Visitors to Kuching will find there's not enough time to fit in all there is to see and do on a day out or multi-day excursion. Kuching is a wonderful place to base yourself, being so close to a huge list of attractions, national parks and jungle trails.
Options encompass just about every interest and pastime, from nature-watching and exploring, to experiencing traditional lifestyles through lazy days on the beach, or challenging adventure attractions. Tour operators in Kuching can help you decide on your priorities.
Choose between day trips to the Bako National Park, the Gunung Gading National Park, the Kubah National Park, the Talang Satang National Marine Park and the Tanjung Datu National Park, as well as perhaps penciling in a visit to the Bidayuh Longhouses, the Kuching Wetlands National Park, the Matang Wildlife Centre, the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
Annah Rais Longhouse
For a truly traditional experience, staying in these tribal longhouses, close to Semenggoh, is as good as it gets. Especially impressive is the Annah Rais Longhouse (Rumah Panjang Annah Rais), which is a huge structure with more than 100 doors and modern amenities. Friendly locals, nearby hot springs and optional hunting trips in the jungle complete the picture. Buses to Kota Padawan stop off near the Annah Rais. Further longhouses are based within the Betong Division, next to the town of Betong.
Bako National Park
Set along the sea coast, this national park's main attractions are its beaches and rugged cliffs. Visitors can stay overnight at the Bako National Park and trek into its rainforests, as well as lounging on the pristine beaches. Serving as the oldest park in Sarawak, Bako covers an area of around 27 km² (10 mi²) and boasts 17 official walking trails. The best of these include the Lintang Trail, the Telok Paku Trail and the Telok Delima Trail, the latter two of which are good for spotting wild proboscis monkeys in their natural environment. The best beaches are to be found at Telok Pandan Besar, Telok Pandan Kecil and Telok Sibur. For photo opportunities, seeing the famous Bako Sea Stack is a must.
A small town located around 26 km (16 mi) to the south-west of Kuching, Bau enjoys relatively high visitor numbers, since it is the main access point for two noteworthy cave systems. These limestone caves are typical of those found around Borneo and provide a good alternative to the more impressive caves of Mulu and Niah. The Wind Cave is the nearest to Bau and features three main passageways, being home to a huge colony of native bats. Close by, the Fairy Cave is actually above the ground, in the side of a cliff, and is more like a grotto.
Gunung Gading National Park
Many visitors come to the Gunung Gading National Park each year simply to marvel at the rare and unusual 'Rafflesia' flower, which has a very distinct fragrance, smelling rather like rotting flesh. These enormous flowers are in full bloom between November and January, which is understandably the park's peak season. Outside of this time, the walking trails are still a good reason to come here if you are seeking a quiet day out.
Jong's Crocodile Farm
Set out on the road to Serian, just under 30 km (19 mi) from Kuching, this crocodile farm is just the place for those who are seriously fascinated by these vicious remnants of the planet's dinosaur days. Jong's Crocodile Farm enjoys a jungle-style backdrop of lush foliage and tropical trees, and as well as being home to over 500 breeding crocodiles and ten large ponds, it also features further attractions such as leopard cats, various deer, turtles, fruit bats and snakes, and some very friendly monkeys, who walk around the park freely. It is said that feeding time is the best time to visit.
Kubah National Park
Just a short drive from the city, the Kubah National Park is only 15 km (9 mi) away and covers an area of approximately 22 km² (8.5 mi²). The park comes with a network of shady trails and imposing sandstone hills, which provide stunning views of the surrounding rainforest scenery. As you walk along the official trails you will encounter various attractions, such as waterfalls, viewing points and huge palm trees. Basic accommodation is available here, with the Kubah National Park being well connected by daily buses, operated by Matang Transport.
Matang Wildlife Centre
Just a little further away than the Kubah National Park, the Matang Wildlife Centre was established in Malaysian Borneo to help rehabilitate endangered species, such as orangutans. These animals (frequently orphaned and injured) have often been confiscated for various reasons and many are successfully released into the wild, while others get to live out their lives in semi-wild conditions. The Matang Wildlife Centre is really more of a glorified jungle zoo attraction and features picnicking areas, nature trails, camping sites, water falls and rock pools. As well as orangutans, visitors will be able to see Civet cats, Sambar deer and Sun bears, together with hornbills, sea eagles and other exotics.
Visitors to the Bako National Park can take a boat trip to the offshore island of Pulau Lakei, with its superb white-sand beach and ancient rock paintings. Around the shoreline of the lake are a number of imposing rocks, with a particularly famous rock resembling a lion. Walking trails and a rather beautiful coastline are just some of the highlights.
Located a half-hour's drive from Kuching, this is the city's nearest beach, which is extremely popular with local people. A small section of Damai Beach is free for public use, and the sand crabs will certainly keep you company when you are not in the warm water. Kayaks and parasols are available for hire, but it is worth bearing in mind that the beach can get crowded at weekends.
Sarawak Cultural Village
Sublimely set amongst rainforest at the foot of Mount Santubong (Gunung Santubong), the Sarawak Cultural Village comprises seven authentic ethnic longhouses grouped around a small artificial lake. A 40-minute trip from Kuching, the village hosts regular traditional music and dance performances (including the Melanau funeral pole dance) in its modern theatre. The village also holds regular handicraft exhibitions, as well as playing host to the annual Rainforest World Music Festival each July.
At just over 100 km (62 mi) to the north-west of Kuching, Sematan is a small seaside village with a deserted beach, lined by tropical coconut palm trees. Most visitors arriving in Sematan head straight for the waterfront promenade, which overlooks the South China Sea and leads to some interesting stilt houses, as well as a park dedicated to past Malay fishermen.
Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Founded in 1975 and located approximately a 25-minute drive from Kuching is this working wildlife rehab centre, which deals with wounded, sick and domesticated wildlife, ensuring a successful return to the natural habitat. The Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre covers just under 1,850 acres (750 hectares) and specialises in orangutan rehab, but also helps other declining monkey species, as well as birds and even crocodiles. A permit is required for entry, although this is often not enforced.
Talang Satang National Marine Park
Reachable only by speedboat from Sematan or the Damai Lagoon, and with a Forest Department permit, this marine park's main justification is the conservation of sea turtles. Established in 1999, the Talang Satang National Marine Park comprises two separate islands, the Pulau Satang Besar (Big) and the Pulau Satang Kechil (Small) islands. Snorkelling and scuba diving are allowed here at designated spots. For eco-tourists, a visit to the park is worth the trouble and the trip.
Tanjung Datu National Park
Located on the far westerly side of Sarawak and overlapping with the Kalimantan (Indonesia) border, the Tanjung Datu National Park is an important area of protected rainforest spread over roughly 14 km² (5.5 mi²). The park comes with a variety of draw cards, such as rivers and beaches, where endangered turtles regularly nest. If you are coming here to hike, then the Belian Trail and the Telok Melano Trail are particularly scenic.
Tringgus Tribal Experience
Until relatively recently, the Tringgus were the infamous warrior headhunters of Borneo, nomadic hunter-gatherers who moved around the rainforest according to the seasons. Visitors can join a somewhat sanitised and safer version of their world as part of the Tringgus Tribal Experience, staying in the jungle and experiencing the tribe's fascinating traditions and lifestyle.
Wetlands National Park
Perfect for a day trip, the Kuching Wetlands National Park is just 15 km (9 mi) from the city and is all that remains today of the Sarawak Mangrove Forest Reserve. The park is still quite large, covering some 16,300 acres (6,600 hectares), and is one of the best places in Malaysia to see the Irrawaddy dolphin in its natural habitat. The Wetlands National Park can only be reached by boat and a number of tour operators provide half-day excursions here, often visiting the charming fishing village named Pulau Salak. Most tour operators leave from either Santubong or Damai, and are always happy to arrange hotel transfers where required.