If wildlife and nature are what drives you to explore the world, Borneo’s untamed national parks in Sarawak are a prime pick for intrepid travellers. The Malaysian State lies on the jungle-swathed island and is just a short flight away from Singapore. If you’ve got your future planning hat on, here are the three national parks to visit if you want to see wildlife in Sarawak and discover ancient civilisations. These alluringly remote destinations also give you the opportunity to encounter orangutans in Borneo.
Bako National Park – to experience Sarawak’s diverse wildlife
Bako National Park is Sarawak’s oldest park and serves as an ideal introduction to Sarawak’s native wildlife. The park is located at the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula and is just 40 kilometres from Kuching (by car and boat), making it perfect for a daytrip. Despite its modest size of 27 square kilometres, the park encompasses a remarkable range of biomes. In addition to swampy mangroves and padang scrublands, you’ll also find rugged coastlines with sandy bays and dramatic sea arches.
The park features a well-maintained network of 16 marked trails of varying lengths and difficulties. This allows hikers of all skill levels to explore the park at their leisure. And, if wildlife is a highlight for you, the park is known for its remarkable biodiversity. Commonly spotted species include the long-tailed macaque, Bornean bearded pig, monitor lizards, otters and silvered langur. Bako is also home to approximately 150 proboscis monkeys and regarded as the best place to spot the endangered species.
On the way back to the city, take the opportunity to spot Bako’s iconic sea stacks. These unique coastal rock formations are one of the park’s most iconic natural landmarks. You can also stop for a meal at the floating seafood restaurants along the way.
Semenggoh Nature Reserve – for encounters with Sarawak’s critically endangered orangutans
There are few wildlife experiences as breathtaking as coming face-to-face with Borneo’s majestic orangutans. To check this off your bucket list, visit the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. Located within Semenggoh Nature Reserve and just 20 kilometres south of Kuching, it’s the biggest orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sarawak and a must-see for visitors to the park.
The centre is home to a colony of semi-wild orangutans who are acclimated to human encounters. This gives you the rare opportunity to interact with them during feeding time. Many of the orangutans at the centre were once kept illegally as pets, but have since been rehabilitated. If you’d like to help conservation efforts, the park also offers an orangutan adoption program.
The park also offers opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to spot other rare animals like the giant squirrel, pygmy squirrel and gibbons.
Niah National Park – for discovering an ancient culture
Once you’ve gotten a little closer to Sarawak’s orangutans and other wildlife, venture deep into Niah National Park to uncover one of the region’s most intriguing caves. The Niah Caves were first explored in 1864 by mining engineer Robert Coulson who discovered remnants of early settlements within. Almost a hundred years later, further exploration by the Sarawak State Museum discovered more evidence of an ancient civilisation that dated back to the Paleolithic era – almost 40,000 years ago. This makes Niah Caves the site of one of the oldest recorded civilisations in Borneo and East Malaysia.
Today, visitors can explore the Painted Cave which showcases ancient burial sites and paintings depicting the journey to the afterlife. You can also discover remnants of the “death ships”. These boat-shaped coffins were believed to ferry the dead into the afterlife. Niah National Park is located approximately 90 minutes away from the city of Miri by car.
Readers in Singapore who’d like more information on Sarawak tourism, trade and investment opportunities, can visit the Sarawak Trade & Tourism Office (STATOS Gallery) at #01-02A at 80 Robinson Road (open weekdays, 9.30am to 5pm). There’s also Retail@Gallery, a new initiative by STATOS, showcasing authentic Sarawak handicrafts including unique Penan handwoven bags and foods. You can also stay up to date on current operating hours and updated information on Sarawak at fb.com/statossg.
Written in collaboration with STATOS and Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
Read about more interesting destinations in our Travel section.