Kuching Wetlands National Park
Located just 15 km from Kuching and approximately 5 km from Damai Beach, the Kuching Wetlands National Park covers an area of 6,610 hectares on the estuarine reaches of the Sibu Laut and Salak rivers. The park is mostly comprised of a saline mangrove system that includes an extensive network of marine waterways and tidal creeks interconnecting the two major rivers that form the boundaries of the park.
Small patches of heath forest are found in the interior of the park. The park is an important spawning and nursery ground for fish and prawn species and contains a wide diversity of wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, long tailed macaque monkeys, silver-leaf monkeys, monitor lizards, estuarine crocodiles and a range of birdlife, including kingfishers, white-bellied sea eagles and shore birds, including the rare lesser adjutant stork.
Gazetted as a national park in July 2002, the site is one of the last remnants of the formerly extensive Sarawak Mangrove Forest Reserve, which previously covered approximately 17,000 hectares and was first protected in 1924. Recognising the ecological significance and tourism potential of the area, the Sarawak State Government is currently formulating a management plan for Kuching Wetlands. In November 2005 Malaysia designated the park as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance.
Whilst the park is relatively new, the area has long attracted nature enthusiasts owing to its fascinating ecosystem and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. For the visitor, Kuching Wetlands offers an excellent introduction to the mangrove environment, and a chance to see a range of wildlife and spend some time soaking up the sights and sounds of one of the most interesting stretches of coastline in the whole of Sarawak.
To explore the park you have to take to the river. A number of tour operators offer coastal and river cruises in and around the park.
These cruises follow the main waterways of the park with most trips taking up half a day. Tours usually meander up the Salak River before entering the smaller rivers and creeks in the park. Some tours stop at the Malay fishing village on Salak Island, which lies just outside the park’s boundary, while others venture out to the Santubong and Salak river estuaries to search for the Irrawaddy dolphins, or navigate the mangroves-covered smaller river channels to spot wildlife in the dark such as proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and fireflies. Contact your hotel recreation counters or tour operators for details.
Dolphins, monkeys, and fireflies… and why do we need a life jacket?