Step into Sarawak

Where is Sarawak?

Situated on the north western side of the wild island of Borneo, Sarawak is the largest of Malaysia’s states, offering plenty of space among nature and a deep history for an adventure like no other…

We’re taking you on a journey through the best of what Sarawak has to offer. Scroll down to immerse yourself in rugged rainforest and meet its inhabitants. Journey with us to the coast to seek out turtles and mesmeric diving experiences. Meet the people of Sarawak as we take you on an authentic cultural tour of Sarawak’s history and traditions….

Immerse yourself in Sarawak’s nature

Head deep into the rainforest…

5 animals you’re almost guaranteed to see in Sarawak

With 30 national parks, teeming jungles, pristine beaches and dramatic mountains, its little wonder such diverse flora and fauna can be found in Sarawak. Here are just five animals you’re almost guaranteed to see…

1. Proboscis monkeys 

These big-nosed, pot-bellied monkeys that are endemic to Borneo are certainly one of the more strange sights you’ll see in Sarawak’s jungles. Get up early for a trek in Bako National Park to increase your chances of seeing these monkeys. And once you’ve seen one, you’ll likely see a crowd as proboscis monkeys are sociable, living in families of one male, multiple female and baby proboscis. 

2. Rhinoceros hornbills

The rhinoceros hornbill is the state bird for Sarawak for a reason. Its huge size, bright yellow beak and impressive bristlehead makes it the undoubted King of avian life in Sarawak. As one of the largest birds in South East Asia, you can hear the wind rushing through its wings as they take off, and will probably hear their distinctive call echoing through the forest, too. Look closely and you’ll be able to tell a male from a female: males’ eyes are ringed by orange and red while females have a white ring around their eyes. 

A good place to see them is at Lambir Hills National Park which is on Sarawak’s northern coast near the border with Brunei. You’ll also see some of the other 237 avian species that have made a home here. 

3. Horsefiled’s tarsier 

If you want to spot one of these little creatures then be prepared to take a night walk. These nocturnal animals have huge eyeballs the same size as their brain, making leaping around in the dark from tree to tree relatively easy for them.

For your best chances of seeing them, head into Mulu National Park after dark on a guided night trek. The tour will last between one and two hours  where an expert guide will not only help you seek out the Horsefield tarsier but other nocturnal creatures such as lizards, frogs and snakes. 

4. Saltwater crocodiles

To catch a glimpse of these river monsters, you’ll want to head into Sarawak’s mangrove forests. Take a boat trip between the mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park to see crocodiles lurking in the shallows or brave a night cruise along the Likau River in Similajau National Parks where a saltwater crocodile or two may make an appearance. 

5. Orang-utans 

A highlight of any trip to Sabah is undoubtedly seeing an orang-utan. There are various wildlife sanctuaries where you’ll have almost guaranteed sightings of these beautiful creatures, but for an extra special experience, attempt to spot one in the wild. For your best chances, you’ll want to head into the thick forests of Batang Ai National Park on  Malaysia’s eastern border with Malaysia. 

You’ll be lucky to see one here, but if you do manage to look into the intelligent, almost human eyes of an orang-utan out in the wild, you’ll quickly understand why their name translates to ‘person of the forest’. 

Escape to the coast…

5 coastal adventures to have in Sarawak

There’s more to Sarawak’s coast than sunloungers. With incredible wildlife, a fascinating topography and underwater history, Sarawak’s coast is catnip for those with a sense of adventure…

1. Help conserve turtles at the Talang Talang Islands

Part of the Talang Satang National Park, these two tiny islands provide a much-needed sanctuary for the endangered green and hawskbill turtles. So great are Sarawak’s conservation efforts that the two islands have not been allowed to be developed for tourism, and turtle conservation programmes have been in place on the two islands since the 1940s.

The conservation programme also means it’s not easy to visit the islands and for a chance to see the incredible creatures, you’ll need to sign up for the Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme on Pulau Talanhg-Talang Besar that runs every year between May and September.  The programme allows you to spend four days at the Turtle Conservation programme where you’ll be given tasks such as beach patrols to see where turtles arrive, egg nesting monitoring, tagging and measuring turtles, recording data and releasing hatchlings.

2. Dive into nature and history

Dip beneath the surface at Kuching for a dose of history and nature in one go. Just days after the Pearl Harbour attack, Japan invaded South East Asia, targeting Kuching. The evidence of those battles can be found on the bed of the South China Sea just off the coast of Kuching, where WW2 wrecks await exploration. The three wrecks include Katori Maru, Hiyoshi Maru and the recently found and mostly still intact Sagiri. The wrecks have been taken over by nature and you may see batfish, snapper, barracuda, lobster, turtles and stingrays swimming around the old battleships.

3. Swim with the giants at Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park

Don a mask and an oxygen tank and dive beneath the surface at Miri to come face-to-fin with some big marine life. At Siwa reef, you’ll likely see leopard sharks and huge marble rays. Dive at Miri between March and April and you’ll be in with a chance of seeing the much bigger but much gentler whale sharks as well as giant manta rays. Baraccudas, humphead wrasse and giant clams have also made a home here, along with some smaller creatures including clownifish, seahorses and butterflyfish.

4. Walk along pristine beaches

There’s no shortage of long, golden beaches lapped by turquoise water in Sarawak. For an adventurous option, take a stroll along the bays, coves and beaches of Bako National Park while looking out for wild boar, long-tail macaques and the strange looking proboscis monkeys.  Those seeking tranquillity should visit the secluded Bungai Beach near Miri to find clear waters and untouched surroundings – the perfect escape from the nearby bustling city. Pandan beach in Lundu is a popular spot with surfers.  

5. Take a boat at Similajau National Park

Not far from the coastal town of Bintulu, Similajau National Park is a great place to jump in a boat and explore the pristine waters that provide a home to so much marine life. During the coastal safari, look out for whales, dolphins, porpoises, turtles and dugongs. The national park also offers river tours, so don’t miss your chance to explore the rivers with a local guide by moonlight to catch crocodiles lurking in the shadows.

Let Sarawak’s culture pique your curiosity…

Meet the people

Three ways to connect with Sarawak’s locals

Sarawak’s people span 27 ethnic groups, each with its own cultural traditions. Here’s how you can see Sarawak through the locals’ eyes…

1. Stay at an Iban longhouse in Batang Ai

How better to explore a place than with the people who know it best? Escape to Batang Ai National Park to meet some local Iban people – the largest indigenous group in Sarawak. You can enjoy an expert locally-led tour of the rainforest before returning to the communal longhouses to immerse yourselves in the traditions of the Iban and understand more about their way of life. You’ll feast on traditional food and sip on rice wine, listen to and dance along to traditional music, and may even get a lesson in playing the traditional blowpipe.

2. Trek between villages above the clouds

The aptly named villages above the clouds can be visited on a trek through the mountains of the Padawan Highlands. The multi-day route will take you up steep slopes, past emerald rainforests, waterfalls and glorious sunrises, and over bamboo bridges. You will end your days in the villages, where you will be welcomed by the Bidayuh people, a local indigenous group. You’ll have the chance to sample their traditional dinners, listen to their stories, see local traditions in action and sleep in traditional accommodation in the village.

3. Follow the Headhunters Trail to soak up history and nature

This trail is named after the Kayan warring parties who used to paddle the Melinau River to Melinau Gorge, trek three kilometeres to the Terikan River (all while dragging their longboats behind them) to launch headhunting raids on rival groups. This multi-day trek with a local guide will open your eyes to the rich history of this wild land.

At just over 10km, the trail starts with a climb of the sky-piercing Pinnacles of Mulu National Park, before winding you through ancient caves, thick rainforests and across rivers – with plenty of time for wildlife watching and swimming en route. Your evenings will be spent staying with local communities. You’ll dine and dance with local Iban people during a longhouse stay on the banks of the Lemanak River, and will also have the chance to meet and immerse yourself in the culture of the Penan people.

Get a taste of tradition

5 ways to immerse yourself in the local cuisine

One of the best ways to experience Sarawak is to embark upon a culinary journey. Here’s a selection of dishes that are a direct link to Sarawak’s rich heritage and showcase the many regional influences of its cuisine…

1. Sarawak Laksa 

Let’s start with the region’s most famous dish: Sarawak laksa. At the base of this dish is a spicy aromatic broth, consisting of sambal belacan (shrimp paste), coconut milk, tamarind, garlic, galangal and lemongrass. Once bubbling, add rice vermicelli, chicken, omelette strips, fresh prawns, bean sprouts and a handful of coriander. Finish with a good squeeze of lime and you will know why the late, great celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, dubbed Sarawak laksa “the breakfast of the gods”.

2. Manuk Pansuh

To understand the soul of Sarawak is to discover a dish that for centuries has been a traditional delicacy for the indigenous Iban tribespeople. And cooking it must be the most atmospheric foodie experience you can have. First marinate your chicken in ginger, garlic, galangal and lemongrass, before stuffing it all into a hollowed-out bamboo stalk. Add some water (this will make for a fine soupy broth later), seal in the flavour with tapioca leaves and then place over a wood fire until steam starts to emanate from the bamboo. Serve with rice and midin …!

3. Midin

Midin is a crispy wild jungle fern found only in Sarawak and is used to accompany many of the region’s most notable dishes. Best flash fried with sambal belacan, garlic and a kick of chilli.

4. Kolo Mee

This mouth-watering Sarawakian noodle dish is deceptively light. Toss egg noodles with pork, beef or chicken and spring onions, then top off with fried onions and crushed garlic. Lightly drizzle with fish sauce and kolo mee makes for the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

5. Umai (Raw Fish Salad)

This Melanau delicacy of raw fish salad is the Sarawakian version of Mexican ceviche. Slivers of fresh fish are marinated in calamansi limes and thinly-sliced onions. Often served with roasted sago pearls from Mukah.

Take home life-lasting memories

5 things to take home with you

“Leave only footprints and take only photographs” they say. But we can’t resist also bringing home some wonderful souvenirs of Sarawak. Here’s a selection to pack in your suitcase …

1. Beads

Beads have been part of the culture of Sarawak’s indigenous groups for centuries and are very decorative; often worn during traditional festivities. Beads come in many colours but for an authentic look, mix up yellow, white, black and turquoise.

2. Sarawak Layered Cake

Known in Malay as Kek Lapis, this is the signature dessert of Sarawak. A delicious kaleidoscopic cake that comes in a variety of flavours but is always baked layer by layer to create a beautiful and unique pattern. Fans of The Great British Bake Off may recognise this as one of Paul Hollywood’s challenging showstoppers!

3. Pua Kumbu 

Pua kumbu is a traditional patterned multi-coloured ceremonial cotton cloth that contains elaborate motifs and is an integral part of Iban culture. Made using a combination of dyes from local plants and traditional loom weaving, this is culture you can wear.

4. Rattan

Baskets, mats, bracelets, decorative wall hangings. The uses of rattan in Sarawak are myriad. One of the most durable jungle products (longhouses are often held together by a single vine), go for a woven rattan basket which you can use for gathering jungle vegetables and constructing fish traps. Or maybe just carrying your shopping home!

5. Tribal Iban tattoo

For a more permanent souvenir from Borneo, get a traditional hand-tapped tattoo. Iban tattoos date back centuries and are entwined with the ancient folklore of headhunting. Tattooists use bamboo needles to pierce the skin and create various patterns. Would you dare?

What are you waiting for?

Start planning your ultimate adventure to Sarawak…