, even to include a prison. A substantial amount of the fort was from ironwood timber relocated from Fort James Brooke located upstream, and after years of neglect, the fort was restored as of April 2015 and now converted into a museum.