Selamat Datang! Welcome to Malaysia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you’re going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We’ll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at the meeting, so have them ready for your leader to collect. Kuching, meaning ‘cat’ in Malay, is arguably the most pleasant city in all of Borneo. Full of captivating architecture, the waterfront here is well worth the visit – it houses a wealth of curio shops and local marketplaces, brimming with spices, vegetables and fresh fish. If you arrive early you may want to head to the Sarawak Cultural Village. A great introduction to the local culture of Sarawak.
Start off your adventures through Kuching with an orientation walk through its sophisticated streets. There’s plenty to do while here – perhaps take a visit to the museum or travel along the Sarawak River by boat. By mid morning, take a transfer to the Santubong Peninsular where the Rainforest World Music Festival takes place. Feel free to interact with the numerous workshops and jam sessions running casually in the area, or perhaps sit in on one of the lectures. There’s also plenty of food stands that your leader can introduce you to. The first performances begin in the early evening. Artists from Solomon Islands to Poland, Mexico to Brazil are some of the acts that will play a wide range of music at the festival – you may find yourself tapping your toes to some soulful blues, marvelling at a Malay nose-flute player or watching classical string instruments used in a traditional orchestral format. Expect your appreciation for music to be widened in ways you never thought possible by the end of the first day of the festival, then push them even further as the second and third days rolls on. Safe to say, the grand finale will be incredible. Some of the acts that have now been announced to play at this year’s Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival are Dona Onete (Brazil), Djeli Moussa Conde (Guinea), Balkanopolis (Serbia), At Adau (Sarawak Malaysia), Bhungar Khan Company (India), Cuatro Minimal (Mexico, Korea, Japan), Elisouma (Comoros Islands), Guo Gan & Aly Keita (China/Cote d’lvoire), Naedrum (Korea), Oyme (Mordovian Republic), Persatuan Chingay Pulau Pinang (Malaysia), Slobodan Trkulja (Serbia), SwarAsia Malaysia (Malaysia), Voosi (Poland), Warato’o (Solomon Islands), Yallah Bye (Tunisia) If you’re feeling like you need a change of pace on the third day of the festival, there’s always the option to travel off site to catch some fringe theatricals being held in Kuching. Just let your leader know and they’ll be happy to set things up for you.
In the morning, take a drive to visit one of the performers from the festival. Meet Matthew Ngau – a master of a traditional lute called a ‘sape’. This instrument, used by some of Borneo’s indigenous tribes, is carved from a single piece of wood. Most sapes have three to five strings and produce rich, complex sounds. Matthew will walk you through the production of the sape and even give you an informal lesson on how to play this curious instrument. Spend the evening at Matthew’s house – the rooms are simple and shared but the cultural insights more than make up for it. All meals are included during our time here.
Depart from Matthew’s house after breakfast and head onwards to the Bako National Park – you may have an early start depending on the tides. Once you arrive at Bako Jetty, board a boat towards the park itself. Bako is the oldest national park in Sarawak. The rainforests, abundant fauna, vibrant flora, jungle streams, waterfalls, secluded beaches and trekking trails ensure that a breathtaking view lies around every turn and an adventure is never too far away. Weather permitting, your leader will take you on a walk to the beautiful beach at Telok Pandan Kecil. If you’re looking to take a longer (or shorter) hike, feel free to explore as many of the 18 different trails as you like. Whatever you plan, check with the ranger to find out the best time to spy the proboscis monkeys as they come to feed from the beach mangroves – you may even spot some wild pigs along the way. As the day comes to a close, a wonderful sunset may present itself across the beach if the weather is amicable. A walk through the jungle at night is also on the cards for those who choose to do so. Accommodation here is multishare, dormitory style.
Head back to Bako Village by boat, then board a private minivan to Kuching via the Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary. Once you arrive at the sanctuary, a government funded rehabilitation centre, take a walk into the lush jungle for a chance to watch these peaceful primates feed – a truly remarkable sight. Later, travel back to the hotel where you’ll be able to freshen up from the heat. Afterwards, perhaps stroll through one of the many Chinese-influenced hawker markets and grab a dinner of fresh, local seafood.
Transfer to the airport for a short flight to the Gunung Mulu National Park, one of the most spectacular reserves in all of Asia. Spend the afternoon strolling along the walkways and peering at the forest below before catching the sunset flight of the bats as they pour out of Deer Cave. This spectacular landmark is home to millions of these furry flutterers who emerge every evening to feed in the night – rising from the opening like a black plume of smoke across the darkening evening sky. We stay in multishare cabins inside the park.
Today’s adventures take you spelunking through Mulu’s Clear Water Cave and Wind Cave systems, otherwise known as the hidden home of Asia’s longest underground river. You'll enjoy a picnic lunch here too. Take a brief longboat ride upstream and perhaps spend a bit of time splashing in the waters, then it’s time to return to the headquarters in Mulu. You’ve got a bit of free time to kill in the afternoon, so perhaps take a trek to the canopy walkways, wander the self guided trails throughout the park or speak to your leader to organise a visit to a local Penan settlement.
Take a flight to Kota Kinabalu – the capital city of Sabah. The largest commercial centre of Malaysian Borneo, this coastal city captures a fantastic mix of costal charm, rainforest splendour and bustling streets. After transferring to the hotel, take the chance to visit some of the islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park or visit the Sabah Museum for some cultural insight. The last evening has crept up on you – perhaps a fitting end to a trip dedicated to music is to join your group in a karaoke session or check out some local gigs.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.