When we decided to visit Borneo we did so to see the amazing wildlife, to explore the dense and otherworldly jungles and rainforest, to delve into nature and see some unforgettable sights. One of the best and easiest to reach places to do this is Bako National Park Borneo, from the Croc infested river that is the only way in, to the jungle teeming with wildlife, much of it endangered, and the unforgettable twisting and gnarled jungle floor of ancient branches that leads out onto stunning sandstone flanked beaches. Bako National Park Borneo was a highlight of our entire time in Asia and really made the trip over to Borneo worthwhile!
Arriving in another world, walking on to the unforgettable beach
After taking the short bus ride from the centre of Kuching there was no real sign of how amazing this place was eventually going to be. We were dropped off at a rickety looking jetty and told to wait for the next boat after buying tickets. It all seemed a bit underwhelming and unorganised!
Finally we were all boarding the tiny wooden boat to head up the murky and croc infested river towards the national park. As the waters splashed over the edge of the rocking boat I did wonder for a moment if we would actually make it or if one of the local fishermen using the huge wooden frames to bravely catch fish here would be coming to our rescue!! Crashing through the wake we passed by many little houses and villages on the edge of the water, it was already a stunning sight in the mountains peaking over the horizon, but this was just the start.
Pulling around the bend in the river the huge sandstone cliffs came into view, their weathered edges creating a swirl of intense colours, patterns and strange sculptural forms. We pulled in just off the beach, surrounded by a dense jungle beyond teeming with life, we jumped off the boat into the warm sea water and waded onto shore, dodging bearded pigs and hermit crabs as we headed towards the wooden cabin we would call home and the start of this unforgettable adventure.
Hiking through the carpet of ancient roots in the dense jungle
We wasted no time in setting off hiking through this amazing jungle. The scenes here were unreal we began on the bright yellow sand of the beaches shimmering in the hot and humid sun before heading down the trails.
Through the boardwalks along the edge of the jungle where the trees and the ocean meet, at high tide the water laps up against the walkway and as the sea recedes the sand becomes a playground for hundreds of hermit crabs. Out here we wander alongside the huge Bearded Pigs that call this park home, a throw back to the wild boar they humorously trot along and enjoy rolling in the mud left behind by the tides!
Out of the corner of our eye we glance up, spotting the bright green scales of a viper up in the trees above us, sitting back and relaxing seemingly unfazed by the pack of crazed and mischievous macaques swinging in their usual wild fashion.
We clasp our bags a little tighter as we hurry on into the trails, we’ve been warned that the macaques here are a particular nuisance and see many people using sticks to ward them off. Being in the middle of the thick jungle, on your own, surrounded by them is quite an intimidating prospect!
After an eventful walk just getting over to the trails we finally head into the jungle. This ancient rainforest is thick, dense and so full of life. The sounds emanating from all angles are actually deafening, the insects and birds form a chorus of sounds that one has to hear to believe. Add into that the distant calls of 3 species of monkeys, crashing through the canopy and echoing all around you. It really is a surreal and otherworldly experience to hike in this unique place.
The trails carved out through the park are formed out of a carpet of tree routes, gnarled and twisted to form stunning fairytale like staircases that guide you through this enchanted forest. If ever there was a dream of exploring the depths of Borneo, this was it, we were here and it was even more magical than we could ever have imagined.
Awe inspiring viewpoints and scenery of Bako National Park Borneo
This was the REAL Jurassic park alright, you could feel the ancient forest moving, breathing and alive with centuries of development and growth. It is no wonder that when a place like this is destroyed that there is no way to just replant and rebuild, its the density of it, the way everything intertwines and lives with each other that is the magic that can never be remade.
The real wonder too of this place is the diversity, one moment you are deep in the jungle, the light piercing in needle thin laser beams from the dense canopy down to the forest floor. The thick and humid air making everything hot and damp, life everywhere you look, thriving in these powerful conditions that you struggle to breath in as you drip, soaked to the skin from every step.
Then suddenly you are blinded by light, the jungle gives way to the palm tree lined beach, high sandstone outcrops provide unimaginable visas over this intense and awe inspiring land.
This is yet another landscape to explore, climbing the wave like rocks to look down on the beaches before following the tributaries back into the mysterious world that lay beyond. All the while surrounded by the most beautiful, unique and strange flora and fauna.
Taking a freaky but unforgettable night walk through the jungle and spending a wild night in a hut!
Now it was nightfall, as the sun slipped over the horizon the noise from the jungle only intensified. Many of the weird and wonderful creatures that call this place home are nocturnal and only come out to play in the cover of darkness and the milder temperatures. We were spending the night here and after eating what could mostly be described as vegetarian scraps from the park HQ canteen we headed out on one of the organised night walks.
For the frankly ridiculously low fee of 10 Ringgit / $2.34 / £1.83 the park rangers lead groups through the trails at night in search of many of the amazing animals and insects that life here. They are specially trained to be able to spot them as well as protecting us from them too! We set off into the pitch black with our head torches primed and ready. The noise enveloped us as we sank into the darkness, it was an intense and honestly freaky experience to walk the jungle at night.
The first thing we spotted was a couple of eyes shining back at us, the first on many huge (and I mean like crazy big) spiders just hanging out on a leaf! Sitting there all creepy and scary, staring right back at us! We saw so many different types of spiders that night. A tarantula, big armoured things, spiders with the span of my hand and weird looking colourful ones. Being scared of spiders and yet absolutely fascinated with the amazing creatures in here it was both amazing and hellish at the same time!
Moving on we also saw plenty of stick insects, blending in to the trees so well I am not even sure how our guide managed to spot them. One of the strangest things was the amount of freshwater fish in the middle of the jungle surrounded by sea water.
They have adapted to use the large puddles left by the heavy rain as a nutrient rich environment on the jungle floor, it really is quite amazing how these animal use their surroundings so well. Another striking creature was a tiny, bright green poisonous frog. A touch off this little guy and you could be dead in less than an hour! These are the frogs the tribes of Borneo are well known for using on their poison arrows against their enemies with devastating effects!
Heading back to our wooden hut, with monkeys banging on the tin roof and the knowledge of the creepy crawlies that live just outside of the wide open wooden slats… it as a restless night! We had come ill prepared, there were no bed sheets and no mosquito nets, we had instead a travel towel to protect us from the bugs of the Borneo Jungle! Of course, we spent the night both blisteringly hot, excruciatingly itchy and bloody paranoid about spiders!
Searching for the amazing endangered Proboscus Monkey in the wild
One of the main reasons to come to Bako National Park Borneo is the wild Proboscus Monkeys that live here, these are critically endangered and spotting them outside of a sanctuary is a rare prospect. Here in Bako National Park Borneo they thrive due to the unique make up of the park and its protected status. Around 150 of these shy and humorous looking creatures call the park home and they are the main draw for visitors.
Having spent our entire first day scouring the jungle trails for a sighting of the pack we came away without seeing a single one. There were rumours that some had been spotted close to the park entrance just an hour or so after we had arrived and frustratingly once we were away on the trails. Almost everyone else who we spoke to had managed to spot at least a couple and we were feeling pretty unlucky at this point!
We headed out yet again down the trails where the rangers said they are often spotted. We were lucky to see the also shy and endangered silver leafed monkey in the morning, playfully swinging from branch to branch before sprinting over the rooftop of one of the shelters with an enchanting mixture of grace and haphazard skillfulness! These guys were much more freindly that the cheeky macaques!
We headed back to the park HQ pretty downbeat after missing out on this strange but wonderful creature… then we heard a grunt, crashing of branches and there it was, right by the park entrance! It’s potbelly stuck out and it stuffed itself with leaves, the comical nose it is famous for bouncing around as it sat there right above us munching away. It was quite an emotional moment and our eyes grew misty as we glanced up at this most odd creature just sat there enjoying its food!
How to get to Bako National Park Borneo
Bako National Park Borneo is easily reached from Kuching.
Firstly you must take the red bus number 1 that leaves from outside Toko Minuman Jumbo at 6 Jln Khoo Hun Yeang every half an hour between 7am and 5pm. This takes between 45-60 mins. The price is around 5 RMB / £0.91 / $1.17 per person each way.
The bus will drop you off at the ticket office for the park. Here you must buy your boat and entrance tickets
The entrance fee for the park is 20 RMB / £3.64 / $4.69
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The price for a motorboat is 20 RMB / £3.64 / $4.69 each one way. So 40 RMB / £7.28 / $9.38 in total each. This can’t be split between the others in the boat as used to be the case. The boat trip takes around 20 min but you must wait for one to get full before setting off.
When you plan on returning you should go to the boat desk near the HQ and they will organise a return. The last boat back in 3pm and accommodation must be pre booked, so get to the desk before the last boat just incase!
Buses back to Kuching are frequent and leave from the road just by the jetty where you were dropped off.
Book a tour here if that’s more your style
Where and how to stay the night and how long you should stay
We highly recommend staying over night in the park for a number of reasons, firstly because the boat schedule means that you really only get a few hours here if you do a day trip which just isn’t enough. There are several marked trails and so many amazing things to see. In a couple of days you can really take in everything you really must see. Also the animals here are hard to see and often require just that little bit extra time to spot them! Then the night walk, this is only possible if you are staying over and was a highlight for us.
Accommodation in Bako National Park Borneo is owned by the Sarawak Park authorities and is a series of huts around HQ. These can only be booked through the official website and come in a range of prices and qualities, we went for the cheapest which was the “hostel” for 15 RMB per bed per night. This was essentially a room with 4 beds, shared bathroom facilities and access to the public areas of the HQ including the canteen. The bed come without a mosquito net or sheets so bringing a sleeping bad or something to cover yourself is a good idea.
For more information and bookings about Bako National Park Borneo check this website here: www.ebooking.sarawak.gov.my
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