Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia and is also known as “ The Land Of The Hornbills. ‘ Sarawak has over 28 ethnic communities and is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. This fascinating state has many protected national parks and the world’s largest cave chambers. There are many species of exotic wildlife, flora and fauna endemic to this region. This state is covered by large areas of virgin rainforest and has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
GUNUNG MULU NATIONAL PARK
Gunung Mulu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the star attractions in Sarawak. Mulu Park’s spectacular beauty includes rare geological formations and complex cave networks. The world’s largest cave chambers and largest cave passage are in this park. Deer Cave has the world’s largest cave passage while Clearwater Cave is Asia’s longest cave. The Sarawak Chamber can accommodate 40 Boeing 747 airplanes and is recognized as the world’s largest cave chamber. There are 4 show caves that visitors can visit via wooden walkways and paths, namely Clearwater, Wind, Lang and Deer Cave. Visitors to the Deer Cave can see the unique formation which resembles the profile of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States Of America. There is a 480m rainforest canopy skywalk for the adventurous visitor.
Mulu Park has many vertical cliffs, stunning razor-sharp limestone pinnacles, canyons and wild rivers. It is home to thousands of animal and plant species and attracts many researchers to this area. There are over 20,000 types of animals and over 3,500 species of plants here. The park has one of the most extensive palm species sites in the world and provides protection for many threatened and endemic species. Mulu Park is home to millions of swiftlets and bats, Deer Cave has the largest number of different types of bats in a cave. It also contains one of the world’s largest population of free tailed bats. The bats provide a spectacular sight in the evening when they leave the cave to search for food. Visitors can watch millions of bats from the Bat Observatory.
There are various types of accommodation at the park to suit the visitors’ budget. Allow plenty of time to see the park, advanced booking of tours is advised as tours could be fully booked during peak season. Payment of fees and bookings can be done at the park office. Visitors are not allowed to enter any of the caves or the Mulu Canopy Skywalk without a Park Guide. It is also mandatory to have a Park Guide when travelling on most of the trails in the park, including the Headhunter’s Trail, pinnacles Trail and the Mulu Summit climb.
There is also a café serving local and western dishes and a gallery where T-shirts, woodcraft and postcards are on sale. Adjacent to the dining area of the café is the Mulu Discovery Center where one can get information about the geological and biological history of the park.
To get there
There are daily flights to Mulu Airport from Miri and Kuching, 3 times per week from Kota Kinabalu.
NIAH NATIONAL PARK
Niah, gazetted a National Park in 1975, is one of the most unusual caves in Sarawak and one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. It is recognized as one of the birth places of civilisations in the region, the oldest modern human remains found in Southeast Asia were discovered at Niah. The most important discovery at Niah is a human skull dating back 38,000 years BCE. This park is very popular with historians and researchers because of its’ archaeological importance.
Niah is also home to majestic rainforests, many historical sites and ancient tombs and millions of swiftlets and bats. Besides tourism, the local industries are collecting bird nests and guano. There are 2 main walking trails in the park, the Bukit Kasut Trail and the Madu Trail. Beautiful rainforests, cliff vegetation on limestone slopes with a stunning panorama of the rainforest canopy are some of the things seen on the Bukit Kasut Trail. On the Madu Trail, one can see peat swamp forests with giant Pandanus plants, wild orchids and unusual mushrooms.
The main cave attractions are the Great Cave and the Painted Cave. The Great Cave is about 3.5km from the park’s headquarters. Along the journey to reach the cave using a plank walkway, the visitor can see huge Tapang trees and Pandanus plants and some of the wildlife found here. Unusual insects, colourful butterflies and birds, squirrels, lizards and sometimes flying lizards, hornbills and monkeys.
At over 60m high and 250m wide, the West Mouth of the Great Cave is one of the world’s most stunning cave entrances. The view from the cave mouth with the jagged stalactites overlooking the surrounding jungle is a photographer’s dream come true. Prehistoric men lived in the Great Cave about 40,000 years ago. Many relics have been found here including Paleolithic artefacts and Neolithic paintings. Pottery, ornaments, shell jewellery, axes, ceramic and glass beads are some of the artifacts found here. A passage from the back of the Great Cave leads to the Padang chamber where one can see unusual rock formations in the Burnt Cave. This is made possible by sunlight streaming through large holes in the roof of the cave. On leaving the Great Cave at sunset, the visitor may be able to see one of Niah’s most spectacular sights, the nightly ‘changing of the guard’. Two great black clouds intermingling with half a million bats flying out to search for food and half a million swiftlets returning home to their nests.
THE PAINTED CAVE
The Painted Cave contains the remains of burial sites with the famous Niah paintings on the wall. The paintings portray human-like figures, some animals of the forest as well as longboats carrying the souls of the deceased to the Land of the dead. Also discovered here are boat-shaped coffins ‘death ships’ containing the remains of the deceased with things useful for the afterlife. The contents in the ‘death ships’ have been transferred to the Sarawak Museum, some of these empty ‘death ships’ can be viewed at the cave.
During the months from January to March and August to December, visitors may be able to watch the local people using very high bamboo ladders to collect the birds’ nests. Guano collectors collect the droppings of the bats and swiftlets from the cave floor and sold as fertilizer. Other activities available here are exploring the jungle trails, taking a boat ride or visiting an Iban longhouse.
There are regular bus services from Miri (110km ) and Bintulu (131km) to Batu Niah which is 3km away from the Park’s Headquarters. Chartered taxis can be hired on a daily basis from these bus stations. Tour operators can also arrange guided tours to the park for the tourists. From Batu Niah, it is a 45 minute walk to reach the Park’ Headquarters. The other options are a taxi ride or a motorized longboat to reach your destination.
Accommodation at the park consists of chalets and hostel rooms with hot water and electricity. There is a cafeteria serving local and western food with drinks. At Batu Niah, there are small hotels, coffee shops and restaurants.
Essential things to bring are a powerful torchlight and a pair of good walking shoes. Do bring along a wide brimmed hat to protect yourself from the droppings of the bats and birds.
image credit : museum.sarawak
GUNUNG GADING NATIONAL PARK
The main attraction in Gunung Gading is the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower. This gigantic flower can grow up to one metre in diameter, takes nine months to mature and blooms for 4 to 5 days before dying. When in bloom, the flower gives off a nasty smell which attracts many insects and flies. Due to the short flowering period, the timing to see the Rafflesia is very important. The months of November, December and January are peak periods for blooming but there is no guarantee that the visitor will see a Rafflesia in bloom. It would be advisable to check with the Park’s Headquarters whether any plants are about to bloom or already in bloom to get the best opportunity to see it.
Other places of interest in the park are the nearby beaches of Pandan and Siar. For nature lovers, there is jungle trekking or try walking the Waterfall Trail where one can view a series of 7 waterfalls. For the more adventurous traveller , there is the trek up the Gunung Gading summit which is for serious hikers, it takes about 7 to 8 hours for the round trip. Trekkers must ensure that they have enough drinking water and some snacks for the journey. Due to security and conservation reasons, all visitors are not allowed to remain overnight in the forest, they must return to the Park HQ the same day.
The park is about two hours’ drive from Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak, where there are many tour operators who provide guided tours to Gunung Gading Park. Do call the Park HQ to check when the Rafflesia is in bloom to avoid disappointment. Guided tours and guide trekkers can be booked at the Park HQ.
image credit : yii puan ching
BAKO NATIONAL PARK
Bako Park is about 37km from Kuching and is one of the most popular parks visited by people. It was gazetted in 1957 and is the oldest national park in Sarawak. What makes this park so interesting is that almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo can be seen here. There are 25 distinct species of vegetation from seven complete eco-systems. Bako Park has an abundance of wildlife, a variety of plant species, unique rock formations, secluded beaches, jungle streams and waterfalls. The surrounding rainforest is home to animals like the silvered langurs, leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, plantain squirrels, wild boars, mouesdeer and the rare Proboscis monkeys. Other wildlife seen here are the Borneo bearded pig, otters, monitor lizards and over 150 types of birds. Night creatures include the slow loris, tarsier, palm civet, flying lemur and pangolin.
There are 16 color-coded jungle trails in Bako National Park providing several options for walking or hiking, depending on one’s available time or stamina. The types of accommodation available at the Park are chalets, lodges, hostels or you can choose to go camping.
To get here
The journey to Bako Park consists of 2 stages,first by land and then by boat. From Kuching to Bako Market, the trip takes between 45 minutes to an hour. You can choose to take the bus which runs almost every hour from To get here
Kuching or Bako, bus schedule may change so the traveler need to confirm the schedule when he wants to go. Other options include using the minivan or book with the tour company which provide regular buses which are more reliable. On reaching Bako Market, you need to register, purchase your entrance ticket for the park and also the boat ticket. The boatman will wait for you once he knows of your time of departure. The boat ride takes about 20 minutes to the park.
SARAWAK CULTURAL VILLAGE
This award-winning museum is about 35km from Kuching and situated at the foothills of Mount Santubong. It is also the venue for the world famous Rainforest Music Festival which is held here every year. It is described as a ‘living museum’ as the village and provides a great introduction to the cultures and lifestyles of the local people. It showcases the traditional dwellings of the major ethnic tribes in Sarawak with replicas of longhouses, jungle settlement, Melanau tall-house and other buildings. There are experts who can provide information regarding the cultures and lifestyles of the various ethnic groups. The village is staffed with people from the various ethnic groups performing their traditional activities and wearing their own traditional costumes. Visitors can see many items on display which include musical instruments, cooking utensils and traditional tools used by the ethnic groups. One of the highlights of the visit is the cultural performance held at 11.30am and at 4pm daily in the village theatre. There is also a souvenir shop and restaurant at the village.
To get here
Take the bus shuttle from the Holiday Inn, Kuching which leaves at 9am and 12.30pm and returning at 1.45pm and 5.30pm. The visitor can also hire a taxi or a car to the Sarawak Cultural Village.
image credit: pntay
This 900m long esplanade is the most popular and happening place in Kuching. There are many restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, clothes shops and entertainment centres here. There are tourist attractions and heritage buildings surrounding the waterfront. The sites include the famous cat statue, Square Tower, Sarawak Steamship Building, Main Bazaar and the Chinese History Museum. The Waterfront offers breathtaking views of the Fort Margherita and the Malay villages across the river with beautiful night views when the city comes alive with the lights and the people bustling about.
The Sarawak River Cruise is one of the most popular cruises in this region. The cruise takes you on a journey passing by historical landmarks on the riverbanks while providing a panoramic view of the Kuching skyline. For the adventurous, they can try to get across the Kuching River using a local boat, often used by the local people
There are river cruises to watch the Irrawaddy Dolphins at the Santubong Peninsula, these cruises can be booked through the tour agents. Sightings of these delightful creatures are not guaranteed but the sights of mangrove swamps and views along the river will capture the visitors’ attention.
UPSIDE DOWN HOUSE
This is one of the latest tourist attractions in Kuching, Sarawak and is located in Jalan Borneo. It has been opened since 25th of February 2017. This is one of its kind in Sarawak, providing fun and opportunities for people to take creative photos. Some of the features in the house include a reading room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, office, bedroom and a living room.
Entry fee is RM 15 for adults, RM 10 for children for Malaysian citizens.
Entry fee for foreign visitors is RM 20 per head