ELEVEN kayaks are rolled out by the riverbank – nine for guests and two for tour guides.
When everything is ready to go, one of the guides calls out: “Welcome to Kuching and our 11 km-kayaking adventure along Sungai Sarawak Kiri.”
Asin Dares, a Borneo Trek & Kayak Adventure tour guide, says the outing – to and fro – will take between three and four hours, depending on the water level along the main river.
“We are providing each of you a life jacket, so please put it on at all times for your safety.
“Also, be reminded that nobody is allowed to overtake the front guide or trail behind the last guide,” he instructs.
Asin then briefs the guests on paddling and balancing the kayak.
Shortly after, the journey begins – in the clear water of Sungai Abang, a small stream flowing past Kampung Bengoh.
The take-off point is about 100 metres from the junction of Sungai Abang and upper Sungai Sarawak Kiri or Sungai Semadang.
From there, the kayakers can paddle leisurely while enjoying the tranquility and the beautiful riverine scenery.
The river is tame during the dry season. The water is crystal clear and shallow – submerged pebbles or sands are clearly visible.
However, kayaking along the river is not recommended, even for adults, when the water is high because the swift current can be dangerous.
This normally happens after incessant heavy downpour during the rainy season. At this time, the water is usually a turbid Milo O.
Sometimes when there is rain in upper Sungai Bengoh, the water may take on a tea-like colour or even black.
The best time for kayaking along Sungai Semadang is during the dry season. Kayakers can row along slowly and gently, making toilet or photo stops any time.
The journey downriver from Kampung Bengoh passes some amazingly picturesque spots. The first stop is usually at a mini waterfall, about half an hour leisure paddling from the starting point.
Usually, kayakers are given some time either to take a bath or a picture at the mini waterfall, about two minutes’ walk from the main river.
Paddling further down the river, kayakers are greeted by a limestone formation resembling a woman’s face, at a place call Endab, about 10 minutes from the waterfall.
A bit further down, about 20 metres from Endab, look back and a separate limestone formation, shaped like a bulldog head and a human backside, comes into view.
You have to be very observant, though, to really appreciate the rock formations at this part of upper Sungai Sarawak Kiri.
A further 10 minutes of paddling, Kampung Danu, one of the riverine Bidayuh villages along the river, emerges to welcome to kayakers.
Stop at this village to sample some native herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. Then take a cool dip and have lunch, provided by the operator, on a sandy bank or pebble field at Kampung Danu.
In fact, the most exciting part of the adventure along this stretch of river begins from Kampung Danu. About 400 metres from there, you will have to fight the rapids, of which there are two “friendly” types – Grade 1 and Grade 2.
Rapids, as most people agree, are the natural challenges for the kayak.
Tackling the first rapid is a bit easy – and fun. The second rapid seems a little scary because it’s much bigger – and rougher.
Sometimes, especially if one’s paddling skills are below average, the kayak may get stuck in the middle of a rock, causing one to lose balance and the kayak to capsize.
Should this happen, just let go of everything and ride the flowing water (with your life jacket on).
Once you manage to avoid the rock and find safety, just let the current carry your kayak downstream while enjoying a “roller coaster” ride.
The rapids become challenging only when the water is shallow. When it’s deep, it’s fine.
Kayaking along Sungai Sarawak Kiri may either start from Kampung Bengoh or Kampung Danu which is about 10 minutes’ drive from the former.
Ideally, it should start from Kampung Bengoh and end at Kampung Semadang because this stretch promises captivating natural beauty not found in the urban. The scenery along the river is simply awesome.
The journey between Kampungs Danu and Semadang offers some of the most beautiful natural settings in Kuching.
You can get close to Nature and soak up the eye-catching sights of the butterfly limestone formation and towering riverine trees amidst the mysterious allure of the rainforest.
There is a mini cave by the riverbank as well. And that’s not all. Picturesque mountains, riddled with caves, loom above the scenic locale to elicit a sense of wonderment.
While kayaking, take in the fresh mountain air and the pristine attractiveness of the lush rainforest.
There are no crocodiles in the river but monitor lizards can be spotted by the riverbank – if it’s your lucky day – apart from kingfishers, swifts, black and white wagtails, dragonflies and butterflies.
During the fruit season, monkeys can be seen scampering among the tall trees along the banks.
As you paddle along, especially when the water is crystal clear, you can touch the fish that surface around the kayak as if to say hello. This is common farther downstream in Tagang territory.
Tagang is a river conservation programme to maintain the fresh water fish species in Sungai Semadang.
Some tour operators bring along fish feed which kayakers use to feed the river-going denizens, at the same time, getting a close-up look at their sleek silvery appearance.
After that, there is always time for swimming or bathing.
That’s what kayaking along the Sungai Sarawak Kiri is all about – a chance to get close to Nature and enjoy its abundant wealth.
Borneo Trek & Kayak Adventure is offering three packages for Nature lovers – (A) Rainforest Kayaking Adventure, (B) Borneo Highland Orang Utans (Semengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre) Kayaking Adventure and (C) Kayaking, Semengoh Orang Utan and Annah Rais Longhouse Adventure.
The adventure includes watching orang utans at feeding time at Semengoh Wildlife Centre, followed by a visit to Annah Rais Longhouse.
This 80-door Bidayuh longhouse nestles at the foothills of the scenic Penrissen mountain range.
The longhouse is estimated to be 200 years old. Some prized human skulls can be seen at the ceremonial hut.
The next destination is Kampung Bengoh where the kayaking adventure begins.
For more information, call 013-804 8338 or 013-844 8609.