If during your stay in Kuching you haven’t had your fill of wildlife watching after Bako National Park and Semmengoh Wildlife Center, you should add the Kuching Wetlands National Park to your list. The park has mangroves along a network of rivers near the ocean with a chance to see proboscis monkeys, macaques, silver leaf monkeys, crocodiles and the very rare Irrawaddy dolphins. The park is only 15km from Kuching and best reached via a river cruise.
The coast of Sarawak is different from the one in Sabah to the North: It’s more shallow and muddy, allowing the mangroves to grow in the salty waters were rivers and the ocean meet. It makes for a very different ecosystem and wildlife you won’t see elsewhere. You can find the Proboscis monkeys who eat the leaves of the mangroves and therefore are best spotted from the water. You can find crocodiles on the banks of the rivers and sometimes the Irrawaddy dolphins (who don’t really look like dolphins) in the mouth of the rivers.
To see all these watery sights, CPH Travel runs a sunset cruise along the Santubong and Salak rivers that goes for 2-3 hours, with pick up from hotels in Kuching. You board a river boat at the Santubong Boat Club (which is a bit of a misnomer, more a pier with a rickety hut). The captain and crew, as well as the CPH guide know the waters very well and do their best to show you what the park has to offer. They know all the spots and tricks and you have a good chance of seeing something. During our tour we spotted some proboscis monkeys as well as silver leaf monkeys. Because of the tide and weather, we didn’t see any dolphins or crocodiles. On our return trip, I enjoyed seeing the sun set over the river – a very relaxed, mellow way to spend an evening. CPH provides water and a snack of fruit – I’d have preferred a cocktail for the occasion. Just before we got back to the pier, the crew spotted some fire flies for us – and their twinkling lights were a nice good-bye for the evening.
If a sunset cruise in the mangroves isn’t enough to get you going, check with CPH about the chances of seeing wildlife that evening: If the tide is high at departure, you are less likely to see crocodiles and if the weather is rainy and sees are rough, you might not see much of anything. CPH was very good about it – when it was rainy on my first try, they allowed the whole group of us to skip that days boat trip and come back the next day at no charge.