From exploring caves in the heart of a rainforest to rubbing shoulders with 1 of 27 indigenous tribes, Sarawak is an enticing destination for clients seeking an off-the-beaten-track adventure. Andrew Doherty reports.
With the recent announcement of the new Visit Sarawak campaign, the UK looks set to become a key market for the north-western Bornean state.
Datuk Haji Abdul Karim Hamzah, minister of tourism, arts, culture, youth and sports, said the vision for the Visit Sarawak campaign was to “place Sarawak on the tourism map”.
He said: “The tagline, ‘More to Discover’, underscores the Sarawak Tourism Board’s strategy to promote the state’s culture, adventure, nature, food and festival offerings.”
In 2017 Sarawak welcomed 33,399 British tourists, a 6.7% increase on the previous year. As of July 2018, 19,784 UK arrivals have already been recorded, with an overall growth of 10% expected before the end of the year.
“We will be looking to intensify efforts to increase arrivals from the UK and encourage them to extend the length of their stay from 7 to 10 days,” Hamzah added.
Clients can reach Sarawak from Heathrow on Malaysia Airlines’ service to Kuching via Kuala Lumpur. From next month Royal Brunei Airlines will also offer a service from Heathrow to Kuching via Brunei.
Furthermore, Sarawak’s six regional airports and airfields offer chartered services to neighbouring Indonesia and Singapore.
Once there, popular Sarawak attractions include the Gunung Mulu national park. A 30-minute flight from the northern city of Miri, Mulu encompasses jungles, mountain peaks and cave systems. Of course, a highlight for many visitors to Sarawak is encountering the critically endangered orangutans in the Batang Ai national park. A five-hour drive from Kuching, clients can choose from a number of hiking routes before resting at the Batang Ai Resort & Retreat or a selection of longhouse-style huts.
With a multitude of ethnic groups representing several cultural and religious traditions, Sarawak offers a packed calendar of events. The Borneo Cultural Festival in Sibu is considered a highlight – the week-long celebration in July features gastronomy, music and dance and the diversity of the Dayak people. Also popular is the Rainforest World Music Festival in July near Kuching, where critically acclaimed musicians flock to the city to share the stage with indigenous performers from across Borneo.
With a fam trip in the pipeline and a mobile app being developed to encourage independent exploration, Sarawak certainly looks set to make a big impression in 2019.