Off-the-beaten Jungle Treks in Sarawak
Calling all hikers, nature, wildlife and jungle enthusiasts! Are you looking for a challenging adventure holiday that involves jungle trekking in a tranquil, lush, natural and timeless environment? If you are, then look no further than Sarawak as it offers many packages dependent on your capabilities but all inclusive of mesmerising landscapes; magnificent jungles bursting with diverse wildlife and flora and pristine national parks.
Jungle trekkers have an awesome choice of trekking routes, from mild to more challenging ones. In our list below, each route has an approximate time of completion while which one you select should depend on your hiking experience, capabilities and fitness levels.
If you are new to jungle trekking, do go in groups led by a guide who is already familiar with the trail. Solo trekking in the jungles of Sarawak is not recommended as it is easy to become disorientated and lose your bearings. Once you have decided on your plans, as an added safety measure, keep others informed of the trip, and the anticipated time of your return and make sure you notify them once you have returned.
Here’s a list of interesting jungle trails in Sarawak. It’s not exhaustive but there is something for everyone, no matter what your current experience level:
First-time trekkers might want to start here before exploring the deep forests of Sarawak. If you keep a close look out during your exploration at the park, you will glimpse the rare proboscis monkeys (they have a distinctive elongated nose, and are easy to spot), 2-metre long monitor lizards (yes, 2 metres!), macaques (they are called ‘the fearless monkeys’, so watch out for them, if you are not careful when eating, they are brave and quick enough to make a grab for it!), and by far, the biggest mammal at the park – the Bornean bearded pig who has bristles on both sides of its snout, distinguishing it from a wild pig.
There are also lots of smaller animals and insects, including ants that seem big enough to carry a small child! Also look out for the fabulous Hornbills commanding the tree tops and you may be lucky enough to spot one of the many eagles native to Sarawak.
Bako National Park is the best place to go if you want to experience nature and wildlife all in one day, without having to exert too much energy hiking through difficult trails.
If you are lucky, the proboscis monkey in Sarawak will come out and say hello.
Batang Ai National Park is about a 5-hour drive from Kuching. Jungle trails here take you up the mountains where you’ll have sensational views across the Indonesian border. There are a mix of trails here with many of them long, hard walks but if you have some experience of jungle hiking, you should be able to cope and if you are really lucky, you may spot wild orangutans peeping from behind trees – they are pretty shy mammals so don’t scream too loudly with excitement if you do see one! After a long day walking, reward yourself with a river swim, and marvel at the noises of an ever excitable jungle.
Gunung Gading is home to the rare Rafflesia, which is also known as the corpse flower because of the stench it gives off while it is blooming. There are a number of treks at the park and not all of them will feature the Rafflesia, so be sure to tell your guide beforehand if you want to see it in all its glory and he will take you where you will be able to spot it. Some of the jungle trails here will also lead you to scenic waterfalls and jungle streams. Have a refreshing swim at these ice-cool waters before you leave.
Up close and personal with the world’s largest flower in Sarawak.
If you are looking for a slightly more adventurous trail, then head on up to Bario to explore the rocky terrain of the Kelabit Highlands situated in the northernmost part of Sarawak. The entire area of the Kelabit Highlands is like a cultural site where you get to see an ancient stone table and some fascinating stone carvings. Bario is the hub for the highlands, and from this small town, you can go on either single-day or multi-day treks into the mountains. The trail from Bario to Pa-Lungan, which is located in a remote part of the mountains, is one of the more popular ones.
Lambir Hills National Park probably has one of the world’s richest rainforests. The trails vary, depending on whether you need to have a relaxing picnic at the waterfalls, or go on a tougher full day hike up in the mountains. Either option gives you spectacular views and experience of the jungle and its wildlife inhabitants.
After a long and tiring adventure at the Lambir Hills National Park in Sarawak, why not stop for a refreshing swim at one of the park’s magnificent forest waterfalls?
Even if you aren’t a cave explorer, you’ll still want to experience the caves at Mulu National Park, famous for having the largest cave passage in the world. The caves are breathtaking in their enormity and have some sensational stalagmites and stalactites. All the guides (you have to use a guide to visit the caves) are from the local community and take great pride in their land.
There’s a gentle 3.8km hike on raised walkways through the lush forest with occassional glimpses of babling brooks to the famous bats observatory area. This is where colonies of 2 – 3 million bats including the Wrinkled-Lipped Bat put on a show at dusk everyday. It’s an extraordinary spectacle and a must do at Mulu.
Mammoth caves, gentle hikes, babbling brooks, cooling waterfalls and sensational bat shows. What else is there?!! Well for the more experienced hiker or intrepid souls, there’s the Pinnacles Trail to Gunung Api, a limestone mountain located in the park.
This is not for the faint of heart. It’s a very steep climb and you need to be extra careful because of the sharp and slippery rocks around you. In the final part of the trail, using ropes and ladders, you will need to climb an almost vertical path, and if you think this is challenging, bear in mind that the descent will be tougher. This trail is a must for adrenaline-junkies.
Steep climb up Gunung Api to witness the fabulous Mulu Pinnacles in Sarawak.
Tanjung Datu National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak, but it is also one of the most beautiful. The park has four walking trails to choose from, and depending on your choice, you should still experience some outstanding Sarawak wildlife such as hornbills and gibbons. The park is also known for its beautiful coastline and if you need to take a break after your trek, just relax on the beach or go for a swim before you continue your way back.
Here are some other parks worth researching to see if they have something that appeals to you:
- Kubah National Park & Matang Wildlife Centre
- Niah National Park
- Santubong National Park
- Similajau National Park
- The Headhunters Trail from Limbang to Mulu (or Mulu to Limbang)
It is awesome to be outdoors, but as with all outdoor activities, jungle trekking requires certain safety measures to be taken no matter whether you are a first-time trekker or already an expert.
You need to be in the best state of health and if need be, do take the necessary vaccinations (some jungle excursions in Sarawak require this so double check when on the official sites). Work on your fitness level way before you head to Sarawak. Warming up with a few stretches for a few minutes before exploring the challenging Borneo jungle just won’t cut it!
Research and plan your trip wisely. Check the weather conditions of the place you intend to trek to. Jungle trails can sometimes turn into raging torrents of angry flood water becoming slippery and dangerous so it’s a good idea to postpone your hike if the weather looks threatening.
Furthermore, you need to be mentally prepared at all times. Jungle trekking in Sarawak’s lush tropical rainforest means that you need to be ready for exceptionally hot and humid weather. Some jungle trails might be more extreme and challenging than others, and when this happens, you will have to trek through hostile terrain.
Some intrepid trekkers prefer night walks to look for rainforest creatures that only come out when it is dark. This is not allowed in Sarawak because the poor visibility at night leads to unnecessary risks, such as tripping and injuring yourself, or even getting insect bites (or worse still, being attacked by the night creatures)! It also puts unnecessary pressure on the emergency services who have to come and rescue you if you get lost.
So only go trekking during the day. Plan your journey well so that you begin your trek very early in the morning and ensure it ends well before dusk, giving you contingency time in case you had to sit out a storm.
Remember, hiking in the heat of the tropics is debilitating and some tracks are tough and steep, and you need to keep your energy levels high to keep going. Carrying heavy loads will only make it harder. Pack light and pack smart. Most importantly, remember rule number one – always, always stay hydrated. Bring only essential items during your trip. We have listed out a few basic essentials as a guide, but you might want to add on to it, so long as you can carry the load:
- Hiking backpack
- Appropriate hiking clothing (preferably fast-drying ones; bringing an extra change of clothes is a good idea and top tip – keep them in a plastic bag so that they stay dry), rainwear, and footwear
- Energy bars and water (lots of them)
- First-aid kit (very, very important)!
- Whistle (you never know when you might need one)
- Cash and photocopy of identification documents
- A map and a compass
- Others (for example personal care items, lightweight sleeping bag, knife or multi-tool, torchlight, binoculars and of course, insect repellent)!
It is important to highlight again that whether you are a seasoned hiker or new to jungle trekking, you should always hire a local guide. Guides understand the jungle and will know what to and where to go if you face some kind of difficulty.
For more information on jungle trekking in Sarawak as well as information on guided jungle trekking tours, please visit https://sarawaktourism.com/tours_type/trekking/:
An exciting upriver water experience at the Lubok Kasai jungle camp in Sarawak.
Camping out in Sarawak’s rainforest amidst the flora, fauna and orangutans!
Given the current pandemic situation, some local tour operators will only offer packages from 2021 onwards.
If you need to look for any jungle trekking equipment, you can check out some of these outdoor and sporting goods stores in Sarawak. Do call ahead to verify hours:
- Montanic Adventure Store
Address: Lot L2-042, Level 2, Vivacity Megamall, Jalan Wan Alwi, 93350 Kuching, Sarawak
Opening hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm
- Pro Outdoor Gear
Address: Lot 460, Kenyalang Park, Jalan Datuk Amar Sim Kheng Hong, 93300 Kuching, Sarawak
Opening hours: 11.00am – 5.00pm (closed on Sunday)
- Outpost Camping
Address: Lot 2.43A, Second Floor, Bintang Megamall, Jalan Miri Pujut, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
Opening hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm
Regardless of your chosen trail, each one has potential hazards of its own – these may include trail hazards, exposure to creepy crawlies and wild animals, and even plants that could cause irritation to the skin. At all times, it is best to be aware of your surroundings, listen to your guides, and do not panic if you think you are lost or in trouble! It also makes sense to have travel insurance just in case of a medical emergency.
Finally, if you don’t fancy sleeping under the stars but want an authentic jungle sleeping experience, you can explore remote eco-lodges. There are several types including Permai Rainforest Resort Santubong and the more luxurious Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa
For a unique experience, stay in one of Permai Eco Resort’s tree-houses 20-feet above the jungle floor.
Photo credit: https://www.borneotalk.com/back-to-nature/
Jungle trekking is the best way to get close to nature, and trekking in the jungles of Sarawak is an adventure of a lifetime. Exotic wildlife, mountain streams, pristine beaches, unique flora and fauna, dense green jungle – everything there is, and much more, to satisfy even the most inquisitive mind. But please remember to travel responsibly, especially as we try to conserve Sarawak’s rainforest. Read A Responsible Traveller in Sarawak to learn more about how you can become a responsible traveller.
Have you been on any of the jungle trails above, and is there a trail that you would like to conquer next? Do you have a favourite or recommended trail that you would like to share? Perhaps you had a memorable experience going on a jungle trail in the lush rainforest of Sarawak. Do share your stories and pictures on STB’s social media – we would love to hear from you.
And don’t forget that by participating in the ‘Sia Sitok Sarawak’ campaign, you can enjoy discounts of up to 50% comprising of over 30 travel attractions in Kuching, Sibu, Mukah, Bintulu, Miri and Mulu. The campaign’s booking period ends on 31 December 2020, for travel from 1 August 2020 to 31 March 2021.
Effective 4 October 2020, Malaysians and foreign citizens need to apply for permission to enter Sarawak and submit an e-health declaration form at least 12 hours before entry (https://sarawakdisastermc.com/). At the moment, 14-days at a quarantine centre is mandatory and Covid-19 tests will be done on the 2nd and 10th day (all costs are self-borne). Different rules apply for Sarawakians returning home. Click here (https://www.facebook.com/SarawakDisasterInfo/) for further updates.