Following the trail of the White Rajahs in their late-1800s conquest to suppress the rebellious headhunters, cycle into the Iban heartland - a land of authentic longhouses, interior waterways, and rustic forts. This tour is perfect for those seeking a truly off-the-beaten-track experience of dining in longhouses with locals, listening to stories by village chiefs, and immersing themselves in the Bornean jungle.

Highlights

  • Visit traditional longhouses and dine with locals
  • Sleep local-style in the jungle under a mosquito net
  • Cycle along lush, Bornean river landscapes
  • Explore Kuching's charming old town

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Begin cycling the Heritage Trail Kuching
Day 2 Longboat to Banting Banting
Day 3 Cycle to Fort Alice Fort Alice
Day 4 Cycle and boat to Skrang River Nanga Murat Longhouse
Day 5 Cycle and boat to Batang Ai Resort Batang Ai
Day 6 Rest and transfer to Kuching Kuching
Day 7 Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Cycling the Heritage Trail

The Astana government building in Kuching

Your adventure starts in the charming old town of Kuching - capital of Sarawak. Start with a tour briefing and then head straight to the Heritage Trail of the White Rajah. Here in town, the trail will take you to the Main Bazaar of the picturesque old town and the Square Tower. In the early days of the Brooke Rajah, this fort and a nearby courthouse were the only government buildings in Kuching.

Cross the river in the traditional fashion, in a sampan ferry deftly steered with oars, to visit Fort Margherita, built by Charles Brooke in 1879 and named after his bride. Despite its formidable canons, the brick-built edifice has never been shot at in anger. After substantial renovations, it is now a Museum of Brooke Memorabilia. After your cycle ride through the capital, stow your bike and enjoy a sunset dinner on the banks of the romantic Sarawak River.

Cycle distance: 7.5 miles (12km)

Day 2: Longboat to Banting

Fishing boats on the river

After breakfast, make your way into Borneo's interior. Cycle past two lively bazaars where you'll find piles of every fruit you can imagine, and onto the outpost town of Pantu. A longboat awaits to take you to a remote longhouse in Banting. Explore the local community with your guide and enjoy the spontaneous longhouse hospitality this area is known for: sitting on the floor, sharing traditional cuisine, and bedding down under a mosquito net at night. The river here is famous for its prawns; unfortunately, crocodiles like the tasty crustaceans quite as much as we humans do, so swimming in the river is not recommended.

Day 3: Cycle to Fort Alice

On the river in Borneo at sunset

After a short boat transfer to the trading outpost of Lingga for breakfast at a coffee shop, pedal up the majestic Batang Lupar River, passing longhouses, villages, farms, and rice paddies along the way. When you reach Sri Aman (formerly known as Simanggang), pause for a traditional lunch and to explore Fort Alice, a mid-1800s for perched on a riverside hillock with a good view of the river. Like all forts, Alice served as defense and security, administrative headquarters, and a prison. 

Day 4: Cycle and boat to the Skrang River

Traditional Bornean hospitality

Mount your bike for another day of pedaling, starting with a ride to Betong on the Layar River. Stop here to pay your respects to a veteran warrior who lives in quiet retirement and enjoy a coffee-shop lunch. After lunch and before pedaling onward, visit Fort Lily - which saw considerable action in the 1800s when Iban chief Rentap challenged the Rajah. 

From here, travel by car to the Pais Jetty on the Skrang River, where you'll board another longboat for Nanga Murat to meet with the old chief. Get ready for ancient tales and a little rice wine - the chief's an entertaining and hospitable storyteller. Then spend another night in traditional fashion, eating on the floor and sleeping on a mattress under a mosquito net.

Cycle distance: 20 miles (32km)

Day 5: Cycle and boat to Batang Ai Resort

Batang Ai

Cycle past more longhouses, villages, and small farms as you cycle southward toward the Kalimantan border. This is the Iban heartland. Follow the Lemanak River through hilly terrain to the man-made Batang Ai Lake tucked up in the hills. Cross the lake by boat to the Batang Ai Resort - a cluster of longhouses against the green slopes. Spend a leisurely afternoon and evening recovering from the rigors of the trail.

Cycle distance: 32 miles (51km)

Day 6: Rest and transfer to Kuching

Kuching's Square Tower

Spend your morning relaxing by the pool, visiting a nearby longhouse, hiking to a waterfall, or taking a jungle trek. Then have one final jungle lunch before making your way back to Kuching. Back in the city, enjoy a celebratory dinner at Topspot Food Center, where all the best food of Sarawak comes together, before retiring to your hotel for the night.

Day 7: Departure

Time to say farewell to Malaysia and head home!

Map

Map of Cycling the "Headhunter Heartland" - 7 Days
Map of Cycling the "Headhunter Heartland" - 7 Days