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Borneo - Bako National Park
Bako is one of the best places to see proboscis monkey in Borneo © gualtiero boffi, Shutterstock
The park has a spellbinding quality – no doubt due to its astounding diversity of landscapes.
Established in 1957, Bako National Park (Taman Bako) is Sarawak’s oldest and Malaysia’s second-oldest national park. Covering 27km² at the end of the Muara Tebas Peninsula, adjacent to Santubong, the park has a spellbinding quality, no doubt due to its astounding diversity of landscapes. Bako boasts 25 distinct kinds of plant life and seven ecosystems.
Stretching from Tanjung (Cape) Rhu to Tanjung Po, and encompassing all the beaches and bays in between, it sweeps through mangrove, heath, peat swamp, mixed dipterocarp forest, grasslands, sandstone cliffs and sea-eroded coastal formations. The chances of spotting one of the 280-strong population of proboscis monkeys as you wander along the many well-marked trails are high, particularly in the early morning or towards dusk.
How to get there
Kampung Bako, the jumping-off point for the boat trip to the park, is situated 37km northeast of Kuching. If you don’t want to take a taxi, white minibuses head there from the open-air market near Electra House in Kuching, leaving only when they are full between 06.00 and 17.00. From the Kampung Bako jetty, you must charter a motorboat to take you to the park HQ at Teluk Assam. You can organise this at the National Parks boat ticketing counter at the Bako Bazaar/market. A one-way fare is roughly RM30 per person. You will also settle your park entrance fee here before you hop aboard (RM20/7 adult/6–17 year olds). The 30-minute boat trip down Sungai Tabo from the jetty and across the bay to Bako is half of the fun.
What to see and do
Bako's rock formations are one of its unique draws © Ravindran_John_Smith, Dreamstime
Bako is often tipped as the best park in Sarawak for wildlife experiences. Apart from the monkeys, there are otters, crabs, frogs and lots of lizards and snakes – lime-green whip snakes, green spotted paradise snakes, and Borneo’s only dangerous snake, the triangular-headed pit viper. The wildlife experience starts among the mangroves of Telok Assam, park HQ area, where many of the 150 locally listed birds can be sighted.
Bako boasts one of Borneo’s best networks of park trails – 16 well-signed walks from hour-long forest strolls (1.6km return) to full-day treks (21km return). Pick up a map and flora-and-fauna guide at the park HQ, where you must also register for longer forest forays. You may find one or more of the trails closed for maintenance. It’s amazing how many kinds of vegetation you will pass in an hour as you climb up a couple of cliffs, and circumnavigate the inland of a bay. Both of the supposedly best trails for seeing the proboscis monkey – Telok Delima and Telok Paku – are about 2km return from Telok Assam (park HQ), with sightings also frequent in the mangroves near the park HQ. Pitcher plants are found along the red-arrowed Lintang Loop Trail (10.8km return).
Beach, bay and boat
Telok Pandan Kecil, reached via the 2.5km yellow-arrowed trail, is one of the nicest beaches, nestled within a secluded bay and rocky headland. To cut the journey, or to visit bays and coves further afield, you can charter a boat at park HQ and organise a pickup time with a boatman for a return journey. On the way, you will get to see the casuarina-topped limestone and sandstone cliffs and some of the coast’s fascinating eroded rock features like the Sea Stack.