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Kampung Tellian in Mukah - Home to Pesta Kaul

Adapted from "Tellian - Highway of Rivers Offers Tourists and Exotic Adventure"

Sarawak Tribune Outlook, April 20, 2001

Written by Gabriel Tan

In the village of Tellian in Mukah, Sarawak's Sibu Division, live some of the loveliest people who have fused perfectly with nature's bounty while hard work is made lighter through an age-old trait of assisting one another.


The Melanau community in this kampung has always been a close-knit society. Their closeness is perhaps one of the strongest bonds in the preservation of their traditions and customs. There seems to be no conflict between their culture and the encroachment of all things 'modern'. They have accepted changes for their own wellbeing but flow with other communities in the river of progress and into the modern era.


Although the Melanau make up only 7 per cent of the population of Sarawak, their resilience, inherited from the sea and harsh sago jungle, have produced a crop of well-heeled academics such as medical doctors, engineers, lawyers and other scientists.


The magnetic pull of the Kaul Beach Festival is a fine example of an uninterrupted tradition practised for thousands of years and it draws thousands of people from all over to Mukah. It is the biggest event in Mukah and has prominently featured in the Sarawak calendar of events.

Sago logs are floated along the river to a factory to be processed into starch. - Photo by Zulhazhar Sheblee/The Star

Suntravel Sdn Bhd, a leading tour operator, is the pioneer in organising tour packages to Mukah especially during the Kaul celebration period. Its Managing Director, Datin Teresa Bateman, said that the local tour package is aimed at promoting Sarawak culture and lifestyle.


Guests can opt to stay at a Melanau tall-house, the Lamin Dana, built by the side of the Tellian river. This tall-house was the first one to be constructed in 200 years. It is a magnificent re-production cum a mini museum housing Melanau artifacts and traditional costumes. The traditional Melanau dishes served to the guests at Lamin Dana are as authentic as one could get. A typical breakfast includes a wide spread of local cakes and lots of tabaloi, thin crispy sago crackers, and umai, a marinated rawfish. Umai is made from freshly caught fish from the sea. It is now served in many restaurants. Guests are also treated to linut, made from sago flour, and baked sago pellets.

A flotilla of boats preparing to head out to the river mouth as part of the Seraheng Kakan ritual. — Photo by Chimon Upon

Suntravel Sdn Bhd, which is also handling tour packages internationally, are able to chart out a  fun-filled outing programme for its guests to the Kaul Festival. Guests are treated to Melanau traditional dances and music all staged by Lamin Dana staff. The Mangrove River Safari deep into the jungle to see the felling of a 10-year-old sago palm is also a lifetime experience not to be missed. The boat ride itself on the placid brackish peat soil water enables tourists to cruise near old and new Melanau houses along the banks. A few centuries-old jurunieh or burial poles still stand tall.

The arrival of the seraheng signifies the start of the festivities. — Photo by Mohd Baharruddin Mohamad, Malaysia Aktif


During Pesta Kaul, guests of Suntravel are able to join the flotilla of decorated boats bringing the seraheng or serahieng to the accompaniment of gong music downriver towards the right bank of Kuala Mukah.


There, the seraheng is planted on a chosen spot on the beach followed by certain rituals to wish for a good harvest of fish from the sea and good farming this year. Offerings are placed on the seraheng which is made up of a stack of four gaily decorated baskets. The ceremonial placing of the seraheng is the high-point and most important event in the Kaul. If there is no seraheng there is no Kaul.


An interesting feature in a run up to the annual event is an announcement made seven days before the ceremony. This is to call on the people to make their final preparations of food and other items to be brought to the beach. A second announcement is also made three days prior to the festival.

During the Kaul Beach Festival, a huge tibou swing is constructed on the beach. This is a sturdy rattan rope suspended from a tall tripod frame and backed by a rough ladder. Guests and participants launch themselves in the air on the tibouOn each return swing, more people leap off the ladder to join the ride, as many as half a dozen lads at once may enjoy the sensation of almost-free flight before dropping off again into the soft sand.

A tibou swing. — Photo by

Pesta Kaul is held annually at the beginning of the Melanau calendar, usually in April. Get in touch with us to arrange a trip to experience Pesta Kaul.
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