PESTA BENAK : Dare to surf in Sarawak’s Batang Lupar?
SRI AMAN: Would you dare to be on a surfing board and battle a tidal bore in Sarawak’s Batang Lupar, famed for its crocodile-infested waters?
Dare-devils should look no further then Sri Aman, 170km from Kuching. The tidal bore here, or “benak”, could be a big tourism draw in which it could be known as a fantastic extreme sport.
So far only one man has dared to take up the challenge in battling the benak. He is Frenchman Antony Colas, a hardcore tidal surfer and author of the World Stormrider Guide, a guide book on the best new surfing locations worlwide.
His feat in October last year was reported in a recent edition of Hong Kong-based Action Asia magazine, a respected travel and adventure publication.
“Sri Aman’s tidal bore rates among the best bores in the world. Although not as powerful and destructive as Brazil’s Pororoca or China’s Guanchao, the benak breaks for several hours, reaching 1.52m-high at some stages,” he said in an e-mail interview.
This, he said, made a fairly nice wave for surfers.
Giving the thumbs up to the annual Pesta Benak (Benak Festival) held to promote the Sri Aman’s tidal bore phenomenon, Colas called for a special tourism package that allows tourists to surf on the tidal bore.
This would be similar to what was being done in Brazil and Canada, he added.
“Estuarine crocs can intimidate potential wave-riders but safety issues can be dealt with by using rescue boats and pick-up canoes.”
Inaugurated in 2001, the Benak Festival is one of the major events in Sarawak’s tourism calendar and is celebrated along with water sports, cultural shows and handicraft exhibitions.
This year’s five-day Benak Festival ends tomorrow. The event’s growing popularity has led to all hotels here being fully booked.
The tidal bore usually occurs on the 3rd and 18th days of the Chinese lunar calendar. Boatmen and youths usually try to ride the gigantic waves that lash Sri Aman town’s waterfront.
The tidal bore is a high wave caused by the meeting of two tides or by a tide rushing up the narrow river estuary. Its height depends on the time of the year, weather and phase of the moon.
This phenomenon is known to occur at 66 locations worldwide, three of them in Malaysia, including Sri Aman.
Pesta Benak organising committee public relation officer Zaidi Sarkawi said plans were underway to improve tourism infrastructure in Sri Aman.
This would include a proposed three-star hotel and a walkway along Kampung Hulu and Hilir.
The festival also features a race in which boats would surf the tidal bore and is expected to lure 5,000 tourists to Sri Aman.
Zaidi said Sri Aman had 11 hotels offering 183 rooms. Homestay packages are available, too.
Tourists unable to get hotel rooms could stay at nearby Iban longhouses or Malay villages that take part in the homestay packages, he said. — Bernama
Posted by 4th Man at 13:20