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Sarawak's Bako National Park

With its rainforest, abundant wildlife, jungle streams, waterfalls, interesting plant life, secluded beaches, panoramic rocky shoreline, bizarre rock formations and extensive network of trekking trails, Bako National Park offers visitors an excellent introduction to the rainforest and coastline of Borneo. Bako may not have an instantly recognisable star attraction, but there can be very few places in the world that pack so much natural beauty into such a limited area, all just 37 km from Kuching.

Its accessibility - and its sheer range of attractions and activities - have made Bako one of the most popular parks in Sarawak. 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.

 

Beach at Bako National Park

Cruise to Bako National Park

Rock Formations at Bako National Park


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
  • 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.


Wildlife

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.

 

Silver Langur Monkey Bako National Park

Proboscis Monkey Bako National Park

Treefrog Bako National Park

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.

Beach at Bako National Park

Viper Bako National Park

Sunset Bako National Park


Activities
Jungle Trekking | Wildlife Watching  | Photography 

How to get there
Kampung Bako is highly accessible from Kuching. From Kampung Bako you have to proceed by boat to the Park HQ. The boat is and adventure in itself, with the skill and experienced boatmen riding the surf at high speed, to the delight of most visitors.

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