Put on your explorer’s cap and venture deep into one of Sarawak’s most alluring national parks—the Bako National Park—to discover its vibrant rainforest and frisky jungle dwellers, including the rare proboscis monkey!
Sandstone plateau swathed in green
Do not be fooled by the size of the Bako National Park. Though the smallest of Sarawak’s national parks, it matters not when compared to its rich biodiversity, jam-packed into the limited expanse. To top it off, it is also the oldest among Sarawak’s 30 national parks—gazetted a few months shy of the Malaysian independence (1957)—standing out from all the rest that are scattered across Sarawak’s lush landscape.
The pitcher plant, strange but beautiful
Its rich biodiversity is unquestionable; there are approximately 600 flower species—49 of which are orchids, arresting in their colours—25 unique types of vegetations spanning across 7 biotopes. This provides the opportunity to experience all sorts of ecological diversity within peat swamps, mangrove forests, dipterocarp forests and more! Within those habitats, 267 animal species including mammals, birds, bats, reptiles and more than a dozen amphibian species, turning the national park into a goldmine of flora and fauna.
If you’re looking to venture into this unfrequented national park, it is better to avoid late November to early January as it is the monsoon period. Read The Rakyat Post: Sarawak’s Bako – A Rare National Gem to find out more about Bako National Park. Also, check out Adventoro's full-day Bako National Park Adventure to get started immediately!
Located just 37 km away from Kuching. The journey consists of two stages, the first stage can be traversed by car but the second leg of the journey has to be crossed by boat. You will embark on a 20-minute boat ride. At times, depending on the tide, you would have to wade through water to reach the shore. Be careful where you place your feet though, as you might accidentally step on hermit crabs.
Note that the boat departure times are generally dependent on the tides and weather as it is hard to manoeuvre during low tide; the boats are ill-suited for stormy weather. Be aware that the final boat out is at 3 pm and make sure to get yourself registered at the boat counter located beside the Park HQ. A single boat can accommodate 5 people and the wiser option is to share it with others to lower the cost.
A sky-blue Fiddler crab peeking out of its home
As you leave your footprints on the muddy sand of Bako National Park, you would come across some mud-dwelling creatures such as the mudskippers, sky-blue fiddler crabs and hermit crabs. Be wary of stepping on these creatures or you might just meet the end of a crab's pincers. OUCH!
Pot-bellied, pendulous-nosed proboscis monkey; one of the largest in Asia!
As you journey deeper into the opulent rainforest, you'll surely come across the proboscis monkey. These arboreal (tree-dwelling) creatures cluster together in a harem-like organisation, comprising of one dominant male and several females. One of the largest monkeys in Asia, the proboscis monkey is an excellent swimmer as it has webbed feet! Embark on a nature trail—specifically the Telok Delima trail or Telok Paku trail—for a sure sight of the proboscis monkey, but you'll have to go either at dawn or dusk.
Bearded pigs searching for food in the mud
Another highlight of the Bako National Park is the bearded pig, often seen wandering the park grounds, beaches and sometimes near your accommodation. Though not very intimidating, it is best not to approach and touch them. It's not hard to see where this Bornean bearded pig got its name; there are prominent bristles surrounding its snout. Aside from that, keep an eye out for macaques. They're bold and wouldn't hesitate to rob you of your belongings! In addition, there are other wonderful animals such as the Oriental small-clawed otter and hairy-nosed otter which are usually spotted lounging at the mangroves along Sungai Assam.
Catch sight of magnificent rock formations en route
Situated at the northern end of Bako National Park, Lakei Island is an hour's boat ride, separated only by a narrow body of water. This island boasts superb white sands; however, the highlight here is definitely the incredible rock and sandstone formations. Arrange a trip and request for a ride to Teluk Pandan Kecil and start snapping pictures using your smartphone or camera at the famous sea stacks! Besides that, there are also fascinating rock paintings just a short stroll away.
Aside from that, this little island has more up its sleeves! Ascend 150 steps to the highest point of the island and you would come across the mausoleum of Datuk Haji Ibrahim. A character straight out of local mythology, he was said to be endowed with incredible strength; he could carry a sailboat from the hills to the sea by himself!
Moving farther, you'll chance upon the Kolam Salamun natural pool. Check out the Arabic inscriptions on the sandstone, said to be inscribed by Ibrahim himself. If you're looking for an ideal photography spot, there are steep cliffs and the Pa-Amit Cape, offering a 360-degree view of the vast, splendid expanse.
Read The Star: Pulau Lakei: A Little Treasure by the Sea for more on this hidden gem.
Scores of nature trails for you to explore
There is no shortage of nature trails to explore at the Park; 18 colour coded trails will occupy you for days! Aside from the more popular Tajor trail, there are numerous others where you can test your mettle and fully enjoy the forest scenery. Grab a map from the Park HQ and hit it off with the Paku trail or Tanjung Sapi if you want to see more of the park's wildlife. If you're planning a full-day adventure, attempt the Lintang trail, a circular route that wold take you through the park's varying vegetation in half a day. However, if that does not satiate your thirst for adventure, try tackling the Telok Limau trail, a 5 to 7-hour walk, which also happens to be the park's most arduous trek. Since it takes a long time one-way, you can prearrange for boat transport to pick you up at the end of the trail (Limau Beach).
Lintang trail is even featured in the article by Health Works: 27 More Awesome Hiking Spots Around Malaysia.
The Tajor Waterfalls, a surreal cascade
This captivating waterfall can be found on the 2.75 km Tajor Trail that ends at Tajor Beach. It takes at least 2 hours from the starting point, where you will tread on boarded walkways through the mangrove forest before requiring you to trek on lowland forest floor. Slightly tucked away from the trail, you would have to trek upstream where you will get to enjoy the scenery and peaceful atmosphere. Take a dip in the natural pool before continuing on your journey.
Pristine beaches away from the crowd
Bako National Park boasts seven incredible beaches; however, some of these are inaccessible. If you fancy a swim or just to laze about on soft sands under the sun, head towards Telok Pandan Kecil, just 1.5 hours' walk from the Park HQ. Telok Assam and Telok Paku are your next best options but do avoid swimming in March and April as you might encounter a fluther of jellyfish! Also, it is good to enquire at the Park HQ before going swimming as there may be threats of saltwater crocodiles as well.
Keep your eyes peeled for sights of dazzling birds
If you are a bird-watching enthusiast, Bako National Park has just the thing for you! There are approximately 150 species of bird that have been spotted in this green paradise. If you're unsure where to start, your best bet would be the mangroves of Telok Assam. If you're lucky, you may even lay eyes on the pied and black hornbills and other migratory birds. This comes as no surprise as the Borneo Post: Sarawak the Country's Bird Paradise has listed Bako National Park as one of the 10 prime sites for bird-watching.
The Wagler's Pit Viper in search for prey at dusk
Come nightfall, there is a whole new adventure for you to experience and enjoy; it is when the forest truly comes alive. This two-hour night jungle adventure that is led by a park ranger would undoubtedly be exciting. Some of the nocturnal creatures mentioned in the Lonely Planet: Bako National Park, Night Walk would be the flying lemur, pangolin, slow loris, palm civet, cicadas, owls and even glow-worms. Take a stroll near the Park HQ or any one of the beaches and you'd hear a cacophony of nocturnal forest dwellers such as owls, insects, crickets and frogs, to name a few. There are also snakes and while most of them are harmless, the Wagler's Pit Viper is one to look out for—it is venomous! Adventoro also offers a Bako tour with nocturnal jungle exploration with Bako National Park Overnight Adventure 2D1N.
It is recommended to stay at least three days to experience all that Bako National Park has to offer (take it from Lonely Planet: Introducing Bako National Park). Fortunately, Bako National Park has a diverse range of options available—from camping grounds to lodges. However, it would be wise to book early (through the Sarawak Forestry website) to guarantee a spot. Check out Adventoro's 3D2N Bako National Park Adventure to start your adventure hassle-free; it is inclusive of two nights' accommodation as well as meals.
Nestled away from the flurry of commercialisation, Bako National Park offers an authentic nature experience unlike any other. This is evident from its pristine beaches and the nonchalant attitude of the wildlife, so assured and oblivious to the threat of human intervention. If you find yourself wandering Sarawak in search of adventure, Bako National Park should definitely be at the top of your list.
Bako National Park Booking Office // Add: Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak // Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 0800 - 1700; Sat, Sun & PH closed // Contact No: +60 8 224 8088 // Website: http://ebooking.com.my
Bako Terminal // Operating Hours: Mon to Sun 0900 - 1600 // Contact No: +60 8-237 0434
Bako Boat Service // Contact No: +60 10-949 386