If you are planning to visit Sarawak, you will be in for a treat. This is because the East Malaysian state has everything you are looking for in an ideal travel destination. From the world’s oldest caves to the beautiful island under the sun, you can find it all in Sarawak.
Natural wonders and national parks
Sarawak has the largest land area among all the states in Malaysia. Besides housing some of the oldest rainforests which are well-preserved, you get to enjoy a lot of sun, sea and sand as well. Among the top attractions here are:
Loagan Bunut National Park
The Loagan Bunut National Park is located within the Miri city of Sarawak. It sits on a large 10,736 hectare land which was gazette on January 1990 and was operational to the public a year later. Located towards the upper reaches of Bunut River, this is where one would be able to find the largest natural lake in Sarawak. The unique feature of this lake named ‘Logan Bunut’ by the Berawan people here is that the water level is totally dependent on that of Bunut River, Tinjar River and Baram Rivers respectively. At a time when the water levels of these rivers rise, the water level at Logan Bunut will follow suit. Around the months of February, May or June is when the water levels are at its lowest.
Here is where one would be able to visit nature at its best as you can practically walk around the dry mud areas here while enjoying the scenic and natural landscape regardless of the water levels of the rivers and the lake. For those who are interested in the traditional fishing methods here, you can experience what the locals call the ‘Selambau’ where fishes are ‘retained’ by the Berawan people especially during the low water level seasons. Apart from that, one can also enjoy the flora and fauna here while there are hundreds of bird species as well as animals like the argus pheasant, the black barded langur and many more.
To get here, you will have to come from Miri town where travel agencies will arrange 4WD to get here through the 130km journey.
The Bintulu Promenade is one of the latest tourist attraction enacted in the Bintulu town of Sarawak. This would be the longest waterfront in Sarawak which is built on a 120 acre land which is very much similar to the Kuching Promenade. Basically, it is a commercial and recreational park that offer a wide range of facilities and attractions for the business and leisure traveler. Whether you are here for holiday or on business, a walk along the waterfront will be as relaxing and therapeutic as it can be.
The Promenade is perhaps the best place to go if you want to watch the awesome sunset while enjoying the sea breeze here. Developed by Sarawak’s own Sarawak Land (Kemena Park) Sdn Bhd, the Bintulu Promenade is located around the river mouth of Kemena River. Here is where one will be able to enjoy and use the public amenities and facilities like its jogging track, the cycling trails and many more. As the Bintulu Promenade is still a very new place, more amenities are still being developed which will see a retail complex, a hotel and residential units will be added in due time. Apart from that, one can also experience a unique sight where swans are seen flying across the Kemena River.
The Kelabit Highlands is home to the Kelabit people, one of the indigenous people of Sarawak. It is naturally a vast highland plateau located within the interior of the state. Located over 1,000 meters above sea level, this is where one could visit to enjoy the natural offerings of Sarawak at its best. Here is where you will be able to enjoy the cool weather of the highlands which can be very chilly during the nights. The people here are known as the Kelabits where most of them are Christians. However, there are also other communities here like the Penang, Lun Bawang where collectively they are all known as ‘Orang Ulu’.
The main town of the highlands is Bario which is where you will fly in to from Miri. Flying in would be the best way to come here through MASWings Twin-Otter planes which comes in to Bario or Ba Kelalan air strips. There are 2 daily flights to and from Miri except on Mondays where they only operate 1 flight at RM70 one way. Here is where you will be able to spend the night on the homestays available here while enjoying the natural and local lifestyle of the community. Most places do not have electricity as they depend on generators during the night. Jungle trekking is one of the common favourites here while there are also occasional performances and events held by the people here.
Belaga, Sungai Rejang
The town of Belaga is located along the Rejang River in Sarawak. Here is where one would be able to explore the many longhouses which is common among the indigenous groups of the state. To experience the local lifestyle and practices of the people here, there are many tour guides around the town of Belaga who will be able to offer you with a holistic option. Getting into Belaga would require you to have a permit from Kapit. This is easily available which you must obtain prior to getting here.
However, if you are coming in from Bintulu on the road, you will not need to use a permit. From Kapit, you can get here by boat which leaves on 9am every day. The trip will take around 5 hours and will cost RM30. This is where your natural experience starts as you will go through some very scenic locations. From Bintulu, 4×4 services are available to get you here but it would be long and gruelling journey. In Belaga, you can pretty much see the whole town in half an hour but as mentioned, you must engage the local guides to see the longhouses where you will be able to experience all the local practices like their culture and practices.
Bako National Park
The Bako National Park is one of the many national parks located in the naturally rich East Malaysian state of Sarawak. This is where one would be able to enjoy the rich vegetation and the thick forest which are abundantly found in the state which is also the natural habitat of the obscene-nosed proboscis monkey.
The park is relatively small as compared to other parks around the state but it does not come any less interesting because this is where you will be able to find the naturally awesome rainforests as well as some very beautiful beaches.
If you like you can stay overnight at the park where there are lodges available. On top of that for those of you who like to trek, there are 16 color-coded jungle trails on the oldest national park in Sarawak. Generally, the park is made up of a complete range of natural attractions that include cliffs, hills, jungle as well as sandy beaches. It is also renowned for the bearded boar on top of the 150 proboscis monkeys here. Lizards too are aplenty here with the monitor lizard being the largest where they could be up to 2 meters long. It is also known to house almost every type of vegetation in the state.
Jalan Satok Sunday Market
Every tourist knows that to learn and know all about the local produce of a certain place, one must visit the local market. Hence if you are in Sarawak, you must go to the Jalan Satok Sunday Market which is where you will find a wide range of local products here on sale. While most people will assume that Sunday markets are in the mornings, the Jalan Satok one takes place in the afternoon and this is when you will find a lot of local traders coming from outside Kuching to congregate here to sell their products.
Some bargaining and haggling skills will be needed here as it is pretty much the trend. However you might need to speak a bit of the local slangs or language or otherwise it might be difficult. Here is where you might find squirming grubs, wild ferns, sieet and many other stuff which are found in the natural jungles of the state. As it only takes place on Sundays, this is one chance to see all of Sarawak in one place. There are food, vegetables, clothes and even handicrafts on sale here. Located along the junction of Jalan Satok and Jalan Palm, you can come here using the taxi or by foot. Just look for Miramar Cinema and the market is just opposite this building.
Lambir Hills National Park
Located along the Miri-Bintulu road, the Lambir Hills National Park was gazetted in 1975 and is easily reached from Miri town which is about half an hour’s drive away. In this park, you will find more than 1,000 species of trees where it 286 genera and 81 tree families here making the park one of hte most diversified forests in the country. There are a lot to see here apart from trees where you might also find wild animals if you venture deeper into the park.
If you are lucky, you might spot the sun bear, pangolins, bats while monkeys are a common sight here. The best time to come to the park is usually in the morning as it will give you more than enough time to see as much as you can. The waterfalls here are one of the most beautiful ones where if you trek for about 15 to 20 minutes you will reach Latak waterfalls. However, most people take a while longer as there are so much to see along the way. You will need to register with the Park Office before entering the park where you will be told to leave the park before 5pm. Other popular waterfalls here include the Pantu and Nibong waterfalls but you will need to trek longer to get there.
Matang Wildlife Centre
Located about half an hour’s drive from Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak is the Matang Wildlife Center. This is basically an enclosed area of rainforest situated at the Kubah National Park where it is the home to some of the endangered wildlife here. Here is where you will be able to see how Orang Utans are trained and taught. It is basically a Orang Utan sanctuary to breed the endangered species who are either rescued from captivity or orphaned. Once they mature and are able to survive themselves out in the wild, they are then released back into the jungles.
Feeding times are the best times to come here as this is when one gets to see how the Orang Utans learn and when they actually come out to get their food. Apart from the Orang Utans, there are also other animals here like the Sambar Deer, the Civet Cats as well as the Sun Bears. On top of that, you could also see the Sea Eagles, Hornbills and other bird species in the 3 aviaries here. If you like, you can also go for one of the 4 jungle trails here namely the Pitcher, Sungai Rayu, Sungai Senduk and Sungai Buluh trails respectively. A taxi would be your best way to get here as there are no bus services from Kuching here.
The Grand Old Lady
Miri has always been regarded as an ‘oil town’. In fact, it is known to be one of the first places in Sarawak where oil was found that brought about the gas companies and establish their operations here. Hence one of the most important historical monuments in Sarawak is known as the Grand Old Lady. Located on top of a hill in the heart of Miri town, the Grand Old Lady was the first oil well which was built when oil was found here on 22 December 1910.
It got its name as the ‘mother’ who turned the poor country into a prosperous and rich nation. The tower is about 30 meters high and sits majestically on Canada Hill where one can job up to the hill to enjoy a view of Miri town or just to be reminded of the richness of the state. Miri before it became an ‘oil town’ was just a fishing village and the Grand Old Lady was used in oil production for the following 62 years. To get here, you will have to get a taxi or drive up yourself as there are no public buses up to Canada Hill. Here is where you can also visit the Petroleum Museum to find out more about the history and development of oil and gas in Miri and in Malaysia.