Despite being less than two hours away from Kuching in Sarawak, the Gunung Gading National Park is often overlooked by visitors to Borneo. Rare flowers, rainforest trekking, waterfalls for swimming - Gunung Gading has everything that one dreams about in such a wild place.
Unlike many of the other national parks in Borneo, a guide is not required to explore Gunung Gading. Individuals are permitted to hike the rainforest alone in search of their own magical discoveries. The national park is very easy and inexpensive to visit from Kuching; accommodation, trekking, and transportation can all be handled without the aid of a tour office.
In addition to the serene surroundings, Gunung Gading National Park is home to one of the largest and strangest flowers in the world. Sometimes known as the "corpse flower", the rare rafflesia can reach widths of up to three feet.
- For other nature reserves in the country, read our list of National Parks in Malaysia.
The Rafflesia Flower
Gunung Gading National Park is a very convenient place to view the rafflesia when it is in bloom. Rafflesia, the heaviest flower in the world, looks alien and is actually a rare parasite that can only be hosted by one type of vine.
The rafflesia smells like rotting meat to attract flies which pollinate other flowers. Unfortunately, the flower blooms unpredictably and infrequently. Check with the Forestry Office in Kuching to find out if any of the known flower locations are in bloom.
Trekking in Gunung Gading National Park
Well-marked trails for all skill levels allow for hiking through the rainforest; brightly painted blazes on the trees make getting lost impossible. The trails are well-groomed, however some are steep and slippery. Three different waterfalls just off the main trail offer a chance to cool down while hiking.
Despite what the official tourist brochures and forestry website say, it is possible to hike in Gunung Gading National Park without hiring a guide!
- Gunung Gading Summit: At around 3,166 feet tall, the inactive volcano is a real leg-burner to summit. The extremely-steep trail takes around three hours each way at a steady pace. Be on the lookout for some old barrels that once marked a British army camp near the summit. Note: There is no view from the top of Gunung Gading, only a small wooden sign simply stating that you have reached the top.
- Waterfalls: Waterfall #1 is easily reached on the main trail within 20 minutes; a small pool offers a chance to swim. Waterfall #3 is much more secluded, however swimming is prohibited. Waterfall #7 is about a 45-minute walk along the main trail and offers a spectacular chance to cool down in cascading pools and small waterfalls.
- ViewPoints: Two viewpoints offer an aerial view of Lundu. The steep trail takes about 90 minutes each way.
- NightWalk Trail: Many of the creatures that live in the rainforest only come out at night. The nightwalk trail is close to camp and offers a safe way to hike at night with a flashlight.
Mosquitoes are bad in the national park. Read how to avoid mosquito bites.
Accommodation in Gunung Gading
For some reason, Gunung Gading National Park is usually only a day trip for people from Kuching wanting to see the Rafflesia flower. The national park has simple but comfortable accommodation that is rarely booked. Rooms are clean, spacious, and have excellent outdoor common areas for eating and relaxing. The vibe around camp is quiet, peaceful, and friendly.
- Hostel Rooms: The national park offers hostel rooms with two double-bunk beds each. Beds cost $5 per night or the entire room can be booked for only $13 per night. Rooms are fan-only and have shared bathrooms.
- Cabins: Three-room cabins with a total of five beds are available for families. The cabins come with air-con and bathrooms. A cabin costs about $47 per night.
There is no place to eat in the national park! Accommodation comes with access to two fully-equipped kitchens for preparing your own food. Refrigerators are available in each kitchen.
Before planning to stay in Gunung Gading, check with the Forestry Office in Kuching - located directly beside of the Tourist Information Office in the white colonial building - for availability. All bookings are handled from the office in Kuching. It is possible to camp in the national park for $1.75 per night.
Food in Gunung Gading
There are no shops or eateries within the national park. It is necessary to buy groceries from the small shops or supermarket in Lundu and prepare food in one of the shared kitchens. The park office may have water and soft drinks for sale, but not always.
There are several small restaurants in Lundu - a 20-minute walk or short taxi ride from the park.
Getting to Gunung Gading
The Gunung Gading National Park is reached via the small town of Lundu. Buses to Lundu leave from the Express Bus Terminal located near batu 3 in Kuching. You must take a taxi or city bus from the waterfront to the Express Bus Terminal.
To reach the Express Bus Terminal, take bus 3A or 2 from the Sarawak Transportation Company (STC) bus office located near the open-air market and India Street. The ride takes around 30 minutes; the bus stops directly in front of the long-haul terminal.
The journey to Lundu takes less than two hours; a ticket costs about $3.50. The last bus leaves Kuching at 4 p.m.
Once in Lundu, taxi drivers will be waiting around the small bus terminal. The 10-minute ride to the national park has a fixed price of $1.75.
Pandan and Siar Beach
Two rarely-visited, undeveloped beaches are within close proximity of the national park. The sandy beaches are long, wide, and scenic, however the water is shallow and not pleasant for swimming. It is very possible that you will leave the only footprints in the sand on the day that you visit!
The beaches are a 20-minute taxi ride from the national park entrance; drivers charge about $3.50 per person one-way. A small shop on Pandar Beach - the only business - has cold drinks and can arrange a ride back to Gunung Gading.