Bako National Park

On Tuesday 19th June 2018 we left our bags at the hostel, taking only an overnight bag, and headed for Bako National Park where we would be spending the night. We had booked into a lodge through the National Park’s government website as Bako is meant to be particularly nice, with the most chance of seeing animals at sunrise and sunset. Staying overnight also meant that we could take our time with walks as a day trip sounds pretty exhausting. You have to get a bus and then boat to the National Park and, because of the tides, the last boat back to the mainland is at 3pm. This means you would have to rush around to make sure you didn’t miss that last boat back or you’d be stuck in the park with nowhere to sleep (particularly as the place sells out fast!!) Our accommodation was called Forest Lodge Type 4 which had air conditioning, something that would be very welcome in a hot and humid jungle!

We were told a bus went to the national park every hour on the hour and so aimed to get the 9am bus which would take around an hour. We waited and waited and the bus didn’t come but thankfully there were locals waiting for the bus too so we at least knew we were in the right place and hadn’t missed it! I’d almost forgotten about the Asian timetable which runs on its own clock and is never on time – silly me. At 9:40am the bus finally arrived and it took us to the jetty that would take us on a boat to the entrance of the national park, costing 3.50 ringgit (30p). The boat cost 20 ringgit (£3.70) each and we also had to pay a national park entry fee of 20 ringgit each as well. By 11:30am we were at the national park and ready to go on some walks. We couldn’t get our room until 2pm so carried our bags with us whilst we went on our first walk of the day.

On our way from the jetty to the information centre we saw silver leaf langurs including a really cute little baby langur which was especially nice as silver leaf babies are bright orange. It was cool to see them so soon in our trip and relatively near to us too as they were just in the trees by the path. Right by the entrance to the national park information centre, which is also where we check in to our room, is meant to be one of the best places to spot wildlife in the park and straight away we saw some bearded pigs which were absolutely enormous. We had heard stories that they can be quite aggressive when they want your food so we kept our distance but they were very cool to see!

We also saw our enemies, the long tailed macaques. We no longer like macaques after many near misses with them trying to attack us (completely unprovoked I might add!). They’re considered to be pests in lots of places in Asia as they steal your food and get aggressive if you try and stop them. Here is no exception as we saw people lose carrier bags of food they had got out of their bag a second before. The monkeys are funny to watch though and we didn’t end up having any trouble from them whilst we were in the park (maybe because we never had food) so we didn’t mind them too much!

Bako National Park also has a number of crocodiles. The beaches have had sightings of crocodiles and you’re not meant to swim in the park at all. Malaysia has salt water crocodiles, the same species as in Northern Australia so they’re vicious and enormous and not to be messed with. Bako River, which leads to the national park, gets nicknamed Crocodile River and there is estimated to be 14,000 crocodiles in Sarawak and, between 2014-2017, there have been 23 attacks from crocodiles with 10 fatalities! We kept our guard up, didn’t get too close to the sea and were baffled by people still swimming in the sea. We had been told of a story in Australia of a woman being eaten by a crocodile when she was sunbathing on a beach which was a known crocodile hangout so we weren’t taking any chances! Thankfully we didn’t see one during our time there – that’s one wildlife encounter we are happy to go without.

We decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon walking trail number six which was called Trail Pandan Kecil. This took you along a path through the jungle, over a hill (that was still in the jungle) and through to a secluded beach bay on the other side. The walk wasn’t too bad but we understood what humidity was in a way we hadn’t before on our trip and sweated buckets! The beach was really nice in a sheltered bay surrounded by the large cliff and there was only a handful of people there who had also just completed the walk.

The walk took us around 3 hours on a return trip and was 2.6km each way. By the time we got back to the information point we saw people getting the last boat back and were able to check into our room. Our room was great with strong air conditioning, an attached bathroom and three beds. We were really happy with it and it was perfect after a hot walk through the jungle. The room had cost us 150MYR (£28) but that’s not terrible considering there are limited options in the jungle so we didn’t mind paying it.

At around 4pm we went on another walk into the National Park, this time on the lookout for proboscis monkeys. As I’ve mentioned before these are only found in Borneo and so we wanted to see them as much as we could before we left. There are two walks that had been highlighted as giving you a good chance of spotting them: walks two and three. We chose to do walk two called Trail Delima as it was only 1km each way and was meant to take an hour and a half return trip. We headed through a boardwalk jungle path that led us to some mangroves. We had heard from a guide who was on the same boat as us coming across to the national park that the proboscis monkeys likes the mangrove plants and in the late afternoon will go there once the tide had gone out, right when we were there!

We didn’t know if we would see any but then spotted them in some nearby trees. We tried to be very quiet but they still spotted us and jumped off to trees further away from the path. We still managed to see them close up though and got to see how huge they were and it was amazing to see them jumping through the trees. We had been told before that as a species they are generally quite shy so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they jumped away. We were thrilled and had been the only ones on the walk which made it even better – it instantly made paying for the room worth it as we wouldn’t have seen them had we been on the last boat back that day!

After a peaceful night’s sleep – something we hadn’t expected in a jungle – we were woken up to an enormous banging which we thought was coming from the nearby information centre. We had wanted to get up early anyway so being woken up just before 7am ended up being fine and just turned into a strange alarm clock. Proboscis monkeys are most likely spotted in the mornings and evenings and so our plan had been to get up and go on one of the walks that have the highest chances of spotting them before breakfast. Our plan ended up being turned on it’s head in the best way when we found it that the banging we had been woken up to was actually proboscis monkeys running over our cabin roof! We walked out of our room and froze as we saw them to make sure we didn’t scare them off. This turned out not to be a problem as they ended up settling themselves in some nearby trees that were quite low so we were able to get pretty close, have a great look and watch them for around an hour as they ate the flowers in the trees. I would take that as a wake up call any day!

It was incredible to see them so close as we really hadn’t expected to. They’re absolutely enormous and there was quite a few males in the group which is what you want to see as they’re the more distinctive looking gender. They never seemed bothered by us being there and they made some really strange nasally noises to one another which I’ve never heard before! Loads of people came over, took a few pictures and then left but we could have watched them for hours without getting bored!

After breakfast on the canteen we went out to see more of the monkeys in the park. There was suddenly a lot of commotion and we saw two groups of macaques having a fight in the clearing by the information centre. One of the staff members told us that macaques from the jungle had come to the clearing and so the information centre macaques were having a turf war with them! This was really funny to watch especially when the bearded pig turned up. All of the staff started cheering and the bearded pig (who we had discovered is not a macaques fan) chased all of the macaques away even going so far as to start scaling the tree to make sure they didn’t come back down!

Because of our wildlife success by our accommodation we didn’t bother going on another walk in the national park as they were all considerably longer than what we had time for and, really, we just wanted to see the wildlife anyway. We got a boat back at around 1:20pm but once we were back on the mainland the bus to get us back to Kuching didn’t come! More people arrived as we were waiting over an hour and then a mini van turned up who offered us all a lift for just 1.50MYR (30p) more than the bus would have cost so it was completely worth it for us. They even dropped us off at our hostel to. We passed the bus around ten minutes later on our journey which shows how late it was but we were happy to have gotten a ride and be on our way back to Kuching.

Bako National Park had been really great. The park was so beautiful and then to get to see the proboscis monkeys and bearded pigs was really cool – we saw everything we had hoped to see. We are really glad we spent the night as we saw the majority of our wildlife after the day trippers had left and I think we’d have been a bit disappointed had we had to fit it all into one day.

Sending love x

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