Bario Food Festival or Pesta Nukenan Bario, 2015

Welcome to the Bario Food & Cultural Festival
July 30 to August 1, 2015

Bario is one of the most beautiful places in this part of the world, if not one of the most special places in the world! This tiny settlement in the Kelabit Highlands is nestled in a highland plateau of over 1,000m surrounded by mountains right smack in the centre of Borneo. A little piece of paradise, it is seen both nationally, and internationally, as a very unique place to visit. It is the one place where you can expect to experience the very best of good food, discover unique traditions and meet some of the most hospitable of people you can find anywhere - all this in a magnificent mountainous environment. 

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary

The Bario Food Festival or Pesta Nukenan Bario as it is known locally celebrates not only the culinary tradition but all that is special and unique about the Kelabit Highlands and its people. The Festival has much to offer, from the wonderful local produce skilfully prepared by unassuming local chefs with ingredients not found anywhere else in the world, to taking long walks or trekking tours to the outlying longhouses to experiencing the warmth and hospitality of the unique longhouses, and of course, feasts upon feasts of mouth-watering food.

When the Festival first started 10 years ago, one of the principle objectives was to recover traditional processing methods of indigenous edible plants and safeguard these local plant and animal varieties. It was, and still is an event destined to draw the close knit community even closer. Over the years it has evolved into a festival that celebrates the rich legacy of its traditions and a distinctive way of life.

This year, being the 10th anniversary, the Bario Food Festival organising committee is delighted to expand the festival to encompass even more unique experiences. Visitors will get to experience living and feasting in an actual longhouse around the fireplace and get a taste of what life was like in the olden days.

A rich culinary legacy

The Bario Food Festival is a celebration of one of the world’s most unique culinary culture. While working hard cultivating rice in the verdant rice fields and fertile landscape, the people of the Kelabit Highlands also source rich nutritional food from the jungle eco-system around them. The resulting Kelabit cuisine follows centuries-old traditions of gastronomy and food production.

Long before the slow food movement gained momentum and prominence worldwide, the Kelabit indigenous groups were already practicing the cultivation and gathering of forest produce for sustenance. This has resulted in the communities having a supply of fresh, healthy food over the years. Salt was readily available at salt springs dotted around the Highlands and there was very little need for the community to traverse the mountains to towns and cities for food.

Every stall allocated to each village features something unique to its surroundings. Be it Kelabit salt processed from the salt springs in the mountains or adventurous delicacies such as wriggling plump grubs known as kelatang or river snails known as akeb, the diversity of the cuisine portrayed is short of overwhelming. For other sources of protein, the fast flowing rivers provide a variety of fish and water turtles. Hunting can bring in deer species and of course the much craved for wild boar. Mention must be made of the Bario pineapple which is simply the sweetest found anywhere.

Visitors to the Festival are invited to savour a spread of ethnic food not found anywhere else in the world and it becomes an apt occasion for those looking to expand their culinary lexicon.

A showcase of tradition and more

Pesta Nukenen has evolved since it was first held and it now exudes a carnival like atmosphere complete with traditional dances, music and games. Various forms of entertainment are held and cultural dances are performed by school children while each participating village puts up a show.

Traditional games are held throughout the day such as blowpipe competitions like neput ubih, literally meaning shoot the tapioca, nebpak apo, where a contestant has to jump up and poke a stick through a suspended rattan weaving and a favourite among children, the menad ulung, where they have to climb a slippery bamboo pole to grab goodies strung at the very top.

When night falls, the festivities escalate with dancing and singing by different longhouse communities. Marathon poco-poco (local line dancing) sessions are to be expected and everyone from the old to the very young can take to the floor.

It’s not unusual to see the Highland "cowboys" (complete with Stetsons and boots) put a band together to belt out blues and country and western hits. This is one party worth staying up for.

A remarkable event not to be missed

As an annual event, the Bario Food Festival promises an amazing experience. It is not only the food that makes this festival extraordinary, it’s the people – the gentle highland folk, who put in their best efforts to showcase their wonderful cultural heritage and legendary hospitality. In addition, there is certainly something special about Bario itself. Surrounded by mountains with its cool pristine climate and scattered longhouses and dwellings in the midst of rice fields, the hustle and bustle of city life is noticeably absent.

If you are seeking an authentic, enjoyable, connected and fun-filled experience, then Bario is where you should head to at the end of July this year. Come and enjoy this uplifting celebration of all that is authentic and wonderful in this very special part of rural Sarawak. We would love to welcome you to our little piece of paradise as you arrive as strangers and leave as family. We look forward to sharing in your pleasure as you discover Bario.

An event that helps the local community

As this is a community-run Festival, entire communities in the Kelabit Highlands are lending a hand to bring about awareness of their unique culture and food. The event is an effective fund-raiser to help others in the community and to support other worthy causes. Your participation in the Festival by simply being here is highly appreciated. We also welcome corporate and individual sponsorships of any sort to bring about awareness of this unique Festival as well as to help us make it one of the most unique events to be held in the world.

Travel to Bario

From Miri, which is a resort town in Northern Sarawak, the simplest way to Bario is by air and this will probably be the most exciting flight you may have ever taken. You will have the opportunity to catch a birds-eye-view of the Gunung Mulu National Park and first encounter of the seemingly impenetrable mountainous region.

MASWings operates two to three flights a day employing the 16-seater Twin Otter Planes. It is best that you make your bookings online and secure your seats as soon as possible.

Please call Lila Raja-Hodder at: +60198060710 or email: for further information on how to get to Bario and Roger Maran at: +6013800172 for overland transport.


Bario's various villages are home to many guesthouses and these are relaxing establishments and a nice treat without the 5-star perks. We are going to make things easier for all you visitors who plan to attend the Bario Food Festival. The same procedure applies as your flight bookings. Scott Apoi and Steven Peter will put you in touch with Homestay operators in Bario.

Scott Apoi: +60138406187 or email:

Stephen Peter: +60198849892 or email:


The Bario Food Festival is organized by the Rurum Kelabit Sarawak, the Kaum Ibu and Belia Bario and supported by the Alde Valley Food Adventures UK, the Sarawak Tourism Board and the Sarawak State Government.


For more information go to

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