Thinking of joining The Great Orangutan Project? Situated within Kubah National Park, this project has the benefit of being surrounded by beautiful forests, waterfalls and trails. Whether exploring all that the park has to offer or venturing beyond the doorstep and into the wider area of Kuching, there are plenty of activities to enjoy during your time off. Join us as we run through the top sights and excursions for you to experience during your downtime on The Great Orangutan Project!
There is no need to book any of these in advance, just speak to a member of the team at the project site and they'll be more than happy to help you book your accommodation, tickets and transfers. They may also be able to get you a slightly discounted rate!
Starting off close to home, Kubah National Park offers a fantastic jungle experience, with its tallest peak, Mount Serapi, providing stunning panoramic views of the forest and beyond. Marvel at the phenomenal scenery from above, casting your eye upon the coursing, vein-like streams intertwining with lush orchards and soft limestone before making their acquaintance with a series of rock pools and waterfalls. Of course, the view from atop Mount Serapi comes at a price: the journey to its summit requires a walk of 2.5-3 hours across a natural trail, but the reward of witnessing the sun setting from beyond the coastline is as sensational a pay-off as one could possibly imagine.
If you’re looking to enjoy a more laid-back activity on your day off, don’t worry – there are plenty of options for you! Consider packing a lunch before venturing out into the park’s 2,230 hectares, settling beside one of the many riverbanks before enjoying a tasty picnic out in the wild! After a bite to eat, follow the trail down to the Rayu River, a great spot to swim or relax before taking a leisurely stroll back to the centre.
If you’d prefer to spend a night in different surrounds (but still within Kubah National Park, of course!), all you have to do is ask: a member of staff at the project would be happy to help you arrange a night in one of Kubah’s many accommodations, complete with hot water and air conditioning. Otherwise, a member of the team would be glad to serve as your guide on a day-trip around the park!
Entry fee: Approximately £5 (RM20)
Taxi fare from the project: Approximately £3 (RM 15)
Accommodation: Between £28 and £42 per night (RM150-RM225)
The Great Orangutan Project is perfectly situated to allow volunteers to explore a range of other sights, and one of the most unique is Gunung Gading National Park. This particular park is home to the rare ‘corpse flower’, also known as the rafflesia: the world’s largest (and arguably stinkiest!) flower! While it may come as a surprise to some, the rafflesia serves as a particularly popular draw for tourists to the area, who are keen to witness this most unusual of plants in all of its foul-smelling glory. However, you may want to plan well ahead if you wish to see the rafflesia up close: they only bloom for three to five days per year, often unexpectedly, so make sure to speak to a member of staff before embarking on the hour-long journey from the project site!
While observing the rafflesia, you may have the opportunity to watch some of the small rainforest mammals which come to feed on it. Should the plant not be in bloom by the time you arrive, however, there is still more to appreciate about Gunung Gading National Park: as well as offering a number of well-marked trails and waterfalls, the park is also home to the remains of an abandoned British Military Camp, which dates back to the 1960s. Head to the top of the Gunung Gading Summit before stumbling upon the former British base, observing a small part of history from within the rainforest.
Top tip: while the rafflesia could bloom at any time, November, December and January have proven to be successful months for visitors!
Entry fee: Approximately £4 (RM20)
Taxi fare from the project: Approximately £37 (RM200) – best split between your group!
If you’re keen to spend your time off relaxing, fear not – there are plenty of ways in which you can unwind, without even feeling the slightest bit guilty about it. The team behind The Great Orangutan Project actually own several not-for-profit businesses, one of which is the Lundu Beach Resort. Here, you can spend time lazing in the sun by the pool or on the beach, indulging in an ice-cold beverage (alcoholic or otherwise!) at the chilled-out bar. Finally, if you were to spend the night, you would gain access to your villa’s own private courtyard, complete with a hot tub – what better way to rest your bones after a week of volunteer work? The best thing about spending a night or two at the resort is that the money you spend will be put straight back into conservation efforts in the area: a win-win, if you ask us!
Top tip: Did you know that the team also run an awesome bar in the centre of Kuching? Monkeebar opened its doors back in 2013 and has raised considerable funds for a number of orangutan centres throughout Borneo, with 100% of merchandise profits being pumped back into wildlife protection, and 50% of the money made from drinks purchased here providing extra income for The Great Orangutan Project. Kick back with a guilt-free beverage!
Accommodation: Approximately £50 per night (RM271)
Taxi fare from the project: Approximately £37 (RM200)
Ramping up the luxury now, we head to Damai. Home to a beach resort as well as the luxury Damai Purai spa, this is one of the most well-loved areas to be found just outside of Kuching. Visitors flock to the golden sands of Teluk Bandung, an area of beach nestled at the foot of the majestic Mount Santubong, for a variety of reasons: golf, canoeing, and gastronomy are all favourite pastimes of tourists here, though the opportunity to look out at the breathtaking South China sea is enough for some people. Play a game of beach volleyball, check out the arts and crafts at the renowned Sarawak Cultural Village, or pay a visit to a nearby fishing village to get a taste of traditional Bornean culture. No matter what it is that you choose to do, a day (or weekend) trip to Damai is certainly worth the hour-long drive from the project site.
Damai Beach Resort accommodation: Approximately £50 per night (RM271)
Taxi fare from the project: Approximately £34 (RM180)
Earlier on, we suggested that you pay a visit to Sarawak’s cultural village, which some describe as a ‘living museum to the Dayak tribes.’ It’s remarkably easy to get lost in history here: seven different houses can be found across the area’s 17 acres, each of which are home to their own unique interpretation of tradition. Observe how various tribes have gone about their lives over the years and learn all about the arrival of settlers from foreign lands, such as China. Bamboo carvings, musical instruments, and various methods of architecture can be found here, and you may find yourself entertained by the storytellers of the Melanau Tall House! Listen as they spin tall tales of spirits and demons, watch the step-by-step processing of sago (a traditional dessert made from plant starch, among other ingredients), and sample the tasty treats rustled up for you by your hosts.
Elsewhere in the village, you may be invited along to witness a show of traditional dance. Performances take place each day, with participants donning spectacular costumes and showcasing their cultures by way of music and dance. Join in – it’s great fun!
Entry costs: Approximately £12 (RM60)
Taxi fare from the project: Approximately £34 (RM180)
We’ve covered treks, tourist sights, self-indulgence and indigenous culture – so let’s go full-circle by returning to the start! Kuching is home to much of what you might expect in any city: museums, shops and cinemas can all be found here, but there are certain elements which make this something of an unusual location. You may not know that the city’s name is rumoured to derive from the Malay word ‘kucing’ (cat): whether or not this is entirely accurate is irrelevant, as it’s evident that Sarawakians have embraced this namesake wholeheartedly! It’s for this reason that you’re likely to find feline relics throughout Kuching, few of which are exactly small…just look at the giant white cat outside of Little China Town! Interestingly, the cat statues found around the city are often dressed up during public holidays or major celebrations, and sometimes their malleable whiskers are bent into different shapes to signify a certain mood. No matter what you think of cats in general, it’s certainly worth snapping a few pictures of these apparent idols!
Elsewhere in Kuching, you will find the oldest museum in Borneo: the National Museum. The museum was established back in 1888 and houses a history of local native arts and crafts, as well as a stunning collection of local wildlife. A man named Alfred Wallace is credited with curating the beginnings of the collection and, although fascinating, it is impossible not to associate the many species here with the downfall of the environment. Some of the specimens found at the National Museum have long since gone extinct, and a visit to the museum serves as a reminder to act now if we wish to preserve today’s wildlife.
Taxi fare from the project: Approximately £15 (RM80)
That completes our ‘to-do’ list of activities – we do hope you’ve been left feeling inspired! If there are any activities that we’ve missed, leave your suggestions in the comments below!
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