We parents always have a choice. To begin childhood of our kid(s) with Gadgets and Virtual Realty or with Nature and Reality itself.

Last weekend, we took our ten-months old baby boy Kanishk (Appu), on his very first trek to the Teraja waterfall, located at the end of Labi road in the pristine rainforests of Brunei Darussalam. Brunei located on the Borneo island, is blessed with lush-green jungles, stunning waterfalls and rich biodiversity. This outing was chalked-out and well-organized by the lovely members of the Kannada Koota in Brunei.

Forest walks are refreshing, healing and rejuvenating. In Brunei, people often go on jungle hikes, forest treks and boat rides. In Japan, they practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, which means taking in the forest through your senses. Back home in coastal Karnataka, India, I am quite familiar with forest walks in the jungles of Yana, Sirsi, Dandeli to name a few. This region of Western Ghats is a biodiversity hotspot. My husband Rahul, has been an avid hiker and a nature enthusiast. He has gone on innumerable hikes in the forests of Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. Although he cautiously and rightly notes that

there is a very thin line between adventure and foolishness.

Hiking with an infant, moreover, comes with its own set of challenges. It is best to decide otherwise, if the conditions aren’t favorable. However, we were fortunate this time as the sun-kissed weather, protective measures and supportive group members made this little adventure possible.

The key here is Preparation!

We headed from Bandar Seri Begawan to Labi by the tour Bus. En route to Labi, we took a breakfast break at the picturesque beach of Pantai Seri Kenangan, Tutong. This spot is one of its kind in Brunei, with the Tutong River on one side of the land strip and the South China Sea on the other. This beach takes me down the memory lane to Maravanthe beach near Kundapura in Karnataka, India, where the bustling National Highway 66 runs next to this stunning windswept beach and the gorgeous Souparnika River flows on the other side of this Highway giving it a spectacular sight! This also happens to be one of its kind in India.

Here at Pantai Seri Kenangan, Kannada Koota members had brought together a menagerie of mouth-watering, finger-licking assortment of dishes that made a happy fulfilling breakfast and an energizing break.

Well-fed and well-nourished we resumed our journey to Labi. After about an hour drive down Jalan Labi, we arrived at the longhouse venue from where the trek begins. While most group members including young children geared up with the essentials to begin our ~3 Km trek across the rocky streams and thick canopy of trees in the hilly terrain to Wasai Teraja (Teraja Waterfalls), a few elderly members including mum dad decided to stay back and enjoy nature from the gazebos located at the foothills.

Mum Dad chose to stay back at one of the gazebos with other members

Although fully equipped with the essential paraphernalia necessary for this relatively easy terrain, we had to overcome the initially dilemma of embarking on the very first trek with a child dangling on you. We started our walk in to the woods slowly, steadily and cautiously. The sky was clear, the air was cool and the weather was in our favor.

The key here is Pace!

There were few moments of uncertainty where I wanted to return. However, Rahul given his experience, encouraged me to keep moving ahead. In the company of wonderfully supportive group members and precautions in place, we continued to trek one step at a time. Appu was soaking the sunshine and was quite curious of his new surroundings. Surprisingly, he was calm and keen throughout. He did sip more water than usual, given the humidity of the jungle.

Hiking with Appu to the Labi waterfall.

And… Finally, we made it! We were super delighted to have reached our destination. I heaved a huge sigh of relief at the sight of the charming waterfall and the clear pond. All thanks to our little Appu who was unexpectedly co-operative for his ripe old age of ten months!

At the waterfall, Rahul took generous dips in the serene waters along with the others, while Appu felt, for the first time, the natural serene shallow waters with partial dips. He didn’t like the coldness of the water initially but soon warmed up to it and no sooner was smiling, cheering, babbling. After a few customary splashes, we quickly changed & fed him while preparing for the return journey.

Life is a journey they say – taking one step at a time through uneven paths and small streams in the pristine jungle.

It was all worth it! After about an hour at the waterfall, we headed back. This time the steps were brisk, the pace confident and the mood relaxed. An array of scrumptious lunch items were awaiting us at the gazebos! Upon arrival, we quickly freshened up in the restroom facilities and treated ourselves to the yummy dishes all the group members had pooled in. That felt like quite a well-deserved meal!

After food and a gazillion photo sessions, we headed to the Bus. On our way back to Bandar, the enthusiastic group was still high on enthusiasm despite the fatigue. We decided to stop-over at the Taman Rekreasi Hutan Luagan Lalak, a hidden gem in the Labi hills forest reserve, to enjoy it serenity and take some dusk pictures at the scenic wooden staircases and walkways spanning the lake. ‘Luagan’ in Malay means a large non-flowing water body. This freshwater swamp is covered with sedges, ferns and water lilies. People come here for photography, birdwatching, picnicking, strolling or simply meditating. While we explored the captivating beauty of nature here, Appu who was tired from the jungle trek was asleep, but managed a few glimpses now and then.

A panorama of Lake Lalak

That was one memorable experience! We had a great time on this outing with the high-spirited group members creating wonderful memories and milestones.

At the end of the day our hearts were filled with immense gratitude. Thanks to the perfect weather, people and preparation, we were able to create fond memories from the Labi outing.

If we are mindful and respect mother Nature, she always protects us.

This trek is also special to us as it happens to be our baby’s first one of the many many more ones to come. Getting to know and learning from nature is so much better than getting our children glued to gadgets. We look forward to introducing Appu to more such forest walks in future to experience the mesmerizing beauty nature has to offer.

The jungle says,

Take nothing but memories. Leave nothing but footprints.