Wild Side of Sarawak: Feel Alive with National Parks, Adventure Sports & Hidden Gems!

Wild Side of Sarawak: Feel Alive with National Parks, Adventure Sports & Hidden Gems!

Gear up for your wildest adventure yet in the unspoilt forests of Borneo.

The biggest state in Malaysia, Sarawak is the destination of choice for the seasoned nature junkie seeking a more exotic experience. We’ll let you in on a secret: Many of the true gems are hidden away out of your usual Google search, so we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list that could prove handy on your next trip to the East Malaysian state. Read on to find out how you can cuddle right up to Mother Nature with these endless (and superbly scenic!) opportunities in and around Kuching!

Fairy and Wind Caves

An hour’s drive away from the town of Kuching, the Fairy and Wind Caves are show caves located right beside the gold mining settlement of Bau. The two caves are within a few minutes’ drive away from each other, but you could get by with a bit of walking if you’re in the mood for some light cardio on the way. This is a good way to warm up as well, since you’ll be weaving in and out of rocky terrain.

light streaming into fairy cave

Image credit: Thomas Quine

To get into the Fairy Cave, you need to pass through a rather dim and narrow passageway. We’d advise you to bring along a good torch for either cave, really. Go up a flight of wooden stairs and it opens up into a huge three-storey cave, with a huge opening that allows daylight to flood in. Stick to the concrete footpaths — you wouldn’t want to slip on the wet and mossy rock surfaces. The cave is surprisingly green, with ferns popping up from almost every crevice due to the sunlight coming in. Keep an eye out for the rock formation that some have likened to Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, although you do need to look at it from just the right angle for the shadows to work their magic!

tunnel passage in wind cave

Image credit: Sunrise Odyssey

The Wind Cave is a very different caving experience, with no sunlight to save you from claustrophobia this time. Made up of three large tubular passages, the cave is unlit to avoid disturbing the natural fauna. Speaking about wildlife in the Wind Cave, you can expect to catch bats and swifts zooming past you, and the large buzzing wild bees that can be found toiling away. You don’t have to worry about losing your way in this cave, since there are railings on both sides of the path in case you feel like challenging yourself to a bit of independent spelunking. 

Fairy Cave & Wind Cave Nature Reserve
Address: 94000 Bau, Sarawak, Malaysia
Opening hours: 8.00am to 5pm daily (cave entry is only from 8am to 3pm daily)
Entrance fee: RM10 (~SGD3.33) for non-Malaysian adults; free for all others

Note: Fairy Cave is under renovation until July 2020.

Mount Santubong

mount santubong from a distance

Image credit: Dustin Iskandar

Once you are done with the damp and dark caves, you can make your way down to Mount Santubong. Just off the Santubong coastline, the mountain reaches a towering 810 metres off sea level, giving a great view of the deep blue sea. An hour’s drive from Kuching City, the mountain and the surrounding forests were declared a National Park in 2007 and covers a whopping 1,400 hectares. 

For those who love nature, Mount Santubong is perfect for a relatively challenging hike, with four trails available. All the trails lead up to a viewpoint with an absolutely splendid view of the fishing villages below. You can also take short breaks along the way and go for a refreshing dip in any of the numerous brooks and waterfalls that are scattered along the trails.

Read also: Sarawak: The Do-It-All Destination for 5 Types of Travellers

man scaling a rope ladder in the forest

Image credit: Beavittw

Note, though, that you would do well to prepare and train sufficiently for this ascent, as the climb is fraught with steep slopes across rope ladders, and some parts even require you to use tree roots as stepping stones. Obviously, this climb isn’t for beginners, but if you have the time to condition your body for such an adventure, then why not?

Once you make it past all these obstacles and reach the summit, you would be rewarded with scenic views of Kuching City and the South China Sea. Climbing and descending from Mt. Santubong takes, on average, eight hours to complete — so arrive early to avoid being stuck on the mountain before the sun sets. It may sound harrowing, but we promise you the experience is worth it!

Santubong National Park
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm daily
Entrance fee: Free!

Bako National Park

bako national park

Image credit: amrufm

Yet again, Kuching City serves as the ultimate base camp for a nature-oriented expedition. Bako National Park is a 50-minute journey away by car and ferry from the city, and it might just be your best bet to see all kinds of wildlife! The highlight of the national park would definitely have to be spotting the estimated 200 or so wild proboscis monkeys, with their very distinctive bulbous and floppy noses. They can be found all over the park, and your chances of spotting the intriguing primates are much higher around Park HQ, Telok Delima, and Telok Paku. 

sighting of a proboscis monkey in bako national park

Image credit: diego_cue

Offering up a huge diversity of biomes and landscapes packed tightly within a mere 27 square kilometres of land, you can expect to experience steep coastal cliffs, dense rainforests, tropical beaches, and rocky formations. You can pick any of the park’s 18 colour-coded walking trails to suit your preference and ability level, and see everything from the cute slow lorises to the rare pitcher plants.

If you feel that a day isn’t enough to soak in all the nature that Bako has on offer, you can take full advantage of the accommodation and facilities for an overnight stay! Choose between chalets, hostels and camping grounds, and get the chance to experience the jungle at dusk, when it is at its most active.

Bako National Park
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm daily
Entrance fee
Non-Malaysians: RM20 (~SGD6.66) for adults; RM10 (~SGD3.33) for disabled persons; RM7 (~SGD2.33) for children aged 7–18; free for children aged 6 and below
Malaysians: RM10 for adults; RM5 for disabled persons; RM3 for children aged 7–18; free for children aged 6 and below

Diving in Kuching 

exploring a shipwreck during a dive

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

Get a chance to experience history first hand off the coast of Kuching! The sunken wrecks of three Imperial Japanese Navy warships lay in shallow waters, making them easily accessible to even beginner divers. Sunk by Dutch submarines in 1941, the Hiyoshi Maru, Katori Maru, and the Sagiri have since been reclaimed by nature — turning into small ecosystems all of their own. 

Hard corals now cover mechanical parts and schools of snappers dip in and out of their open portholes. Divers can also expect to find relics such as naval artillery shells, huge naval guns, and torpedoes. We don’t recommend touching any of them, though, in their dormant state and you never know what might set them off! Better keep your distance.

Do also exercise respect when dealing with the shipwrecks, as they are chunks of history preserved for generations, and it would be wise to leave everything as you found them.

discovering marine life on a dive

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

Other shipwrecks in the area include two illegal fishing trawlers seized by the Marine Department, which were intentionally sunk as artificial reefs. Bring an underwater camera to capture footage of all the schools of fish that tend to seek refuge within the wrecks, and perhaps even glimpse the colourful nudibranchs that can be found at the bottom.

Wreck Diving off Kuching
Address: Santubong, Sarawak

Irrawaddy Dolphin Spotting

irrawaddy dolphin sighting

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

By now it’s clear that Sarawak is a sanctuary for a wide range of species. Get the chance to spot the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, which can only be found in rivers and shallow coastal waters. Lucky for you, there can be no better place to find some than off the coast of Santubong!

The Santubong Boat Club is a 30-minute drive from Kuching City and it offers 3-hour-long tours along the coast and mangroves. The tour starts from Damai beach, and you can expect to see up close water birds, tiny neon blue fiddler crabs, and huge saltwater crocodiles — all from the safety of your boat, of course! The dolphins are very playful and curious, and are often spotted playing around the small fishing boats in the estuary, including your tour boat. Seeing these aquatic mammals up close is an experience that’s truly hard to top.

The tour will also take you to the local fishing village, allowing you to get a peek of the traditional village culture and lifestyle. Not bad for three hours!

Irrawaddy Dolphin Spotting
Address: Santubong Wetland and Salak River, Santubong, Sarawak

Visit Sarawak Tourism for more information.

Jong’s Crocodile Farm

a crocodile at jong's crocodile farm

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

A fan of scaly reptiles? You can get really close to them, while still behind the safety of metal fencing at Jong’s Crocodile Farm! It is rather accessible from Kuching; just take a leisurely 20-minute drive (currently 1-hour drive, due to temporary road works) from the centre to get to the largest captive crocodile farm and breeding facility in the whole of Malaysia. 

The farm itself is home to over two thousand crocodiles, with several natural breeding ponds for the crocodiles to get comfy. The feeding sessions are also a treat for visitors. You can gaze at them leaping and snapping away at chunks of meat thrown to them.

a crocodile leaping out of the water

Image credit: Thomas Quine

The museum attached to the farm is also quite the attraction, with it showcasing pictures and the actual skull of the largest maneater crocodile ever to be caught in Sarawak. Just a heads up: Some images on display are rather gory (hint: bodies found in the maneater crocs hunted down over the years).

The farm also hosts a variety of other animals, and the most impressive would have to be the huge arapaimas lazily languishing in the huge freshwater pond. You can watch the giant fish being fed while taking a break in the gondola-like stage — a rather zen-like experience perfect for winding down.

Jong’s Crocodile Farm
Address: Siburan, 29 km Kuching-Serian Road, 93250 Kuching
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm daily
Entrance fee:
Non-Sarawakian: RM24 (~SGD7.97) for adults; RM12 (~SGD3.98) for children aged 3 to 12
Sarawakian: RM14 (~SGD4.65) for adults; RM7 (~SGD2.32) for children aged 3 to 12
(prices effective till June 2020)

Turtle Watching in Satang Island

Imagine being right next to a sea turtle on a white, sandy tropical beach. It’s still quite the secret, but you can do all that and more just a short boat ride away from Kuching! Head down to the Sarawak Boat Club and hop on one of their launch boats bound for Satang Island, where you can sunbathe by the gentle lapping of the clear, shallow waters. 

Read also: Sarawak: 8 Insta-worthy Places to Uncover

a group of friends jumping into the waters

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism 

The island also offers opportunities for snorkelling, where one can spot all kinds of marine life. Butterflyfish, parrotfish, snapper, and pufferfish are just a few you can expect to find around the coral reefs. And of course, the island’s famed turtles are the stars of the show.

turtle hatchlings waddling towards the sea

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

You can then head over to the turtle conservation and hatchery area, where you can learn about the beautiful sea creatures and the preservation effort that is going on. In fact, the island is designated as a sanctuary by the Sarawak Government for the hatching of the very rare Hawksbill Turtle. As a bonus, if you come along during the egg-laying season (April to September), you can watch the turtles come inland at dusk — a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure!

Talang Satang National Park
Address: Taman Negara Talang Satang, Sarawak, Malaysia
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm daily
Entrance fee
Non-Malaysians: RM20 (~SGD6.66) for adults; RM10 (~SGD3.33) for disabled persons; RM7 (~SGD2.33) for children aged 7–18; free for children aged 6 and below
Malaysians: RM10 for adults; RM5 for disabled persons; RM3 for children aged 7–18; free for children aged 6 and below

Sarawak Boat Club 
Address: Santubong Bridge, Kampung Rampangi, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Borneo Happy Farm

This attraction is truly one for the whole family, with a petting zoo to boot! Borneo Happy Farm sprawls across 130 acres of land surrounded by tropical greenery, and has everything from tropical rainforest trails to grasslands complete with grazing cows and sheep. You will be given a map of the farm along with your admissions ticket, and you can go about collecting stamps at every attraction to turn your ticket into a memorable souvenir. 

The highlight of the farm is the aptly named Bunnies’ Farm, where you can interact with cute rabbits hopping and nibbling about! Your favorite fluffy long-eared critters are allowed to run free in the bunny pen and are agreeable to being petted and fed by the visitors. Only eight are allowed in at a time though, and there are strict guidelines on how to handle the gentle floofballs!

Duck ponds and a huge freshwater pond for the giant river fish — think arowanas — are also part of the farm, and provide a rare opportunity to get close to so many different kinds of wildlife. The rainforest trail is also your chance to bring the kids for a short hiking experience. At only 660 metres long, it should be just about right for kids aged 12 and above.

For those travelling with their families, the Borneo Happy Farm is a failsafe choice for the entire brood to enjoy! The attractions are suitable for all ages and give a great chance for children to get exposed to the great outdoors.

Borneo Happy Farm
Address: Lot 485, Sungai Moyan No.3, Jalan Pei-Yuan Selatan, Batu Kawa-Bau, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak
Opening hours: 9.30am to 5pm daily, last admission at 4pm
Entrance fee: RM60 (~SGD19.92) for adults, RM40 (~SGD13.28) for children; RM30 (~SGD9.96) for MyKad adults; RM20 (~SGD6.64) for MyKad children

Semenggoh Nature Reserve

an orangutan in semenggoh nature reserve

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

Semenggoh Nature Reserve is a rare chance to get within an arm’s reach of the gentle forest apes, as they provide a feeding programme for the roaming orangutans to come back if they’ve had a bad day foraging for food in the jungle. Once home to a programme to rehabilitate and raise orphaned and rescued young orangutans, the successful graduates now inhabit the surrounding forest reserve, giving hope to the conservation of the endangered species.

an orangutan swinging in the forest

Image credit: Thomas Quine 

Visitors can watch the morning and afternoon feeding times at the Semeggoh Wildlife Centre. The viewing gallery is a great place for aspiring wildlife photographers to snap away at the orangutans that may appear. If they don’t show up during the actual feeding hours though, don’t fret, it’s actually a good sign that they are on their way to full rehabilitation! 

Afterward, you can head down to the Orangutan Gallery to learn more about the primates and visit the crocodile and gibbon enclosures to have a full experience of the wildlife in the area.

Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Address: KM 20, Borneo Highland Road, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm daily
Feeding times: 9am to 10am in the morning; 3pm to 4pm in the afternoon
Entrance fee
Non-Malaysians: RM10 (~SGD3.33) for adults; RM5 (~SGD1.66) for disabled persons; RM5 (~SGD1.66) for children aged 7–18; free for children aged 6 and below
Malaysians: RM5 for adults; RM3 for disabled persons; RM2 for children aged 7–18; free for children aged 6 and below

Start your adventure today

You’re in for one wild ride in Sarawak! Thankfully, Kuching makes for the perfect base to ensure your adventure in the great Borneo outdoors. Need help with squeezing all of our wild ideas into your travel itinerary?

Read also: Sarawak Food Trail: 12 Dishes in Kuching You Must Try!

Head over to Sarawak Tourism’s website or Singapore Visitor Centres in person for more information and inspiration, and let ASIA.org.my do the heavy lifting with their options for tour packages and transportation needs!

Brought to you by Sarawak Tourism Board.

About Author

Hern Tan
Hern Tan

From the sunny streets to the dim red glow of the darkroom, a camera is never far from Hern’s hands. And so, he can be found travelling ever further in pursuit of the perfect scene, the perfect light, the perfect image. Or in bed, all tuckered out.