When I first researched visiting Borneo, I looked at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah and Kuching, Sarawak as the base for my exploration – and ended up going to Sabah first, because it seemed to offer more and to be easier to visit – you can read about it here. While Kuching is not as popular as Kota Kinabalu, it has really won over my heart on this return trip to Borneo. Similar to Sabah, Sarawak has a number of national parks to watch wild life, hike and enjoy the scenery. What makes it special that it is quite easy to access and explore, yet still has few tourist doing so and I didn’t see any large tour groups on my whole visit. That makes it one of the hidden gems that you can visit today without thinking “I wish I’d been here 10 years ago”!
The places that make Sarawak a dream destination for me are the Bako National Park, the Semenggoh Wildlife Center, the Kuching Wetlands Park and Kuching itself, a relaxed little city that makes a perfect base for your travels.
Watching wildlife is a bit of a game of chance, and my visit to Bako National Park stood under a lucky star (well, my mother would say, when angels travel) – after a short boat ride to the Park Headquarters, we started our hike led by a guide – and within the first 30 minutes we saw a rare Proboscis monkey, some silver leaf monkeys with baby and a green snake (SO green, it even looked poisonous!) – all close up and personal! After that experience, the hike across the park and a boat ride to see the amazing sandstone stacks (which alone would be enough to make the trip) were the icing on the cake.
Your chances at Semenggoh of seeing Orang Utan are much higher. It is a wildlife center that takes care of orphaned or wounded Orang Utan’s and organizes two daily feedings. We got lucky here as well and saw 3 of them enjoying their free meal of bananas and coconut a few meters from us! After their meal, they relaxed in the ropes, like a hammok! It is a rare treat to see apes in their natural habitat only a short drive from a major city and you shouldn’t leave Kuching without seeing them!
I like boat rides and I like sunsets. Offering me both in one is an easy sell. Throw in the chance to see some wildlife and I’m all yours! CPH Travel organizes a sunset cruise into the Kuching Wetlands Park. It makes its way along the Santubong and Salak rivers through mangrove forests along the river banks. It’s a scenery straight from the movies, making for a very chilled evening experience. You need some luck to see the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins or crocodiles (we didn’t) and you can also see Proboscis monkeys and birds (we did). The fireflies we saw close to the end were a little good-bye sparkle to this evening trip!
Kuching is one of those cities that I immediately liked – it sits on the river, with a nicely done promenade that becomes the place everybody goes in the evening. You can stroll past food and gift stands, watch families and couples hang out or enjoy a meal with a view. Rows and alleys with old shop houses (and more market stalls) are right behind the waterfront and the city center with a giant, modern mall and a nice park are close by. It makes for easy exploration and a relaxing evening after the tours. One thing you shouldn’t miss is the museum with a great exhibit about longhouses. I didn’t get to visit a longhouse community, but I learned from the museum and a retired couple that lived all their life in a long house community! Now, I will have to come back and visit a long house, it’s on my “list”!