This time I’ve set my eyes on Borneo – Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, Malaysia. Attracting both locals and foreigners alike, this unassuming town has quite a few things to offer! So if you pardon the briefness of this post, I have jotted down a few ideas on what to do in Kuching and how to make the most of it. The most unique, the most Instagrammable – that’s what I am aiming for! Have fun, and equip yourself with useful apps for travel and plenty of water!
Explore the winding streets and don’t miss the famous orangutan murals. And the hipster cafe wave hasn’t missed Kuching either – visit Sukha or TreeSixteen Cafe for some Instagram worthy shots!
Food in Sarawak
Are you looking for a halal breakfast? I’d also recommend trying unique dishes like Manok pansoh, an Iban dish of chicken pieces, lemongrass and tapioca leaves, cooked in a bamboo; Sarawak layer cake that explodes with tons of colours and Latok seaweed that looks like grape or caviar as a snack with your grilled seafood!
While the brave and adventurous can try Sago worms… ewh no comments!
Sarawak Cultural Village
One of the top tourist attractions in Borneo and rated #3 activity to do in Kuching on Tripadvisor, Sarawak Cultural Village is the best place to learn more about the indigenous tribes and their culture. You might have heard of it already as it has become quite famous. And we’ve already written about it in our ‘Top tourist attractions in Borneo‘ post! Totally worth a visit.
It’s one of my favourite 2 museums in Malaysia (the other is Islamic Arts Museum in KL)! Sarawak Museum is dedicated to displaying local indigenous arts and crafts. You can explore a model longhouse of the Dayak tribe and the skull trophies as they practised headhunting.
They believed that “the trophies would bring a good harvest and fertility to the community. However, maintenance of the heads is not to be taken lightly, even to this day, for as long as human skulls are present in a longhouse there are rules and rituals to follow. The heads need regular food offerings and a constant fire lit beneath them. Failure to do so would anger the spirits of the heads, and this only spells bad omens to the inhabitants of the longhouse. Just to be safe, don’t mess with the heads.” (Atlas Obscura). Indeed, just don’t.
Animals in Sarawak
Be ready to get up close with the orangutans during the feeding sessions. Semenggoh Nature Reserve and Matang Wildlife Centre are home to rescued from captivity or orphaned primates that are trained here to survive in the wild. However, you are no longer able to hold baby orangutans in Marang sadly…
Snap pictures of these bulby-nosed monkeys! They live in Bako National Park that is located only 37 km from the city centre and is the easiest reachable National Park. Take an easy 0.8km Paku trail (1h one way) that ends up on the beach and you might be lucky to spot the proboscis monkeys. Note that they are likely to roam around in the early morning or late evening so a stay in the park is recommended!
Drop by the Satang islands, a sanctuary for the endangered turtles and take the time to explore the turtle conservation and hatchery area, and even become an advocate for the movement!
While anyone in their sane mind would be looking out for bats, stop by the Wind Cave close to Bau town for a walk in the dark narrow caves that are full of these nightly creatures. Try turning off your phone flashlight for a sec for an extra kick!
And if you’re continuing your journey to Miri (just a flight away for those who spend more days in Sarawak), Mulu National Park offers an unusual sight – a bat exodus. 2-3 million bats stream out of Deer cave in the evenings to hunt for insects.
When I was a kid, I always loved watching Discovery or Animal Planet channel even if they were showing a series on frogs. Kubah National Park gives you an opportunity to be that explorer and discover the species of frogs at night yourself. While it doesn’t sound like much it does account for an awesome experience. Just check this video:
Time your arrival around 6:30pm before the sunset so that you are able to find a path easily. To get there follow the peak summit paved road for 30mins, until you’ll see a signpost for Frog pond on your left. The frogs get most active during the hour after the sunset so just walk around the pond and look where the sounds are coming from!
If you are lucky, you might even spot the saltwater crocodiles at Bako National Park or Simalajau National Park as their habitat are the mangroves and rivers. And some have spotted cute Irrawaddy dolphins at Santubong and Salak rivers and mangrove forests of Kuching Wetlands National Park. There are a few tours available, though sightings are not guaranteed.
Interested in birdwatching in Borneo? Tour companies organize birdwatching tours from Kuching to some of 22 designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The most popular request is certainly the hornbill, the symbol of the Sarawak state, that can be spotted in Santubong National Park or Mulu National Park.
Also, I’ve seen flying lemurs, snakes and bearded pigs at Bako National Park.
If you haven’t walked in the jungle, you haven’t visited Malaysia, full stop. Both Bako National Park and Kubah National Park are easily accessible from Kuching so take that chance to trek in one of the oldest forests in the world.
If you chose to visit Bako National Park, I’d recommend Telok Pandan Kecil and Telok Pandan Besar trails (doable at one trip) for pretty vistas. Both of the trails end up in beaches; additionally, Telok Pandan Kecil offers a glimpse of the famous Sea Stack rock formation and Telok Pandan Besar – a peaceful view of green cliff tops.
Ready for a splash during a hot day? You’ll find a waterfall in any national park so always bring a towel with you. My favourite, though, is Giam Klimau curtain waterfall close to Miri. A rocky and wide protrusion creates a shelter below where visitors can stand behind the falling water as it cascades down.
Gunung Gading National Park is one of the less explored national parks close to Kuching that is still comfortably reachable from Kuching within 2-hour drive by car. If you are lucky, you might be able to find the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia, which can grow as large as one meter in diameter (!). I’d suggest calling the park headquarters before heading there in order to avoid disappointment – the rangers will tell you if rafflesia was sighted.
If you have a car, make a quick detour for the caves next to Bau town: Fairy cave (pretty for pics!) and Wind cave (for bats and swallows).
While Sarawak is not really known for its beaches, those desperate for some sun and sand set your target at Damai/Permai beach, just a couple of minutes away from the Sarawak Cultural Village.
Memorable sleeps in Sarawak
Iban longhouses are trademark of Borneo lodging options. It will give you raw & honest insight into Iban tribal traditions that still exist on this tropical island.
Ever spent a night in a cave? If you are flying to Miri, head to Mulu National Park for a night in one of the largest caves in the world!
Best places to visit in Sarawak with children
Cat museum, statues & murals around Kuching
Did you know that ‘Kuching’ literally means a cat in the Malay language? And the city is obsessed with cats! Stroll by the statues and murals of cats, visit the Cat Museum or snack at Meow Meow Cat Café. You might also notice that the local college is named I-CATS (the International College of Advanced Technology Sarawak) and the local radio station is Cats FM.
Sama Jaya Nature Reserve
Located in the suburb of Tabuan Jaya, Kuching, this park’s main goal is to promote multiple uses of forests through inspiring more outdoor activities, nature conservation education as well as nature-based tourism among the people. Families can also visit Japanese Garden, Timber and Bamboo Museum, Forest Biology Museum and Ethnobotanical Garden. It’s one of the lesser-known recreational parks in Malaysia but definitely worth a visit!
Boat to Fort Margherita
Visit Fort Margherita, once a powerful fort used to defend the city against pirates. Nowadays, it is known as Sarawak Police Museum, for its exhibits of weapons. It’s a short boat ride away, an adventure for kids by itself.
Did you enjoy these ideas on what to do in Kuching?
All in all, I hope you will have a wonderful and memorable trip! Did I miss something? Let us know! For more info about Muslim-friendly packages to Sarawak, visit our website.