Legend of the cursed boat in Sebauh

By Patricia Hului
[email protected]


Natok Kon Sebauh,  referred to as the floating temple by some.

Sebauh is a small town located 30km from Bintulu.

The night before I headed to Sebauh during my recent Borneo Post Adventure Team (BAT6) trip, I asked my family what they knew about the floating temple at Kemena river.

Soon enough, they told me about the legend of the cursed ‘tongkang’ or a wooden boat which turned into an island.

In their version of the legend, the crew on a boat cruising down Sebauh river saw a funny-looking cat at the riverbank and began making fun of it.

Their actions infuriated some higher power. As the thunder started to roar and the sky turned grey, suddenly an island appeared in the middle of the Kemena river.

It was believed that the boat -and its occupants – had been cursed and turned into an island and a temple was later built on it.

“Some say the island floats on the river because no matter how overflowed the river becomes during rainy season, the island never becomes flooded,” my elder brother told me.

“Some more, people claim the island apparently keeps on changing its position as if it was really floating.”

He then suggested, “You have your diving license right? Why don’t you dive down under the temple to see if it really is floating?”

It’s too bad I didnt have the time to take my brother’s suggestion to dive into the Kemena river.

When BAT6 arrived in Sebauh, the town’s friendly residents were all ready to tell visitors about the floating temple.


Geoffrey Nyandang

Geoffrey Nyandang, a retired teacher I met in one of the coffeeshops, shared his version: “There were three Malay sailors anchored here after few days of sailing.”

The cook onboard made ‘linut’ or sago porridge for them.

The sailors played with their food, stirring it on each other’s heads.

As they were laughing making fun of each other, suddenly the sky turned dark and it began to hail stones.

Whatever the stones hit turned to stone, including the sailors.


The floating temple from a distance.

Eventually, the whole boat turned into a huge stone sitting right in the middle of Kuala Sebauh, obstructing other boats from entering Sebauh.

A shaman was called to place a charm on it to move it to its current location.

Apparently, there are many versions on how the island came to exist in the middle of the Kemena river. But they all start from a cursed boat.

Perhaps the legend was attributed to the ship-like island which the Natok Kon temple sits upon.


Paying RM2 will get you across the river from Sebauh town to the temple.

It is a simple temple where five figurines of deities sit majestically at the temple altar.

There are also a couple of dragon statues around the temple where some people have placed their money in offering.

If only these statues could talk, I would want to hear their side of the legend.


How the temple looks like inside.



A dragon statue with offering money on it.



Ferry passing the temple.



Basic amenity such as a toilet is available on the small island.


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