If you want to explore the last frontier and see the wildlife of Borneo, Kuching, the capital of Sarawak in the South of Borneo, is a great base. You can see orang utans, unique proboscis or silver leaf monkeys or explore Borneo’s culture at the traditional longhouses. And it’s easier to do as an independent traveler than most exotic wildlife destinations, with the national parks easy day trips from Kuching! If nature and wildlife are the experience you seek, Kuching should be high on your list!
Why you should go: If you want to see exotic wildlife, the old saying “no pain, no gain” usually applies: Trips to Africa or Galapagos, seeing Gorillas in Uganda or the unique underwater world around the world’s best reefs is usually expensive and difficult. Borneo has been called the “last frontier” and was home to headhunters not too long ago (they are gone now, don’t worry). It’s still home to many fascinating species, like the orang utan, our close cousins with 97% shared DNA, or the proboscis monkeys and rare dolphins.
Yet it’s much easier and less expensive to explore this exotic wildlife: Flights from major hubs like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur are two hours and less than $100, 5-star hotels are inexpensive and the major national parks can be visited with a public bus or taxi or on a day tour! For less than a family trip to SeaWorld, you can see the real thing! Need more convincing – check out Exotic nature and wildlife adventure made easy – Sarawak, Borneo.
Where to stay: As an independent traveler, I suggest to stay in downtown near the riverfront. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and shops, as well as travel agents who can help with your day trips to explore Sarawak. You’ll also can go for a nice stroll along the riverfront at night – and meet pretty much everybody else who is in Kuching!
Kuching is an inexpensive city and you should splurge – 5-star hotels are often available for around $50/night, offering great value, and I’d consider them the “sweet spot” in Kuching. You can save a few dollars by staying at a 3-star or 2-star hotel – but the experience will vary greatly and returning to a nice hotel with a cool pool after a day in the jungle is a winner. You can find my recommendations in the table below:
|Pullman Kuching||5*||Riverfront||Accor LeClub||Location, Pool, Gym, Spa, Rewards|
|Hilton Kuching||5*||Riverfront||Hilton Honors||Location, Rewards|
|Riverside Majestic||4*||Riverfront||-||Location, Value|
|The Ranee Boutique Suites||3*||Riverfront||-||Location, Style|
|Tune Hotel||2*||Riverfront||-||Location, Value|
What to see & do: The top attraction in Sarawak are the orangutans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Center. Orphaned or injured orangutans are brought here to be raised in safety and released back into the wild. During the transition, they can return to the center for feeding, increasing their chance of survival – and giving visitors front row seats to amazing sights of orangutans in the wild! It’s easy to reach by bus or taxi and the entrance is less than $3!
Bako National Park is slightly more remote and can be reached with a combination of bus and boat. From the Park Headquarters, you can hike through the park and see the proboscis monkeys only found here, as well as silverleaf monkeys, wild boar and sometimes snakes and crocodiles. Spotting animals in the wild is very difficult, so you can increase your chances by hiring a guide.
For a romantic end to the day, you can choose a Kuching Wetland Cruise with a chance to see rare dolphins or less rare fireflies and maybe crocodiles. Or have a cruise without the wildlife and join a sunset cruise through Kuching!
If you want to learn about the history of Sarawak and it’s culture, a day trip to a long house community can offer great insights. People still live in the traditional ways and it’s certainly a very different life style then modern life in Kuching! If you don’t have the time for that, you can get a glimpse at the life at the Sarawak Museum instead!
Where to eat: If you want to try the local taste with the locals, just head to the waterfront in the evening. Many food stalls are offering simple, yet tasty food and they are busy every night! For a slightly more upscale dining experience, you can try James Brooke Bistro & Cafe set back from the river with nice open air seating. For a fun evening out, head to Carpenter Street with its funky bars and food places to hang out.
How to get around: Getting a taxi in Kuching was the true adventure of visiting Borneo, alas with the arrival of ride hail services, it’s a breeze to get around. You can get a grab car from the airport into the city for $3 and around town for less. The grab ride to Semenggoh is around $6 and the public bus is $1. Day tours to Bako National Park or the long house are less than $100 pP and you can get private tours with driver and guide for a little more!
To start planning your own trip to explore wild Borneo, check out my map below by clicking on the box in the right corner and read the detailed articles linked to through out this guide!
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