Cut off from Kuching by the Santubong River to the south, the Santubong Peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavation in the 1960s and 1970s found tens of thousands of artefacts, including digging implements, across six neighbouring sites; they dated back to 3000 BC, when the Indian/Javanese Empire extended here, though little of any ancient civilisation can be seen today.
Dominated by the 810-metre Gunung Santubong, the area is dotted with oddly shaped geological formations amid patches of thick forest. The mountain is actually a national park (though there are no facilities and no entrance fee to pay) and makes for a moderately taxing trek. It takes around four hours to reach the summit, with rope ladders to help where things get steep; one trail up is clearly signed next to the Green Paradise Café on the main road. However, most visitors prefer to venture out to the beaches of Damai, 35km from Kuching at the peninsula’s northwest tip, or the excellent if pricey folk museum nearby, the Sarawak Cultural Village. Since the 1980s, stretches of the river and coastline have been developed as retreats for tourists and city-weary locals, though thankfully the resorts have left the tranquil, almost lonesome, nature of the area largely undisturbed. There are also two low-key villages, Buntal and Kampung Santubong.