Tucked in the south-east corner of Malaysian Borneo, Bako National Park has a lot going on for its small size. At just 27 square kilometres, Bako is one of the smallest national parks in Malaysia, yet it packs in pristine rainforest, streams, waterfalls, secluded beaches and prolific wildlife – which includes over 150 bird species, carnivorous plants, the endangered and rather comical-looking proboscis monkey, otters and the Bornean bearded pig.
Like a true wild forest, Bako National Park welcomes the visitor in adventurous fashion – by river (which is the only way to enter). Lying roughly 40 kilometres from Kuching, the capital of Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), the park makes for a good day trip from this colourful city. Although ideally, you’ll need at least several days to see all the park has to offer.
Setting off early from Kuching, my partner and I boarded a bus and headed towards Kampung Bako, a small village nestled by a river – and the launch point for our entry into the park. After 45 minutes of cruising past forested mountains, jungle and handsomely fashioned rocks (while getting soaked), we arrived at Bako National Park and checked into our simple, yet spacious accommodation.
Eager, we put our bags down and bounded off towards Telok Delima, a splendid forested beach area and home to the elusive proboscis monkey. I saw a few of these wonderful creatures but failed to get a good shot. Their large noses, it seems, don’t hinder their aerodynamic forest hopping ability. Be quick, be silent, focus deftly and no doubt you’ll have better luck than I did.
Things to do
There are a number of wonderful walks in Bako that head to secluded beaches – that house what look like carefully hand-sculpted rocks and trees – and splendid pockets of lush rainforest. The short, 30 minute trek from the park entrance to Telok Delima, which is also home to the carnivorous pitcher plant (found lining the trail), is a must, as is the wonderful day walk to Telok Sibur.
Give yourself a full-day to walk the return journey to Telok Sibur, which takes you to Tajor waterfall – a small, yet aesthetically invigorating slice of forest loveliness. Keep going and you’ll pass through swampland before arriving at an expansive, typically empty beach. The paths can be steep and the tide can come in fast, so choose your adventure wisely (we didn’t). Here I managed to spot a Paradise Tree Snake and a large monitor lizard.
Another gorgeous beach, an even shorter walk from the accommodation, is Kechil – an ample place that’s perfect for a swim. Stop at Besar lookout, which offers lofty views over stunning coastal parkland. If you’re up for a bit more of an adventure and have the time (which we did), head to Telok Kruin, the furthest beach from the park entrance, which requires overnight camping.
Armed with a plastic cover, tinned food and a heart for adventure, my partner and I trekked up and down steep forested hills towards this isolated location, which you’ll need a descent level of fitness to tackle. One adventurous part of the journey is the water crossings, which require you to balance on poles over gushing water, scale rickety ladders and small cliffs. On one occasion my partner was nearly swept downstream.
It’s all worth it though. Tired and hungry, we arrived at the beach and had it to ourselves all afternoon. After sharing a night under the stars with a bunch of biscuit eating hermit crabs, we trekked back to civilisation through pouring rain, the best way to enjoy a rainforest. Hours later, we were back in the bustle of Kuching, indelibly marked by the wonders of Bako National Park.