“Kuching” Take Three – Bako National Park

The second thing I “must do” when I made this trip to Kuching is to visit the Bako National Park. I have heard and read about this park – a great place to spot some of the native Borneo wildlife. My wish is to spot the “Proboscis Monkey” – one of the largest monkey species in the world. The proboscis monkey has a unique body and face feature and coat unlike any other monkeys. It has a large nose, big belly and almost a bare bottom. It’s coat is bright orange, almost a reddish blonde. The Malay name, “Monyet Belanda” means the “Dutch Monkey”, as the Indonesians regard this monkey species like the Dutchman with large nose and belly.

I have read that to get to Bako National Park, we will need to take a short 45-minutes road trip from Kuching to “Kampung Bako” or Bako Village. Once there, we will take a 30-minutes long tail boat ride to the Bako National Park entrance to register before we start trekking. It was the combination of the river boat trip, trekking and spotting the wildlife in their natural environment that made me decide to book the day tour.

The road trip by itself was nothing interesting, until we reached the base of Kampung Bako. There our driver introduced us to our tour guide. There was another couple in our group from the same hotel – a young Italian man and his French girlfriend. The first thing they asked us was if we were a seasoned trekker. As a group, we had to agree on the trek we were going to choose when we get there. It was easy as all four of us agree on the shortest and least complex trail (well, three of them. I was more interested to get my money worth and was keen to go for the longer trail).

The boat trip was interesting along the river until we hit the open sea. It was fast and exciting and the view was stunning looking back towards the village. We were warned that the river has crocodiles. The Boat Ticketing Centre has a crocodile skull at the front and some photos to warn the tourists not to swim in the river. I was told by my tour guide that that skull belonged to a crocodile that was caught and killed by the village folks when it ate a 5 years old boy who was swimming in the river. This happened only 2 years ago. They opened crocodile’s stomach, and found the boy’s two legs inside the stomach! There was a photo in the centre. It was a shocking photo (still made me sick thinking of the image of the photo while writing it), enough to put you off from entering of falling off the boat.

The village scene from the jetty was surreal. It was a hazy mid morning when we reached there. It felt relax and calm. There were other tourists but not too busy.

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We arrived at the Bako National Park. In front was a large sign, the boat jetty and mangrove trees. There were tiny colourful crab with one giant white claw. It was a breathtaking sight on arrival.

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We made our way to the park registration office. There we saw a few proboscis monkeys – all females, a nocturnal flying squirrel, the venomous pit vipers, and the unusual looking bearded pig! The proboscis monkeys were timid and shy monkey. It was hard to see their faces. Mostly their bare bottoms. I like to think they were “moon lighting” us crazy human straining their necks to see them.

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After registration, we were ready for trekking. We walked across raised wooden platform surrounded by the mangrove forest and came to the starting point that leads to the tracks. The guide left to us to decide which track to select. The other couple and my partner agreed on the shortest track of 0.8 km to “Telok Paku”. The majority won. In a way, I was glad we chose this track as it was not as simple as we were told. The track was mostly in its “raw form” from big rocks and roots of the rainforest. The climb was quite steep at times. It took us about an hour before we reached the bay, which was muddy with low tide. Not an ideal spot for swimming.

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We came across some interesting flora and fauna growing on rocks, an ant nest built around a tree branch and a spider (tarantula?).

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It was still early. I was not ready to leave. It was a bit disappointing as I expected to see a nice beach for swimming, like the Penang national park “Pantai Keracuk“. I asked our tour guide, who was a local Malay from the Bako village, what else we can do. He suggested that we take a boat to Telok Pandan Besar, a sheltered bay suitable for swimming. I negotiated the price for 4 of us. Fortunately, the other couple was in and happy to go along with the trip. It was the best decision. The view and scenery was amazing. It started to rain as we got onto he boat, which made the boat ride a bit rough, but interesting and fun. The rain stopped as we arrived at the sheltered bay. The limestone cliffs jutted out from the sea have different shapes, sizes and colours, with the local seaman Malay naming each resembling a crocodile head, snake, rabbit and others.

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Rain was approaching, we were told by our boatman. We had to leave before the tide gets too low for the boat to make the trip back. This was one of the best moment of my trip to Sarawak. I wish it was longer to take in more of the natural surrounding and wildlife experience.

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