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Best Kuching Day Trips Including the Best Place to See Orangutans in Borneo

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2 weeks ago

We think Kuching is the ultimate gateway to exploring Borneo. With some of the most atmospheric architecture in Malaysia and some very unique culinary sensations, it’s worth spending a few days in Kuching.

One of my favorite things about Kuching is how accessible some of the real highlights of Borneo are. With a little planning, you can fill a few Kuching day trips and quickly tick off some highlights of Southeast Asia. In this article, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite Kuching day trips. From the best place to see orangutans in Borneo to the unique indigenous cultures of Sarawak, within a short drive of Kuching you can very quickly be in an another world.

Now, of course, the accessibility of these sites from Kuching means that many are somewhat geared up for tourism. It goes without saying, if you’re trying to get off the beaten path, you’ll need to venture a little deeper than a Kuching day trip. Better yet, head to the Indonesian side of Borneo (Kalimantan).

With that, here are our favorite 3 Kuching day trips. If you start early, you can often combine many of these sites into one jam-packed day. But we will let you decide how you want to plan your Kuching itinerary.

When is the best time of year to visit Borneo?

You’ll want to make sure you plan your Kuching itinerary between April and October. This period is often referred to as the ‘dry season‘. Ideally, this means less rain and a drier climate.

It’s worth noting that this period is also when Borneo is at its hottest and most humid. Make sure to pack clothes for the humid jungle climate.

Best 3 Kuching day trips

We know travelers come to Kuching for a taste test of the best Borneo has to offer. In saying that, our favorite Kuching day trips try to showcase the best of Borneo: orangutans, indigenous cultures and pristine untouched jungle and beaches.

There are, of course, a number of other side trips that are well worth your time, including the extremely popular night-time jungle tours in search of nocturnal tree frogs at Kubah national park. If you have more days to play around with, it certainly doesn’t get more culturally immersive than an overnight homestay in an Iban longhouse – easily accessible from Kuching.

1. See Bornean orangutans at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Only 40 minutes from central Kuching, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre may just be the best place to see orangutans in Borneo.

Now, a full disclaimer: the orangutans at Semenggoh aren’t completely wild. However, Semenggoh isn’t a zoo either. Rather, Semenggoh provides a cared-for, semi-wild nature preserve for Bornean orangutans rescued from illegal trade, circuses and private homes. This means Semenggoh looks, feels and, in fact, is wild Bornean rainforest. However, unlike in other parts of Borneo or in Sumatra, I can almost guarantee you will see orangutans here.

Time your visit around feeding times (9 am to 10 am and 3 pm to 4 pm). During this period, the rangers will place large buckets of food on ledges and the orangutans will descend from the treetops. The rangers will make sure you keep a safe distance – these are wild animals after all!

There’s quite a bit of walking involved, but Semenggoh does offer a buggy service which you can purchase tickets for at the gate.

How to get to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

By tour

Unquestionably, the easiest way to reach Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is to join a guided tour. In doing so, you’ll make sure you both make feeding time and gain an entry ticket to the park.

By public transport or ride-sharing

The next best option is to take a Grab (the Southeast Asian Uber) from your Kuching hotel directly to the entrance gate. Depending on traffic and availability, this will normally be around MYR 40 (US$8.50)

If you’re traveling on a budget, public bus no. K6 can take you to Semenggoh but not return. The K6 bus leaves from the corner of Jalan Masjid and Gertak, by the mosque. The first bus departs around 7:15 am, which brings you to Semenggoh by opening time (8 am) and in time for the morning feed.

For the return, I’d recommend the free bus no. 103. Despite being free of charge, this bus takes you for the scenic (read indirect) zigzagging route through Kuching and takes about 90 minutes to get you back to Kuching. Again, I’d only do this option if your tight for cash. When you arrive at Semenggoh, the staff at the ticket counter will usually have the latest bus timetables to help you plan your return.

2. Learn about Indigenous cultures at the Sarawak Cultural Village

A self-described ‘open-air museum’, the Sarawak Cultural Village showcases the different ethnic groups of Sarawak. If you don’t have the chance for a longer stay in an indigenous village or Iban longhouse, this is the next best thing.

Over quite a large area, you can walk between mini villages displaying the different indigenous cultures of Sarawak. My favorites include a complete Iban longhouse, as well as crafts, traditional clothing and homewares from the Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and Penan peoples. You can also learn more about the Malay and Chinese peoples which call Sarawak home.

My favorite part of the Sarawak Cultural Village is the dance troupe, which showcases back-to-back dances from each other the ethnic groups showcased here. You’ll want to make sure you time your visit to catch either the 11:30 am or 4 pm show. There’s also a great restaurant on site, which includes a few local Sarawak specialities.

How to get to the Sarawak Cultural Village

By tour

Given the lack of great public transport options, I’d definitely recommend joining a tour to visit the Sarawak Cultural Village. Beyond sorting out your transport, I personally love having a guide to explain the unique cultural traditions of the different ethnic groups.

By public transport or ride-sharing

At the outset, it’s worth noting that, at the time of writing, public transport only goes to the Sarawak Cultural Village on weekends. If you’re here on a Saturday or Sunday, you can take the free bus (the Damai Loop bus) from the Sarawak River waterfront.

Otherwise, your best bet is to take a Grab. I’d recommend negotiating with your Grab driver to pick you up when you’re done, especially if you are planning to go later in the day (and catch the 4 pm show).

3. Meet Proboscis monkeys at Bako National Park

Orangutans may be the star of Borneo, but you’ll be pleased to know they’re not the only friendly apes on the island!

Bako National Park is Borneo at its best: deep, untouched jungle, river boat rides and a whole selection of wildlife.

It’s hard to believe that one of the most pristine pieces of Borneo jungle is so easily accessible from Kuching. In a day trip to Bako National Park, you’ll cross multiple ecosystems (mangroves, swamps, cliff-side vegetation and the beach).

Better yet, you’ll come face to face with some of Borneo’s lesser-known, but no less impressive, wildlife. From the long-nosed proboscis monkeys to silvered langur monkeys and monitor lizards, Bako National Park is the real deal.

How to get to Bako National Park

By tour

Getting to Bako on your own involves navigating an array of transport. In short, I definitely recommend joining an organized tour from Kuching. You’ll get picked up at your Kuching hotel, transported to Bako fishing village and then guided through an 8-hour Bako jungle tour (with time for swimming at a secluded beach).

By public transport or ride-sharing

The only way in and out of Bako National Park is by ferry, which leave from the Bako ferry jetty. The terminal is about 45-50 minutes from Kuching (depending on traffic). You can easily take a Grab from Kuching to the ferry jetty and arrange a boat and guide upon arrival.

Otherwise, public bus no. 1 departs from the market on Jalan Masjid (with a stop at the Riverside Majestic Hotel), with the first buses leaving early in the morning (usually around 7 am).


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