Diverse nature and rare animals: discover Bako National Park
Bako National Park is one of the most popular parks in Borneo. This is mainly because it is easily accessible and offers incredible diversity despite its small size. Located on a peninsula less than 19 miles (30 kilometres) north of Kuching, the nature reserve covers about 10 square miles (27 square kilometres). Bako is thus the smallest national park in Sarawak – but it is also the oldest, having been designated as a protected area as early as 1957.
The park is known for its highly diverse flora and fauna and unique landscape. You will find seven different types of vegetation here:
• Mangrove forest
• Mixed dipterocarp forest
• Peat bog forest
• Heath forest
• Grassland vegetation
• Cliff vegetation
• Beach vegetation
Bako Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, which are only found in Borneo, as well as macaques, silver-crested langurs, bearded pigs, monitor lizards and various snakes. In many cases, the animals have grown used to humans and become less timid.
You should take special care around the monkeys. They will go for open backpacks and try to steal bags you may be carrying. Also on the terrace of the cafeteria, where they regularly come to steal food and drinks. The nature reserve is, however, also great for bird-watching. Over 150 species live here, including some kingfisher species, red-crowned barbets, white-bellied woodpeckers, and various owls.
Bako National Park also offers stunning scenery. For example, you will find many coastal areas with beaches, cliffs, extraordinary rock formations, and mangroves. In contrast, the inner part of the park includes pristine rainforest and two waterfalls.
The adventure begins: boat ride to the park
The Bako experience begins as soon as the boat departs from the Bako village jetty. Although the park is not located on an island, you can only reach it by boat. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the jetty in the national park. Crocodiles live in the river – so it’s better not to put your feet or hands into the water…
For the first few minutes, you will be going downstream on quite calm waters, but after a short while, the „open sea“ will be waiting. Depending on the swell, this can be fairly unpleasant and wet. During this trip, you will have a first opportunity to enjoy the landscape. You will be passing mangrove forests for several minutes. With a bit of luck, you will already spot your first animals here.
In Bako National Park, there are many designated hiking trails. All the trails are marked with different colours. They range in intensity from easy walks to hikes lasting several hours and even overnight camping expeditions. Upon arrival at the park, it’s best to head straight to the information desk at the HQ. Here you can pick up a map showing the different trails.
In principle, you can walk the trails alone. However, guided hikes are recommended, as the rangers are especially skilled at spotting animals. They also know where the animals are most often seen. Guided hikes must be organised in advance.
For your own safety, if you want to explore the jungle on your own, you have to sign in in a book at the HQ and indicate which trail you have chosen. When you return, you should sign back out so that the authorities know not to go looking for you.
The 16 trails in Bako National Park and what to expect there
There are a total of 16 designated trails in Bako Park. Many of the trails end at beaches. To save yourself trekking all the way back, you can arrange for boatmen to pick you up there. Below is a brief overview of some of the trails and their respective highlights. Only „Litang“ and „Jalan Serait“ are round trips. For all other trails, you have to double the time required for the whole tour due to the time needed to come back.
1. Tanjung Sapi | 700 metres | 30 minutes | red/white
A steep climb through rocky vegetation. From the top, you can enjoy an excellent view of the sea and Santubong.
2. Telok Paku | 0.9 miles / 1.5 kilometres | 1 hour | white
Telok Paku is a hike to a secluded sandy beach. The route leads through the cliff forest. Telok Paku is one of the trails where proboscis monkeys can reliably be spotted.
3. Ulu Assam | 0.8 miles / 1.3 kilometres | 1 ¼ hours | red/blue
The hike initially leads through flat, swampy forest areas. Later it gets steep, and sometimes you have to hold on to trees and roots. At the top, though, a wonderful view of Bako awaits.
4. Telok Delima | 0.6 miles / 1 kilometre | 45 minutes | white/blue
Proboscis monkeys are also regularly spotted on this short hiking trail.
Telok Pandan Kecil: one of the most popular trails
5. Telok Pandan Kecil | 1.6 miles / 2.6 kilometres | 1 ½ hours | yellow
This trail is a hike to Telok Pandan Kecil beach. In the jungle, you climb gentle hills with great views of another beach. The rest of the trail is lined with carnivorous pitcher plants.
Later you will come to a rocky outcrop from which you have a great view of the bay below. After a short descent through rocky vegetation, you will reach one of Bako’s most beautiful beaches.
Near this beach you will find the most famous rock in the park. The so-called Sea Stack resembles a large cobra head. However, it is not visible from the beach. Therefore, we recommend taking a boat back to the HQ, passing Sea Stack along the way.
6. Telok Tajor | 2.2 miles / 3.5 kilometres | 2 ½ hours | white/red
Following the Tajor Waterfall, this trail will lead you to Telok Beach after a steep descent. Although the small waterfall only carries a lot of water after heavy rain, has fallen it does flow into a small pool, which is a popular spot for rest and refreshment. There is also some tremendous jungle scenery along the way. The Tajor Trail also links up with some other hiking trails.
7. Jalan Lintang | 3.6 miles / 5.8 kilometres | 3 ½ hours | red
Lintang is the only truly circular trail in Bako National Park. Almost all vegetation types are passed along the way. In some sections, you can also observe proboscis monkeys. Carnivorous pitcher plants can also be seen.
8. Ulu Serait | 3.0 miles / 4.8 kilometres | 3 hours | yellow/blue
Ulu Serait forms the connection between the Lintang circuit and Jalan Serait. The trail runs deep through the park and includes varied vegetation including swamp forests. Hiking from the junction of Jalan Lintang to the starting point of Jalan Serait takes about 1 ½ hours.
A seven-hour hike for a heavenly view
9. Jalan Serait | 1.4 miles / 2.2 kilometres | 1 ½ hours | yellow/white
After Ulu Serait, a circuit of Bako’s highest point awaits in Jalan Serait. The 2,660-metre-high Bukit Gondol offers fantastic views. All in all, it’s a 4.5-hour hike if you want to climb Bukit Gondol via Jalan Lintang, Ulu Serait and Jalan Serait. Including the direct route back, it takes about 7 – 8 hours.
10. Bukit Keruing | 3.4 miles / 5.5 kilometres | 3 ½ hours | blue
This trail connects Bukit Gondol with Tajor Waterfall. It passes through unmissable rainforestsand along the foothills of Bukit Keruing, the second-highest point in Bako.
11. Telok Sibur | 3.4 miles / 5.5 kilometres | 3 ½ hours | orange
The destination of this trail is Telok Sibur, the longest beach in Bako. The trail passes the Tajor Waterfall before a steep descent takes you into the mangrove forests. You also have to cross a river before you reach the beach.
12. Telok Limau | 8.1 miles / 13 kilometres | 8 ½ hours | blue/red
Telok Limau is a small beach in the northeast of Bako. Getting there involves the longest hike in the national park.
You will cross pristine rainforest, scrubland, and swamp forest. You also have to cross some streams and climb the odd incline. Magnificent views of the peninsula await around every other corner.
When you reach your destination, you can either camp there and head back the next day or pre-book a boat to pick you up.
Night hiking - discover another side of the park
A guided hike through the darkness is one of the main reasons to stay overnight in Bako National Park. Many animals are nocturnal and are therefore rarely seen during the day. The guides purposefully illuminate the trees and ground. Snakes, frogs, glow worms, various small insects, bats and birds are among the many animals you can spot regularly.
Animal sightings aside, a night hike is quite simply an amazing experience, as the atmosphere in the pitch-black rainforest is unique. The tours, which are offered daily, usually start at 8 pm at the HQ and are scheduled to last one hour. They cost 10 MYR and are undoubtedly worth the money.
How to get to Bako National Park
You can get to Bako village jetty from Kuching by car or by bus. Bus line no. 1 takes approximately one hour. The bus stops along the Kuching waterfront, and the fare is about 4 MYR. At the bus stations in the city there are also private minibuses that take you to the jetty. These are a bit more expensive, but faster. A minibus trip takes about 30 minutes; you will be on the road just as long if you take a cab or car. A cab ride costs around 45 MYR.
It is at Bako village jetty that you pay the park entrance fee of 20 MYR and the boat ride fare of about 20-25 MYR per person (one way). Afterwards, you will take the boat to the park. Please note that it will probably not be possible to make the trip at low tide. Therefore, please check with your accommodation in Kuching when you should be at the jetty.
Accommodation in Bako NP
There are several accommodation options directly by the HQ in the park: you can choose between hostel rooms with four beds per room and a shared bathroom, or private bedrooms where you share a bathroom with the occupants of one other room. All the rooms are very sparsely furnished. There is also a campsite directly by the HQ, but you will have to bring your own camping equipment. Make sure to keep windows, doors, and tents closed to prevent monkeys entering.
Bookings are only possible via the following website: https://ebooking.sarawak.gov.my
No cooking facilities are available in the rooms. However, a restaurant near the accommodation offers breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. As you might expect, the prices here are slightly higher than outside the park – but considering that the food has to be delivered by boat, the prices are perfectly reasonable.
The Bako National Park is a must-see for anyone stopping in Kuching, not only because the journey from the city is relatively short but primarily because of the incredibly diverse flora and fauna to be discovered. Alongside Mulu National Park, Danum Valley, and Kinabatangan, we consider the park one of the top four highlights in Borneo.
We recommend staying one night on the peninsula. That way, you have the chance to experience a night hike. Plus, you can head out early in the morning or later in the afternoon to look for proboscis monkeys. These are the times when they are most often seen. Going to Bako National Park for a day trip is much less straightforward. Because of the travel time, you will not arrive at the park until later in the morning, and the boats usually return no later than 3 pm in the afternoon.
Compared to other protected areas, there are fewer leeches in Bako Park. However, it won’t do any harm to bring leech socks. Furthermore, it is strongly recommended not to go swimming in the sea due to the presence of crocodiles, stingrays, and jellyfish.
Check this out
Besides Bako National Park, Borneo has many other highlights to offer. Check out the following: