We're returning to Borneo this year, with plans to spend most of our time "up river". Crystal Blues will be on the beautiful Tulai River, a tributary of the Rajang River, where we'll participate in the Gawai festivities at the longhouse Rumah Lidam. Besides the Gawai festival, there are many activities that make a trip to Sarawak worthwhile :
Gawai Dayak / June 1 - 30
Main festivities are on June 1, at most traditional longhouses in Sarawak (see our comments below regarding Gawai Antu).
Borneo Culture Festival / June 27 - July 5
In the town square at Sibu. Anchor in the Rajang River opposite the ferry terminal.
Rainforest World Music Festival / July 11 - 13
A world class musical feast, at Sarawak Cultural Village, Santubong. Book early ! Anchorage in the river at Santubong, or easy access from Kuching. More info here.
Kuching Festival & Sarawak Regatta / August 1 - 3
The Kuching street parade is on August 2. Anchorage in the Santubong River. The traditional longboat races are held each day.
Baram River Regatta / August 22 - 24
Traditional longboat races on the Baram River at Marudi. Access via regional air service or ferry from Miri.
Borneo International Yachting Challenge / September 7 - 13
Labuan Harbour and Miri Marina. Info here.
Remember - internal air travel in Sarawak and Sabah is inexpensive, and accomodation is very reasonable. You can move around very easily, and local people are helpful and friendly. More informatin is available from the Sarawak Tourism Board here.
2008 Is Gawai Antu
The Gawai Dayak festival is held each year between June 1 and June 30. To the local people it's a celebration of unity, aspiration and hope that marks the end of rice harvest and ushers in another year of bountiful goodness. Traditional music, dance and tuak (rice wine) are all used in abundance. This year Gawai takes on a special role - it is Gawai Antu, meaning festival of the dead. The ceremony and celebrations are, we are told, more substantial and special. We hope to arrive in Kuching, Sarawak (Santubong River anchorage) in early May, and to depart for the Rajang river by May 20.
If you're travelling north east along the coast of Sarawak, you can enjoy the Gawai celebration up river and then return to Santubong anchorage for the Rainforest World Music Festival, or (as we did last year), move on to Miri marina and fly back to Kuching for the music festival. Its only two days travel by boat in either direction, and flights from Miri to Kuching are generally less than fifty dollars.
Our host and friend Jampie anak Merom, a family leader at the Iban longhouse Rumah Lidam, has encouraged us to invite other vessels to visit Sungai Tulai and the Rumah Lidam longhouse this year. Access by boat is relatively straitforward, being close to Bintangor town on the Rajang River. Deep water is held all the way to the longhouse, and anchorage is in an average of 7 metres. If you'd like to visit please contact us for access details and guidance (svcrystalblues"at"gmail.com). Finally, we've compiled an updated listing of marine services and cruising resources in Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah - you can download it here.