Getting to Bako National Park
He sits ten meters in front of me on the wooden planks and looks at me with his button eyes. I stop and let the proboscis choose what it wants to do in the face of my presence. He stays seated. Scratches his back. Look up into the trees at a female nose-monkey and then turn back to look at me.
For ten minutes we observe each other until he leaves the wooden planks calmly and sits down on the lower branches of a tree next to the path. He steers his long nose towards the small pond and takes a sip of water. At some point he has enough of us and swings up into the tree to follow the female into the forest.
This intense encounter with the proboscis monkey was one of the most impressive experiences of my four-week Borneo tour. I met him in the Bako National Park in southern Borneo, half an hour’s drive from Kuching. If you are in Borneo for a short time and want to experience real jungle feeling, you should definitely plan a tour to Bako. Here’s everything you need to know for your visit to Bako.
How do I get to the Bako National Park?
The ferry dock to the National Park is just over half an hour from Kuching. There are several possibilities for transport:
- You can book an organized tour in Kuching. I think that’s unnecessary, because you can easily explore the Bako National Park on your own.
- You can take a taxi (about 50 Malaysian Ringgit (RM), which is the equivalent of 10 euros).
- You can take bus number 1, which runs every hour on the hour along the Waterfront in Kuching (ask at your accommodation for the exact stops). The trip costs 3.50 RM (0.70 Euro). The bus takes about an hour to the ferry.
- You can hope for your luck as we have experienced it: We went in time to the bus stop to take the public bus. Within five minutes, two private minibuses came by asking us if we wanted to go to Bako. The second offer we have accepted – it cost 5 RM per person. We were a lot faster than the bus and could therefore take a ferry earlier than expected.
From the ferry dock in Bako Bazaar a boat drives every hour to the national park. Bako is not on an island, but the park is surrounded by dense forest, so it is only accessible by boat. Depending on the water level, the ferry can not stop at the jetty, but lets you out on the beach directly opposite the Park Headquarters. In this case you have to wade a few meters through the water.
The entrance to the park costs 20 RM per person, the return trip by ferry also 20 RM per person. After you have bought your ticket at the ticket office in Bako Bazaar, you simply take the next boat.
For the return trip to Kuching you wait for the public bus. Privateers can not find themselves at the feeder as often as in Kuching.
How long should I plan to visit the Bako National Park?
Many stay only one day in Bako. They take an early ferry for the way out and the last ferry in the afternoon at around 3pm. Can you do – but I think, a night is definitely worth it. Because then you will experience the park in the early morning and you can also join a night walk, where you will see again very special animals.
With two days stay you also have the opportunity to go several hiking trails and to see even more of Bako.
Where can I sleep in Bako National Park?
There are various types of accommodation in the National Park: Hostel with shared rooms (Forest Hostel), wooden or concrete bungalows with two to four beds in each room (Forest Lodge Type 4-6). In addition, there is a campsite at the headquarters.
We decided on a concrete bungalow Forest Lodge Type 5. Although this is less rustic than a wooden bungalow, but as I had heard, come through the wooden walls and floors like crawling insects. In our concrete bungalow we had no unwanted visit. The decor was very simple: four beds in the room, with clean sheets and a pillow, for each a towel – nothing else. There is also a private bathroom with cold shower and toilet. Toilet paper was not available – so bring your own safety.
Mosquito nets are attached to the windows, which are sufficient if you take care not to leave the door open to the bungalow. You should not do that anyway, because otherwise the macaques can get into the room to steal your things.
Accommodation is booked online at Booking. Especially in the main season between May and September you should book your accommodation longer in advance, because the few beds are quickly taken.
The rooms cost between 75 and 150 RM, a hostel bed 15 RM, a campground on the campsite 5 RM – tents have to be brought. Details about the prices and the furnishing of the rooms can be found on the booking page.
Bako Headquarter has a self-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. You just pay for what you have packed on your plate. I found the selection neat, and I enjoyed it on both days.
Which animals can I see in the Bako National Park?
According to researchers, there are 37 mammal species, 24 reptile species and 190 bird species in Bako. How many you actually see depends on your happiness.
There is a good chance of seeing proboscis monkeys. They often hang around near the headquarters – there we had the special experience with “our” proboscis monkey. Sometimes they do not feel like showing off and prefer to hide in the forest. Around the restaurant are also some macaques on the way. Sometimes they are a bit intrusive and want to steal the food from the tables. You should not feed them and keep them at a safe distance from them – they are often aggressive and biting. We also got lucky and saw Silver Leaf Monkeys.
We also visited some bearded pigs in the evening and in the morning in front of our bungalow – at the first sight I was shocked at first, until we realized that they are always hanging around in the vicinity of the bungalows and are quite peaceful.
Definitely recommendable is a night walk, which is offered every evening. With an experienced ranger, we ran into the forest and searched with our flashlights for the animals of the night: spiders, frogs, grasshoppers, walking sticks, bats, nocturnal birds … We saw more animals in one hour at night than during the whole day.
Which hiking trails in the Bako National Park are recommended?
The reception at the headquarter holds a hand-painted map with all the trails in the national park. These are between 400 meters and 5.8 kilometers long. The very long hiking trails up to 13 kilometers and eight hours walking time were closed during our visit. This is probably due to necessary repairs (such as overturned trees or broken bridges) more common. The rangers at the reception can give you information about the current situation. The walkways are well marked in color.
The short hiking trails were enough for our two-day visit. After our arrival in the late morning we went directly on the way no. 6, to the beach Pandan Kecil. About wooden planks and thick roots, it was 2.6 kilometers through the jungle, until we arrived after an hour and a half at the beautiful beach. After we had looked around there and refreshed ourselves, we took the offer of a boat driver, the us to the next beach, the Pandan Paku drove.
The boat trip, passing by the striking rock “Sea Stack”, costs 35 RM fixed price per boat. We waited a while until more hikers arrived and we could share the cost of the boat. From the Paku beach we went on the way no. 3(800 meters) in an hour back to the headquarters. The times for the trails are calculated in the map quite well.
The next morning we walked the path no. 2, the Delima Trail. For the one kilometer long way, we have taken a lot of time to look at the many great leaves and insects along the way to see exactly where one passes fast pace mostly carelessly. At the end of the trail we came to a mangrove beach, where mud jumpers sat on the wet sand (until a water snake came and one of the mud jumpers had eaten – pure wildlife!).
The last thing we did was walk the only 400 meters long path no. 1, the Sapi Trail, which has it all in itself: steeply uphill we went to a viewpoint from which we could look over the Assam beach in front of the headquarters , The heat soon drove us back to the restaurant, from where we took the boat home after lunch.
Is a visit to the Bako National Park worthwhile?
Definitely! After a few days in the city of Kuching, I found it great to be outside in nature so fast and to experience a real jungle feeling. Of course, Bako is different than the dense rainforest in Danum Valley. But as the first jungle adventure in Borneo, the National Park was a good introduction to the great diversity of the rainforest.
Do you have any further questions about the Bako National Park? Then always in it in the comments!