Go back to the days of serene river travel with Semadang Kayak. While most working longboats have switched to the rude noise of the outboard motor, the weekend outdoor warrior is returning to the river on the back of a banana yellow boat. This trip takes you through one of the most beautiful landscapes in Sarawak. The Semadang River, flowing into the upper reaches of Sungei Sarawak Kanan, is still an area of clearwater streams running through lush rainforest, the river revealing carved rock formations on its way down towards town. The kayaks are easily manoeuvred and always travelling in the right direction, so there is all the happiness of a drift downstream without too much of the heft needed to go against the tide. It is ideal for families and friends, the boats so light that they can be driven by a small child. You can opt for the simple river excursion or up your output to include a little more adventure – trekking, caving and even cycling – but all finished off with a good feed and a great feeling of Sarawak’s natural splendour.
JALAN PUNCAK BORNEO
VAN PICK UP AVAILABLE FROM KUCHING
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PERMAI RAINFOREST RESORT
It is hard to know where to place Permai. Budget, mid-range, high-end? It all depends on whether you consider nature the ultimate luxury. The accommodation is best described as charming, creaking a little, leaking a little, but nestled in actual treetops where silvery langurs might hang out by your balcony. The restaurant closes at seven, but it looks straight out over the South China Sea at sunset. The cabins are a trek from the reception, up slightly slimy jungle paths, but there is always a chance of a flying lemur detaching itself from the trees above you and launching into a glide. The water pressure is unpredictable, non-existent at night, but your days can be spent swimming in rock pools and paddle-boarding in sight of Santubong’s great mountain. It is a firm favourite with Kuching folk looking to detach themselves from modern life for the weekend – affordable, accessible and inspirational. So just let go and look for inner peace at Permai.
JALAN SULTAN TENGAH
LIBIKI BAMBOO RESORT
The approach to Libiki Bamboo Resort does not bode well, through cleared agricultural land and car parks in preparation. But press on! Accessed by a shaded bridge, it is fantasy land. On one side is industry and, on the other, pure escape. Once through the gateway, there is a huge plot of bamboo chalets set in beautifully tended gardens with enough space to believe it is your own private estate. This place is ideal for families or small groups of friends, with accommodation ranging from separate rooms to a tiny treehouse lodge to a long longhouse. The food is halal (though there is the obligatory D’Village bar), so everyone can enjoy. There is plenty to do with something of an athletic theme – an unexpected obstacle course and an equally unlikely row of quad bikes. But the nature and quiet are still the stars. Their pride and joy is the Tagang system, the traditional method employed to preserve aquatic life, so multiple fish still swim in the clear, protected waters. A little fish feed in the flow and you can see the little fish splash as you immerse yourself in their surroundings. Life goes on at Libiki Bamboo Resort.
KAMPUNG BIJURAY MONGAG
KOLOYAN RIVER COTTAGE
With movement control orders still in place, everyone is looking to escape the city and discover the domestic tourism delights. Koloyan might be the ideal place. Under an hour from Kuching, it is a world away of rivers and Bidayuh longhouses, lovingly crafted out of local bamboo, barbecues and the joyfully named Sunny Rainbow Jungle Bar. The lady in charge is Evelyn and she is absolutely charming. Get a taste of her pineapple tuak, tart and sweet and on sale for your return to town. The accommodation is simple but entirely serviceable, scrupulously clean and, since you can rent a whole longhouse, socially distanced. It is a place to swim in a crystal-clear river, get together with select groups of friends and remember everything that remains eternal in unpredictable times. Its tagline is: where serenity meets nature. It doesn’t disappoint.
94000 KROKONG, BAU
SEMENGGOH NATURE RESERVE
Almost every visitor to Sarawak has ‘see orang-utan’ on their checklist and Semenggoh seldom disappoints. A short trip from the city on a reasonable road, a miniscule fee, an easy stroll into the middle of the park and voilà, orang-utan! With over thirty at home in the reserve, it is rare that at least one or two won’t make their way down to the feeding platform in response to calls from the rangers. These are rescued or born into the reserve and they know the ropes, literally. It might not be ‘the wild’ exactly, but it provides these great primates with a natural habitat, also accessible for visitors to fulfil their fantasy. They look at us, we look at them, and the exchange is one of the greatest experiences a human being can ever have. Appreciate what it is and you are guaranteed to go home filled with awe at the majesty of these magnificent creatures.
FEEDING TIMES: 9AM TO 10AM AND 3PM TO 4PM
BUSES LEAVE FROM JALAN MOSQUE IN CENTRAL KUCHING
BUT IT’S BETTER TO TAKE A TOUR OR GET A GRAB
BAKO NATIONAL PARK
Bako is simply beautiful. A National Park since 1957, it is Sarawak’s oldest, most diverse and most accessible and every part of a visit pays dividends. The boat ride in leaves from a charming, technicolour kampung, past mangroves and crazy coastal rock formations with a view of magical Mount Santubong thrown in for good measure. Round the spit, a clear white beach comes into view and a low-tide arrival will see travellers wading into shore. From there, the beach rises up into jungle, hemmed into this peninsula by cliffs, creating the enclave that is a wildlife haven. Macaques, bearded pigs and troupes of proboscis monkeys are simply commonplace here. It is nothing short of astonishing. With multiple jungle trails and more flora and fauna than you can imagine, it is worth a longer stay, though the accommodation on offer is reportedly rustic at best. Day trip or extended outing, utterly unmissable.
TRAVEL BY BUS OR MINIVAN FROM OPEN AIR MARKET
TAKE A TOUR OR A TAXI
DBKU ORCHID GARDEN
Just a short trip by perahu tambang (sampan) or a stroll across the new, soaring ‘S’-bridge lies a secret garden. It is a tropical paradise with rows and rows and rows of orchids of every size, shape and colour in every direction. The bromeliads run wild in giant groves, sending out alien blooms to loll over belian stumps at the edge of soothing pools. Wander around the landscaping or take a seat along the way to soak up the display. Whether you are an orchid enthusiast or just idly interested, it is worth the trip. Entry is free so take your tapau, find a tiny corner of the cool house and eat your lunch taking in one of the best views in town.
OPEN EVERYDAY EXCEPT MONDAY
WALK ACROSS BRIDGE IN CITY CENTRE
TAKE A PERAHU TAMBANG (SAMPAN)
NATURE AND NATIONAL PARKS
MARKETS AND SHOPPING
TRIPS AND WALKS
PARKS AND GARDENS
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