Bako National Park is one of the top attractions in Sarawak, Borneo, and was high on my list! It turned out to be the favorite tour of my trip to Borneo – that’s high praise, considering I went from one natural wonder to the next in Northern and Southern Borneo! Part of that amazing experience is the huge potential Bako National park has to offer, and part of it was luck in seeing so much wildlife during my trip!
Watching wildlife is a bit of a game of chance, depending on the season, the weather, the tide and the time of day: You may see all the wildlife you find in the books and brochures – or you might see nothing at all. While that can be frustrating, it also adds to the special allure of going into nature and the excitement of seeing the wildlife you were trying to spot. And you can improve your odds by hiring a good, local guide who knows the environment very well. Bako National Park was the perfect example for me – I went (against my natural tendencies) with a group tour by CPH Travel, led by an experienced guide, Tony. We had the great fortune to have one great sighting after the other within the first hour of our hike through the park – while two visitors we met, who were on their own had seen no wildlife at all!
Our trip started with seeing wild boar as soon as we entered the Bako National Park headquarters. Some of the rangers live in the park and the guides all talk – so Tony quickly found out who had seen what and where – and off we went. He pointed out a flying Lemur (sleeping in our case, they are nocturnal) – hard to spot, as you can see from the photo. Next on this whirlwind tour of wildlife spotting was a Proboscis monkey, pretty rare to spot on a walk, as they eat the leaves of mangroves, that grow in the water and are best seen from a boat! We were able to get close from the beach, observe and take some great pictures! We were able to see the big nose and the pattern on their back – amazing to see the facial features! But our luck hadn’t run out yet and a group of Silver Leaf monkeys was next. They are the hipsters of the monkey world – with the adults wearing spikey grey hair, like a mohawk, and the babies in bright orange. They live in groups of 10-15 and we saw a mother with her little one – if I’ve ever seen a cute animal, it was this! That look could melt ice and stone and probably bring world peace! After this fun sighting, a not so cute one was next – a green snake, curled up on a branch! It was so green, it LOOKED poisoneous! Our guide took us close for a good shot. I hate snakes and had to do a quick estimate how far that one could stretch and bite in a split second, so I stayed back a little for comfort!
We were joking that after these sightings, we might as well call it a day and head back – but Bako National Park has more to offer: There are beautiful hikes available through the rain forest. We were in a group with two small girls and took a shorter one. Thankfully, because the hike is a lot more challenging than it sounds! The paths go up and down, over rocks, fallen leaves and roots, wet and slippery! Add to that the heat and humidity and you have to work pretty hard even on a short hike! I’d recommend to listen to the rangers who are happy to assist with your plans – quite a few ambitious hikers have gotten themselves stuck in the forest, because they took on too much! The third asset is the beautiful scenery. The various paths lead to some small, sandy beaches that invite to a well-deserved rest. We hired a boat to take us on a ride to the stunning sandstone cliffs formed by erosion. I have traveled to see similar formation – and at Bako it’s just one of the things you see!
If you are planning a trip to Bako, you should consider what you expect from the park: if you are looking to do some nice hiking and see the scenery, you can go by yourself! You can take the bus from Kuching to the jetty and hire a boat, readily available to take you to the park and back, as well as to the sea stacks. Make sure to agree on a pick-up time for your return trip or you will have an unplanned overnight in the park!
If you are planning to spot some wildlife – and you really should – you should either join a tour for the trip – CPH Travel did a great job – or go by yourself and hire a guide in the National Park. This is not the place to save a few bucks – you have come all the way to Borneo, so you want to get the most out of it and the guides are worth every penny! If you have the time, you can stay in the park overnight. IT’s very basic (no really, VERY BASIC!) accommodation, but it allows you to spend more time in the park and have a better chance to spot the wildlife you came to see or to explore more of the hiking trails and beaches around the park!
If you decide to visit Kuching, Bako National Park should be on the top of your list! I had an amazing time and will add it to my list of top nature and adventure, dream destinations in the world!