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Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak

Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak

Sarawak Rainforest Imaad Whd/unsplash

Music, Nature and Hornbills in Sarawak, Malaysia

Hornbills by Dazzie k/Unsplash
Hornbills by Dazzie K/Unsplash

A week of world music, nature, art and culture in Sarawak – land of the Hornbills

Sarawak, a Malaysian state located on the Island of Borneo,the third largest island in the world, is home to some of the world’s most biologically diverse rainforests and wildlife, remote tribal communities, and the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF). This iconic three-dayfestival, which is now in its 26th year, is held annually on the serene grounds of the award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village, a living museum, based at the Mount Santubong foothills, some 35kms north of Sarawak’s capital city, Kuching.

This year’s festival, which attracted over 19,000 visitors from across the world, showcased an equally diverse lineup including 20 bands from 12 countries and four continents. We were invited on a one week tripto explore and experiencea connection not only with the music, but with the region’s cultural heritage, land and people.

Sarawak locals in traditional costume by  Farizal Resat/ unsplash
Sarawak locals in traditional costume by Farizal Resat/Unsplash

The Shaman Tea Room, Yoga and Fashion in Sarawak

During the day there were a myriad of activities, workshops, cultural displays, food stalls and pocket performances scheduled, including Art Sculpture displays, the Sound Bath in the Shaman Tea Room, Yoga classes and fashion style tips provided by presenter Allison Jong in the Spinning Hut.

By nightfall the rainforest came alive with music from around the world. The first night showcased the diversity of music across East and West Malaysia, with Iranian contemporary folk music group Rastak, the only exception. The second and third nights featured an international line up including, Russian throat singer Olena Uutai, Maldivian rock music group Fasylive and Safi Theatre, a traditional African drumming and dance group from Tanzania. Legendary French band Gipsy Kings with Tonino Baliardo and American reggae band Big Mountain, this year’s headliners, were a definite drawcard. 

Monkeys in the Bako National Park

Malaysian Monkeys by Ong Cheng Zheng/Unsplash
Malaysian Monkeys by Ong Cheng Zheng/Unsplash

There are over 65 national parks, reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in Sarawak, 16 of which are open to the general public. On day three we visited the Bako National Park, the trip began with a private tour bus ride to the Bako Terminal, before travelling by boat to reach the park.

Although we were informed wildlife sightings weren’t guaranteed, we were welcomed almost immediately, by a Bornean Keeled Pit Viper Snakerelaxing in one of the trees near the park’s entrance. Shortly afterwards we encountered all three species of monkey that Bako National Park is famed for, including the Long-tailed Macaques, the Silvered leaf Monkeys and the Borneo native Proboscis Monkeys, instantly recognisable by their reddish-brown coat and uniquely distinctive noses. Our lunch at the park canteen was interrupted by a visit from a family of bearded pigs roaming the park grounds in search of their own lunch. We concluded our day trip with an 800m trek through the jungle to reach the beach where our boat was waiting to take us back to the Bako Terminal. 

Orangutans at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Orangutans by Hongbin/Unsplash
Orangutans by Hongbin/Unsplash

The following day we went to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, which was established in the mid-1970s to serve as a rehabilitation facility for injured and orphaned wild animals, most notably, orangutans. Semenggoh is open to the public twice a day, in the morning (8 – 10am) and afternoon (2 – 4pm), to coincide with the orangutan feeding time. We opted for the afternoon session, and arrived at 2pm, an hour before the 3pm feeding time, allowing us time to walk through the information centre to discover more about the orangutans we hoped to see on the feeding platforms shortly. We were once again informed that wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. However, a ranger shared with us that seven orangutans came down for the morning feeding earlier that day. We heard one of the rangers begin his daily feeding time call to the orangutans, at 2.45pm while another ranger placed a variety of fruit on the platforms. We were told to keep an eye out for movement in the trees, and within five minutes we noticed flashes of orange amongst the green leaves in the distance. We watched excitedly as the sound of the rustling leaves grew closer and the first of two orangutans, 10 year-old Ruby and an unnamed newborn that clung to her, emerged. Ruby collected a coconut that was offered to her, by hand, from one of the park rangers, knocked it against the tree and proceeded to drink the juice within it. We were told that typically the younger orangutans stay in the trees for safety reasons, while the older ones are brave enough to stay on the ground. And there to prove the ranger’s point was Seduku, who born in 1971, is known as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ of Semenggoh. Seduku casually made her way towardsto our small group, apple in hand, and proceeded to find a comfortable spot within touching distance of us, to enjoy her apple. We spent about 30 minutes with the Grand Old Lady before visiting time was over. We saw six orangutans in total during our two hour visit, and left feeling well and truly grateful for our good fortune. 

Orangutans by Hongbin/Unsplash
Orangutans by Hongbin/Unsplash

Hawksbill Turtle in Satang National Park

Our wildlife spotting adventures concluded with a trip to the Satang National Park’s Santang Island which serves as a hatchery and nesting ground for Green Turtles and the rare Hawksbill Turtle. On the way there we spent a fewhours Irrawaddy Dolphin and Crocodile spotting. Once we arrived on the island, local guides informed us about the conservation work being done to help these highly endangered sea creatures; and introduced us to baby turtles that were born the night before and were destined to be released later that night. 

Hornbills by Dazzie k/Unsplash
Hornbills by Dazzie K/Unsplash

Damai Beach Resort and Cove 55 luxury accommodation

Sarawak by Ryan O Niel/unsplash
Sarawak by Ryan O Niel/Unsplash

Sarawak provides a number of accommodation options to suit one’s tastes and budget. Accommodation during our one week stay included the family friendly Damai Beach resort and the award-winning and luxuriously private, Cove 55, a boutique 28-room hotel near Mount Santubong run by the charismatic General Manager, Christoph Leonhard. 

Every aspect of Cove 55 emphasises luxury and tranquility. “Whether it is for a relaxing weekend getaway from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, spoiling oneself at the end of a rugged discover-Borneo-holiday or simply to celebrate a special occasion – reasons to come to Cove 55 are multiple, as are the nationalities of our guests”, says Leonhard. 

Sarawak by Laurentiu Morariu/ unsplash
Sarawak by Laurentiu Morariu/Unsplash

Sarawak Food Trail – Kuching Edition

There are a variety of dining options in Sarawak. Modern western cuisine at The Junk restaurant, known for its quirky interior, and native Sarawakian and Asian cuisine at Cafe Borneo Delight are but only two options on the Sarawak Food Trail, which is a deliciously fun way to explore this vibrant city (see here). 

Longhouses and sunset cruises

Sunset by Imaad Whd/Unsplash
Sunset by Imaad Whd/Unsplash

The Annah Rais Longhouse, a centuries-old bamboo longhouse, provides an immersive experience and unique insight into the culture of the indigenous Bidayuh people. 

A one and a half hour sunset cruise along the Sarawak riverbank is a stunning way to explore Kuching’s historical landmarks by night.

More to discover in Sarawak

Sarawak by Ong Cheng Zheng/Unsplash
Sarawak by Ong Cheng Zheng/Unsplash

Whether you’re planning weekend getaway or week-long adventure, Sarawak is certain to provide you with a memorable experience. 

For more personalised information tips and advice, or to book this incredible holiday contact your local TravelManagers’ personal travel manager here.

For more information visit

Mona Omar travelled as a guest of Tourism Malaysia.

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