Your Lonely Planet is likely to be full of all sorts of interesting day trips. Below are some of the ones that we have done recently with our family of 4 kids under 8 years old. We did them, survived them, and think they were worth sharing.
The Orang Utans are a non-negiotiable must do activity when in Kuching. They are located at Semmengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, about 20 kms out of town on the Borneo Highlands Road. Feeding times are 9am and 3pm. They are wonderful to watch and draw quite a crowd and the entrance fee is very minimal (from memory around RM3). The kids loved them, but did get bored after a while.
While in the area check out the Padawan Market in the township before the Orang Utans. It has a lot of local fruit and veg as well as some other interesting bits and pieces.
Kampung Benuk Longhouse is just a short drive past the Orang Utans on the same road. Stay on the same road and don’t turn off at all and you will end up in Kampung Benuk. There is a small visitors centre there where you pay an entrance fee and are then free to wander through the Kampung. Depending on the time of year you will see different thinks going on in the Kampung. People do actually live there so it is more authentic than the cultural village and it has a nice river than you can take a dip in if you are keen. They have bamboo bridges and a roundhouse with skulls hanging from the ceiling.
Annah Rais Longhouse is a more touristy longhouse which is about 30 minutes drive from Kampung Benuk. Head out of Kampung Benuk the way you came in and follow the signs from the turn off.
Not far from Annah Rais are the hot springs. These are surprisingly hot and very popular. It is quite strange to have a crystal clear river in Sarawak and even stranger to have pockets of it that are incredibly hot! Watch our for your little ones though as some of the place are very hot and there are not fences around the really hot pool (so hot you can’t put your foot in). They have local people selling food and drinks there and there are changing rooms and toilets. It is a very pleasant place and quite unique. They do charge an entrance fee (from memory around RM5) and are not open on Mondays.
It only takes about 30-45 minutes from Kuching City to reach the Santubong area where there are many great beaches. The beaches are quite safe most of the year but be careful towards the end of the year when the sea is quite unpredictable. Most of the hotels will display flags to show the conditions of the sea, but they do not have life guards on duty so swimming is at your own risk.
Damai Beach Resort charges a small entrance fee which enables you to use their beach and showers and bathrooms, as does Camp Permai which is my personal favourite.
Camp Permai has two beaches (one is shared with Damai Puri Resort) and the other is about a kilometres walk through the rainforest. It is well signposted and there are toilets and showers nearby. It is a very pleasant walk and you pass by the stream and jungle pool which is another option for swimming if you have had enough of the sea.
At the main beach there are also toilets and showers. They also have kayaks that are available for hires. There is a restaurant at the camp (although be warned that we once waited 45 minutes for our meal) and if you have the time it is a very pleasant place to look out over the beach and sea while you have a meal.
The road back to Kuching is dotted with eating places in the Santubong and Buntal areas and a nice seafood dinner is always a lovely way to end a great day at the beach. Even something as simple as a whole coconut to drink makes the kids feel like the day has been a real experience.
Sematan/Lundu – while most people still think of this as an overnight trip now that the Ferries have been replace by a bridge it is an easy day trip to either Sematan or Lundu. Palm Beach Resort charges a minimal entrance fee for use of their facilities. The also have quite a nice little restaurant/cafe which serves food and has nice soft-serve ice-creams.
Gunung Gading National Park is in Lundu where the Rafflesia flowers bloom. If you are going to Lundu especially to see these then it is best you arrange everything from Kuching as they are not always in bloom and it can be quite a walk to get to them.
The Bau area is full of interesting things to do. The Wind and Fairy Caves are in the area. I have not done the Fairy cave yet (I will try and do it soon) but the Wind Cave was fine with the kids. Strollers are a no-go but the walkway was well maintained and easy for the kids to negotiate. There is a small river which was fun for the kids to try and catch fish in, it was shallow and wide so was very safe. Beware during and after heavy rain though as there can be flash floods.
There is a mini-zoo in Bau, not far from the Wind Caves. It is adjoined to a restaurant called One Stop Red from memory. It is on the road to Sirikin not far from the main turn-off. It is kind of a crazy place…some things are great, and some things are not. They have a cave walk which is very cool (literally, it is a nice place to cool off on a hot day), it has sensor lights which light up as you walk through until it reaches a dead end. The kids thought this was very cool! A heavy duty stroller would be ok here as most of the walking is on grass, it can be uneven though.
The animals are a bit sad, and some of them need a bit more care. There are also crazy animal there: once a friend had a horse attempt to kick her, the next time a monkey stole my daughters shoe and run up a tree with it, and the last time we were stalked by a massive crazy bird/stalk thing that didn’t leave us alone until it had been hit by my back-pack. Not a place for the faint hearted!
Tasik Biru is the lake at Bau. It used to be a gold mine and has been reclaimed. You can’t swim in it, but there is a nice playground there and some food stalls where you can have a drink/icecream.
Bau town itself is worth a walk around. Children are usually fascinated by the Chinese Temple smack bang in the middle of the road. There are plenty of coffee shops here and it makes a good place to stop for lunch. The Sirikin markets are open on the weekends. This is where the Indonesian and Malaysian borders meet and goods are bought and sold. The last time I went with kids I spent most of the time fending people off them so if you have shy kids this may not be a great place to take them.
Serian is another place worth visiting. It is about an hours drive from Kuching. The town itself has a really great market which is open all of the time. They sell all the usual foods and jungle produce, woven baskets and all sorts of other things.
Ranchan Po is a waterfall that is just past Serian. It is sign-posted from the main road. There are a couple of different eating places here and showers etc. Entrance is free. There are a number of paths that you can take to find your own little spot along the stream. There is also a large pool which is great for the little ones (as long as they have floats or can swim). We usually take a small fishing rod here and the kids spend ages catching little fish. It can get very busy here on the weekends and public holidays. Strollers are not able to be used here as access to the stream is down a series of steps and slippery paths.
Kuching Kayaks offers both river trips and sea trip (to see the dolphins). I have friends who have done these trips with children as young as 4. They have standard trips and are also able to customise trips for your needs. Link through to their website here.