Kayaking in Kuching

River kayaking offers a refreshing alternative perspective of Kuching city for travellers. By Shona Lall Parekh.

22nd October 2015 - Only a half-hour scenic drive to the south of Kuching city awaits a breath-taking river kayak adventure.  The 11-kilometre escapade down Semadang River begins from its shallow, pebbly tributary Sungei Abang.  After a safety briefing by our friendly, safety-certified guides and decked in life jackets, we paddled in pairs towards the main river - about 100 metres away. 

Lush greenery alongside river banks offers a rejuvenating experience for kayakers. Photo credit: Semadang Kayak The gently meandering, easy-to-manoeuvre river cuts through magnificent green rainforest – offering spectacular scenery of flora and fauna along the way – giant bamboo clusters, protected Ketapang trees (terminalia catappa), distant bee-hives, monitor lizards, fresh-water fish and more. 

Luke Kenny, a guide from Semadang Kayak explains, "The river is accessible throughout the year, however during the rainy season from the month of October to April the river's depth increases, especially after a heavy downpour - which makes navigation easier."  

The skilful guides led the enthralled kayakers along the scenic route, often pausing to savour the sights and even to take dips in the river’s clear, cool waters. 

At the halfway mark, the group of twenty ravenous kayakers stopped at a riverside kampong (village) for a sumptuous homemade lunch including delicious stir-fried leafy forest vine, and nutritious brown rice from the cook’s son-in-law’s paddy field.  Other dishes in the spread included Sarawakian fish curry, barbequed chicken, fried lady’s finger (okra), dragon fruit and a sweet coconut glutinous dessert wrapped in leaf.

Spectacular geological formations observed along the river course. Photo credit: Semadang KayakOur sensational journey continued despite a sudden light, tropical rainstorm.  The rain showers stopped after just twenty minutes but enough to lower the surrounding temperatures a little, and ignite a chorus of birdsong high in the canopy.  Further down the Bornean river, the views became increasingly breathtaking.  Stunning giant rock formations lined the riverbanks. Towering limestone peaks rose from the surrounding rainforest, dominating the river vistas.  Paddlers passed a small waterfall and even spotted a tiny cave.  The showers also resulted in stronger currents and the kayakers skilfully navigated through occasional rapids and dodging boulders.  It was indeed reminiscent of an expedition in an epic Indiana Jones movie.

Kayaking – An Eco-Friendly Tourist Activity

Kayak explorations are an eco-friendly way to discover a destination in its natural glory.  It is environmentally friendly as there is no pollution.  Such eco tourism choices have a light-touch effect on the surroundings - as the activity requires no additional major infrastructure.  This preserves natural surroundings in its original state and has the added benefit of bringing income directly to the local inhabitants, encouraging the appreciation and promotion of local culture and practices.

Some Points to Note:

Kayak boats moored by the riverside. Photo Credit: Semadang KayakSeveral tour operators offer kayak expeditions including Semadang Kayak. Safety is taken seriously and all kayakers are thoroughly briefed on the dos and don’ts and rehearsed in safety drills. Life jackets are mandatory. Typically children are paired with an accompanying adult and we recommend confirming with your tour operator on safety provisions for children.

Usually the entire journey lasts between 4-6 hours and guests are provided two-way transport to the start point, and picked up from the end point.

A moderate level of fitness is recommended.

Waterproof long sleeve tops and long bottoms offer good protection against the sun and sand flies.  Water shoes or sandals are appropriate footwear; bring drinking water (if not provided), camera (and waterproof bag if not provided) or waterproof cameras.  Do not forget sunscreen, caps, insect repellent.  

The kayak river expedition in the midst of lush Sarawak rainforest is an outdoor activity that is hard to top.  It provides four hours of water fun but will leave a lifetime of memories. 

Gaia Discovery thanks Sarawak Tourism Board for making this trip possible.