The park is part of the Labi Hills Forest Reserve, a pristine and protected site for its nature, plants, and animals. At the centre of this park is Luagan Lalak, an alluvial freshwater swamp filled by rain water. ‘Luagan’ means ‘non-flowing body of water’ in the Malay language. The water is a breeding ground for the Striped snakehead fish, a species valued and eaten by the locals as they believe it is good for healing wounds, healthy skin and joints, and anti-inflammatory benefits. These waters, however, are not safe for swimming or boating, and there are enough signages warning against doing so, as its calm surface occasionally hides a saltwater crocodile or two, moving surreptitiously in search of food in these waters rich with organisms.
You can walk along the banks surrounding the lake and if you’re lucky, you might spot some of the land mammals which are normally shy and elusive but have been seen in this park. The Sunda pangolin, the red langur or red leaf monkey, the colugo or flying lemur and the Horsfield’s tarsier, are all known to inhabit this lush, undisturbed forest. Birdwatchers often descend onto this lake to observe and capture images of the endemic and migratory birds that stopover. It is a quiet, birding world where one can spot such beautiful species as Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Black-and-red Broadbill, Green Broadbill, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Garnet Pitta, Argus Pheasant, Storm Stork, Bornean Bristlehead, Trogons, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Slaty Woodpecker, Crested Fireback, Red-billed Malkoha, Common Kingfisher, Buffy Fish Owl and more. On a fine sunny day, the gazebos provide much-needed shelter from the heat and it won’t be a bad idea to park yourself there in the late afternoon when it is cooler with some snacks and drinks, watch the birds flutter and forage, and just enjoy the peaceful scene while you wait for the sun to set.
Photographers will find Luagan Lalak an intriguing landscape with many moods. In the early morning before sunrise, thick fog rolls in towards the centre of the lake, giving it an ethereal, otherworldly aesthetic. In the drier months, the water recedes drastically – revealing islands of Lepironia sedges or purun, as they are known locally, a prolific reed with multiple uses – and the place looks more like a field with pools of water than a lake. During the wet season, rain fills up the swamp and covers all the vegetation, creating a dark-water lake so still that it mirrors everything above the water. Visiting at different times of the year will give different sceneries. In the darkness of the night, the park has another winning side. As it is located a good distance from populated areas, the wide, open space over the lake and the lack of light is an advantage for stargazing. Between March and September, the Milky Way’s core is visible in the night sky, tempting stargazers with great views of the constellations and fantastic opportunities for starry photographs.