To discover the Bornean state of Sarawak means taking the road less travelled.
Sarawak is overflowing with cultural, adventure, nature, and food-based experiences that your clients won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Whether it is sharing in the lifestyle of one of the many indigenous communities’ longhouses, or exploring gigantic caves in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gunung Mulu National Park, you will find Sarawak offers a host of memorable experiences to bring home.
But standing out among the Malaysian state’s experiences are those found in nature. Here are a few of the best pulled together by Travel Weekly, with the help of destination authority Tourism Malaysia…
Explore a national park 60 million years in the making
The story of Gunung Mulu National Park begins 60 million years ago, deep beneath the sea.
Today, the park is recognised as a World Heritage site and one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting, owing to its wealth of natural marvels, found in a relatively small area – with the park spanning 85,000 hectares.
Such a space encompasses a wealth of experiences, from mountain climbing opportunities at the park’s two highest peaks, Gunung Mulu (2,376 metres) and Gunung Api (1,710 metres).
Visitors to the park can also explore the world’s largest cave passage open to the public, Deer Cave, and enjoy the famous ‘bat exodus’ – the cave is home to two to three million bats from 12 different species. Each day, between 4pm and 6pm, the bats leave the cave en-masse in a spectacle best seen from Deer Cave’s bat observatory.
Walk in the footsteps of headhunters
Additionally, travellers making their way through Gunung Mulu National Park can make the most of the world-class climb to the awesome Pinnacles, walking the historic Headhunter’s Trail.
Over the course of a week, travellers will follow the trail of the White Rajahs, learning about their conquest to suppress the region’s headhunters, and cycle into the Iban Heartland. This trip runs from Kuching to Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat.
Alongside the opportunity to dine with and learn from native Bornean tribes, visitors to the park can also trek to the summit of the Pinnacles, an expansive rock formation that juts up from the earth like sharks’ teeth.
Unfortunately, this isn’t for everyone – while the challenging journey ends in an extraordinary view of the Pinnacles, it is off-limits to children 16 years or younger, and is considered an extreme activity.
Keep your eyes peeled for Sarawak’s state bird
With the highest number of national parks and nature reserves in the country, Sarawak offers superb birdwatching opportunities, and the chance to learn about the cultural significance of birds to the state’s indigenous Iban people.
In the north west of Borneo, the ever-wet rainforests are biodiverse and home to a dizzying array of tropical wildlife. A great portion of Borneo’s 650 bird species have been recorded in the state, including most of the island’s endemic species, such as the bizarre Bornean bristlehead.
Sarawak is also home to the magnificent rhinoceros hornbill, which happens to be Sarawak’s state bird and the national bird of Malaysia.
This bird also carries great significance to the Iban people, who have long worshipped the bird-god Sengalang Burong (the god of war) and who create wooden carvings of the rhinoceros hornbill. Known as kenyalang, the wooden carvings are thought to have been traditionally carved as part of sacred rites before tribe members went on headhunting raids.
However, today they represent the reverence that is given to nature in Sarawak, by the Iban and the people throughout the state.
Among the most popular regions to birdwatch in Sarawak is Kubah National Park, which has beautiful lowland rainforest and a great diversity of birds.
Several endemic species including Bornean Banded Kingfisher, Bornean Wren Babbler, and Blue-banded Pitta can be found here.
Another great region to birdwatch near the coast is the spectacular Santubong National Park, with its rugged sandstone terrain and tall rainforest. This is the closest site to Kuching, which offers a chance of seeing Sarawak’s emblematic rhinoceros hornbill.
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Featured image: Mulu National Park, Sarawak (source: Tourism Malaysia)