Sarawak is a diverse, fascinating region of Malaysia with plenty to offer, from the huge stretches of thick jungle and the various towns to the heady mix of different cultures. Kuching, the state capital, provides a great stepping stone into exploring the region while also having plenty to offer in its own right. Here are some of the highlights.
The prominent Fort Margherita stands on the northern banks of the Sarawak River. The Second White Rajah Charles Brooke built the fort in 1879 to defend the city against pirate attacks and named it after his wife, Margaret. Today, it houses the recently opened Brooke Gallery with relics, artefacts and historical documents detailing Sarawak’s early statehood under the White Rajahs. Fort Margherita sits inside the police barracks, so you might need to show ID before entering.
Sarawak’s name translates as cat in English, giving it the nickname City of Cats. The world’s first cat museum covers four galleries inside the City Hall buildings. With over 4,000 items covering everything related to felines, this is a must-visit attraction in Kuching for cat lovers. Since opening in 1988, the Cat Museum has received thousands of annual visitors. Expect to find figurines, photographs, posters and a rare Egyptian mummified cat.
Although it requires you to travel 15km (9mi) outside of the capital, Kuching Wetlands National Park is one of the area’s crown jewels and certainly justifies the extra distance. The maze of waterways connects the Sibu Laut River with the Salak, and on arrival you simply jump in a tour boat and away you go, spotting fish, crocodiles, monkeys, birds and even the strange-looking and increasingly rare Irrawaddy dolphins.
Visible as you enter Kuching, Mount Santubong is one of the highest mountains in the area, at 810m (2,657ft) above sea level. The mountain lies within a national park, and can be reached from Kuching in about 30 minutes. The hike to the summit takes around four hours, and leads you through thick jungle and up to one of the best panoramic views of Sarawak anywhere in the region. A slightly easier two-hour hike will take you to a nearby waterfall, a perfect spot to sit and relax.
This one actually involves taking a day trip out of Kuching, but most of these are organised within the city. Travelling to Pulau Satang Besar, you are given the opportunity to see the turtle conservation centre and hatchery where baby turtles are released into the sea in order to boost the local population. The beach itself is also a great snorkelling spot.
Additional reporting by Callum Davies.