Gazetted in 1957, Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park, covering an area of 2,727 hectares at the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula. It is one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak, yet one of the most interesting, as it contains almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo. The well-maintained network of nature trails - from easy forest strolls to full-day jungle treks – allows visitors to get the most out of this unique environment.
THE RAINFOREST AND OTHER VEGETATION
Bako contains an incredible variety of plant species and vegetation types, and this is one of the park’s great attractions. At Bako it is possible to see almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo. 25 distinct types of vegetation form seven complete eco-systems - Beach Vegetation, Cliff Vegetation, Kerangas or Heath Forest, Mangrove Forest, Mixed Dipterocarp Forest, Padang or Grasslands Vegetation and Peat Swamp Forest. It is easy to explore these eco-systems via the jungle trails. The contrasts are so distinct that you do not have to be a scientist to notice the differences. Furthermore, most of the different vegetation types are found close to the park HQ at Telok Assam.
pitcher plants (locals call it periuk kera)
Bako is probably the best place in Sarawak for wildlife experiences. The park has been a protected area since 1957, so the animals are less wary of humans. Visitors, especially those who stay overnight, will have countless opportunities to observe and photograph various types of wildlife.
The best times for seeing wildlife at Bako are just after dawn and just before dusk, when the animals are at their most active. You are more likely to see animals on the trails if you go in small groups, walk slowly, keep as quiet as possible, and listen out for sounds and movements in the forest. For example, you are likely to hear a strange grunting sound or the crash of leaves long before you actually see a proboscis monkey.
Telok Assam, the area around the HQ, is a great place for seeing wildlife. Long-tailed macaques, silvered langurs or leaf-monkeys, common water monitors, plantain squirrels, wild boar and mouse deer are all found here. Watch out for the macaques as they are possibly the most fearless monkeys on earth. They will raid dustbins and kitchens in the resthouses, or scamper into the canteen to steal food or an unguarded bag. Keep all doors locked and never encourage them by offering food. In contrast to the unruly macaques, the silvered leaf-monkey or silvered langur is a docile and attractive creature. Adults have silver-grey fur and a spiky crest of head hair, whilst the infants are covered in bright orange fur.
Bako is also home to approximately 275 rare proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo. The male is an odd-looking creature, with a huge pendulous nose and a large pot-belly, weighing in excess of 20 kg. Both male and female are covered in reddish-brown fur with grey limbs and a white tail. They are mostly arboreal (tree-dwelling), moving about the forest or mangroves in small groups and feeding on young leaves, shoots, sour fruits and seeds. Although it requires some patience, an encounter with a group of proboscis is likely to be the highlight of your trip to Bako. The best times are early in the morning or in the hours before dusk. Telok Delima and Telok Paku are the best trails for viewing the proboscis. The mangroves at Telok Assam are also a good place for viewing proboscis monkeys.
Otters are delightful creatures to watch, and two species are found at Bako - the oriental small-clawed otter and the hairy-nosed otter. They spend most of their time in the water, feeding on fish, frogs and other small animals. Oriental small-clawed otters are occasionally seen at Sungai Assam, swimming in the river or running across the mud searching for food. Hairy-nosed otters are sometimes seen early in the morning around the mangroves at Telok Assam.
The Bornean bearded pig, Bako’s largest mammal, is distinguished from other wild pigs by prominent bristles either side of its snout. Bearded pigs are often found around the park HQ scavenging for food or wallowing in mud.
The largest of Bako’s many lizard species is the common water monitor, olive green in colour and reaching a length of 2 metres. Young monitors are green with yellow spots and therefore easier to see. They are strong swimmers and can stay submerged for a considerable length of time. Monitors are scavengers, feeding on carrion and occasional live prey. They are often found near the accommodation area or near the boat jetty, scavenging for scraps of food. You may also see their tracks at the park’s beaches.
The small, brownish grey skink or sun lizard is often seen basking on rocks at the beach or scurrying away from the paths. The attractive green crested lizard, common throughout the park, is usually bright green but is capable of changing colour if alarmed. Flying lizards are occasionally seen launching themselves from tree trunks and gliding through the air.
Bako is home to a number of snakes, most of which are harmless. They are well camouflaged, and usually slide off into the undergrowth at the first sign of danger. The grass green whip snake is easily recognised by its bright colour, pencil-thin body and long snout. The paradise tree snake’s black upper body is marked with green spots whilst its underside is yellowy-green with red spots. The only poisonous snake that is occasionally seen is the Wagler’s pit viper that, like all pit vipers, has a broad, flat, triangular head.
Bako is a fascinating place for bird watching, as over 150 species have been recorded here. Although many of these can be seen around the accommodation area, you need to hit the trails to appreciate the full variety of Bako’s bird life. The mangroves at Telok Assam are an excellent place to start. Serious bird watchers should take a good pair of binoculars and the Pocket Guide to the Birds of Borneo, which is widely available in Kuching.
Rock pools and mangroves are good places to search for small animals such as mudskippers and crabs, especially sky-blue fiddler crabs and shell-dwelling hermit crabs. Bako also has its fair share of insects. Watch out for them on the forest floor and hear them everywhere.
Bako’s nocturnal creatures include the flying lemur, pangolin, mouse deer, various bats, tarsier, slow loris and palm civet. If you take a night walk through the forest near the Park HQ you may catch sight of some these creatures, as well as spiders that shine when a flashlight is played on them, glow worms and fireflies, You will certainly hear crickets, cicadas, frogs, and maybe owls.
The beach by the park HQ is also a great place for a night walk. If the tide is out you may see crabs, prawns, anemones, starfish, annelid worms and young shrimp in the small pools.
Bako is probably the best place in Sarawak for wildlife experience. The park has been a protected area since 1957, so the animals are less wary of humans. Visitors, especially those who stay overnight wull have countless opportunities to observe and photograph various types of wildlife.
The best times for seeing wildlife at Bako are dawn and just before dusk, when the animals are at their most active. You are more likely to see animals on the trails if you go in small groups, walk slowly and silently, keep as quit as possible and listen out for sound and movements in the forest. For example you are likely to hear a strange grunting sound or the crash of leaves long before you actually see a Proboscis Monkey.
Telok Assam, The area around the Park Office is a great place for seeing wildlife. Long-tailed macaques, silver leaf monkeys, common monitor lizards, plantain squirrel, bearded pigs and mouse deer are all found here. Watch out for the macaques as they are possibly the most fearless monkeys on earth. They will raid dustbins and kitchens in the resthouses or scamper into the canteen to steal food or an unguarded bag. Keep all doors locked and never encourage them by offering food. In contrast to the unruly macaques, the silvered leaf monkey or silvered langur is a docile and attractive creature. Adults have silver grey fur and spiky crest of head hair, whilst the infants are covered in bright orange fur.
Bako's extensive trail system is made up of 16 colour-coded jungle trails which offer a range of walking and hiking options. The fit and adventures can opt for full-day jungle hikes or overnight camping expeditions, whilst those who prefer to take it easy can opt for a relaxing forest walk. The following are the available trails:
A short but steep climb through cliff vegetation. Takess about 30 minutes. Excelllent views of Telok Assam, the South China Sea and Santubong.
Takes about one hour and passes through cliff forest before reaching a small sechuded beach. Proboscis monkeys are often seen during seen during early morning or late afternoon. Move slowly, keep quite as possible and listen out for strange grunts or movements in the canopy.
Passes at after through swamp forest and a flat section where proboscis monkeys are sometimes seen. At the 'Beware of the Bees' sign, the trail climbs streeply and at times you must hang on tree roots to keep your balance. At the top you are rewarded with breathing views of Bako's coastline.
One of the best trails in the park for spotting proboscis monkeys and only 45 minutes from the Park Office. As the Lintang trail bears right and climbs a hill you are in prime proboscis territory. Listen out for strange grunting noises or the crash of vegetation. If you hear something, stop as quite as possible and scan the forest. Try to 'follow' the strange noise with your eyes. If you are lucky you may see a harem of proboscis monkeys.
This trail takes about one half hours and ends at the park boundary. It is not frequently used and is somewhat secluded. Good for seeing some of Bako's rainforest giants.
Telok Pandan Kecil & Telok Pandan Besar
The one and half hour trek to Telok Pandan kecil is one of bako's most popular. It ascends the forested hills overlooking Telok assam, reaching the plateau covered in scrub vegetation and continues along a sandy path lined with carnivorous pitcher plants before reaching a cliff top with stunning view of the sechluded bay below the famous sea stack just offshore. A 10 minutes descent through cliff vegetation brings you to one of the beaches in the park. Whilst swimming, watch out for monkeys who steal unguarded bags. The Telok Pandan Besar trails ends at a cliff top with views of the beach below.
The Tajor passes scrub and padang vegetation and ends with a steep climb down to a samll beach. Take a hat as the sun can be quite fierce on the exposed sections of the trails. The trail also passes the Tajor Waterfall, a popular resting spot. The waterfall is quite small (and best after heavy rain) but it has a beautiful jungle setting and a small dip pool. From the park Office it takes about two and half hours to rach the waterfall.
This trail branches off the Tajor trail and leads across open country to the rocky Thu peninsula and a small headland where you can see wave-cut platform and rock pools. From the Park Office, it takes about two and a half hours or 45 minutes from the Tajor junction.
This trail connects the Lintang trail with the Bukit Gondol hill walk. It is deep inside the park and passes through scrub, padang vegetation and swamp forest. From the Lintang junction to the base of Bukit Gondol is about one and a half hours.
This semi-circular loop trail passes over Bukit Gondol the highest point in Bako at 260 metres. From the top of the hill there are excellent view of Pulau Lakei and Muara Tebas. The loop trek takes about 45 minutes.
This trail is actually a short cut for those who do climb Bukit Gondol. Although it is a very short trail it offers the opportunityof seeing fresh water swamp forest. The most dominant species in the area is Jelutong a softwood used for making pencils.
This trail connects Bukit Gondol with Tajor and passes some mighty rainforest giants. It passes along the slopes of Bukit Keruing, the second highest point in bako. From Paya Jelutong to the Tajor Waterfall takes about one and a half hours.
A fully trek. From the Park Office it take about three and half hours to reach the end of Telok Sibur trail, first following the Tajor trail to the waterfall. Continue along the main trail for another 45 minutes until you reach a junction and the start of the Sibur trail. after a very steep 45 minutes descent, a walk through the mangrove and a wade across a river you finally reach the longest beach in Bako.
This is Bako's long distance trail, six or seven hours from the Park Office to the small beach at Telok Limau. You pass through rich rainforest, scrub land and swamp forest, cross small and climb a number of hilly sections affording excellent views of the whole Muara Tebas peninsula. You can camp at Telok Limau and return the next day or arrange for a boat to pick you up.
being so far fro the Park Office, the Telok Keruin trail is used. It is usually done as a side trek from Telok Limau, the first section is a 15-20 minutes climb through the forest until you reach a scrub section. You must then trek for another 25 minutes before you reach the Telok Keruin trail. shortly after the junction the trail descends to an area of scrub vegetation. Look out for pitcher plants that line the side of the trail. There are four short side-trails which lead to the Bukit Keruin lookout, a small rock pool, the Muara Tebas lookout point and the Tanjung Keruin and Tanjung Po view points. The last section of the trail is a very steep descent to a mangrove forest. The trail then continues through the mangroves. Look out for the marks on the trees which show the way to the desrted beach, one of the best in the park.
This small island has a superb white sand beach. The National Parks Department has a small guard house located on the island. trips to the island can be arranged with your boatman. There are some mysterious rock paintings just a short walk fro the beach.
Entry Fees & Permits
There is a nominal entry fee for all National Parks in Sarawak. Check with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching for the latest fee structure. A permit is required for professional photography or filming, which should be arranged in advance with the National Parks Booking Office.
The Park Headquarters
Upon arrival, visitors are required to register and pay their Entrance Fee or other park fees at the registration counter. The Park HQ also has a cafeteria selling food and beverages, a small sundry shop, and an excellent information centre with an interesting selection of wildlife videos (upon request). Enquire at the registration counter for details.
Reservations & Enquiries
National Parks Booking Office,
Visitors Information Centre,
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg,
93000 Kuching Sarawak,
Tel: (+6) 082 248088 Fax: (+6) 082 248087
Online booking: http://ebooking.com.my
The Visitors Information Centre is located in the Old Courthouse Complex at the junction of Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, Jalan Gambier and Main Bazaar, opposite the Kuching Waterfront.
Tel: (+6) 082 610088 Fax: (+6) 082 610099
Toll free line: 1 800 88 2526
Bako National Park
Tel: (+6) 082-431334
How to get to Bako National Park?
From Kuching, take a taxi or Petra Jaya Bus No. 6 to Kampung Bako (Bako Village). The journey takes approximately 45 minutes. Boats can be chartered at the National Parks Boat Ticketing Counter next to the jetty for the 30-minute boat ride to the Park HQ whilst registering your arrival at the Park Arrival Booth. Check with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching for the latest boat fares. Local tour operators also organise guided trips to Bako.
Park accommodation consists of 3-bedroom Chalets, 2-bedroom Lodges, 4-bedroom Hostels and a camping ground. Barbecue pits are provided for visitors to prepare their own meals. Please contact the National Parks Booking Office for the latest room rates and to make reservations.
Monday-Friday - 0800 hrs – 1700 hrs
Saturday, Sunday& Public Holidays - Closed
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The shy and oft elusive Proboscis Monkey is one of Bako’s most illustrious residents and we had been advised that the best chance of an encounter was by taking the undulating Paku Trail.
At first look they appear quite peculiar looking creatures but their bold colours and pendulous noses become increasingly endearing. Any time spent with these unique animals is time truly well spent. Their lovable clumsiness as they crash through trees and their bouncing amble across the mangrove floor can keep a nature lover enthralled for hours. It was a scene of incredible peacefulness and a rare close up encounter with a species that is sadly falling victim to deforestation.
A male proboscis monkey climbing a tree near Telok Assam, Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia
Words cannot simply describe the uniqueness of this often-shy monkey species. Proboscis monkeys are endemic to the island of Borneo. That means they cannot be found anywhere else in the world except in zoo captivity. Such unique demographical fact puts this species in same league as the orang utans which are endemic to Borneo and Sumatra, and the kangaroos which are endemic to Australia.
Bako National Park is the home for slightly less than 200 proboscis monkeys. The number is not exactly staggering as they are tagged as "Endangered Species" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Throughout the island of Borneo which consists of three sovereign nations, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, there are probably less than 5,000 proboscis monkeys in total. Major environmental factors that affect their declining population are the usual suspects that we often read and hear - extensive forest burning by nomad farmers in Borneo, indiscriminate logging and to a certain extent, inevitable urban expansion.
These adorable creatures are locally known as Orang Belanda in Indonesia and Malaysia due to their resemblance to the colonialist Dutchmen who often spotted a long, protruding nose. In the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, the proboscis monkeys are also known as "bekantan". Scientifically, the species is known as Nasalis larvatus. Their biggest known physical attributes are the long protruding noses and the large bellies. The one-of-its-kind noses are most probably for sniffing edible food on the trees, although another theory has it that such elongated noses are for vanity reason by way of natural attraction between the females and the males. The bloated bellies are not exactly for mating selections though. They are abnormally large due to released gas inside their digestive tracts.
The proboscis monkeys are mostly known as arboreal or tree-dwelling, although scientific literatures have mentioned them as being amphibian as well due to their relatively unknown ability to swim. In Bako National Park, you will notice that they spend most of their time nesting between the mangrove tree branches. Occasionally, you may see some of them getting down on the mudflat for a few minutes before jumping onto another tree branch to scour for more young leaves, sour fruits and seeds.
The best time to see these unique monkeys are in the early morning and just before dusk. It is recommended that you be in position along the plank walks of the mangrove forest by then. The proboscis monkeys are elusive at best and extremely conscious of human presence in the area. Hence, visitors are often advised to remain still and quiet for a pleasant viewing time. Taking a good photograph of them is next to impossible though since they prefer to keep a safe distance from the nearest existence of any human beings. It goes without saying that my regular optical zoom camera was not able to capture great snapshots of them, although I bet other visitors with their expensive SLRs were able to snap a memorable shot to bring home.
In short, the proboscis monkeys are adorable and unique. They are certainly the main highlight of Bako National Park and their sightings should not be missed by anyone. That being said, proper education on conservation efforts should be propagated throughout the world to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to see this one-of-its-kind species just like we do today.