Bako is the oldest National Park in Sarawak and has a wide range of flora and fauna. It is particularly well known for the Proboscis monkeys and Pitcher Plants.
The Proboscis monkey, with it’s off little nose is endangered. However they are commonly spotted in the trees. In the two days we were at Bako we saw Proboscis monkeys both days. There are not huge numbers of them, but toward evening they are moving in the trees.
The public bus to Bako comes through town and past the cat statue- check with your hotel for directions to the nearest bus stop or terminus. We visited in July and the bus was not overly busy and we had no problem dealing with our suitcases. The ride cost about a US$ and takes about an hour.
From Park headquarters where you pay your Park Entrance fee it is a 20 minute boat ride to the park. If possible talk to other travellers, either on the bus or at the headquarters, to see if you can co-ordinate travel to reduce the hire cost. The purchase of a boat is a return journey and you all need to have the same travel plans – i.e go in and out at the same time. The boat are simple but serviceable.
Once at Bako National Park the boat driver will drop you off and you need to proceed either along the jetty or up the beach (depending on tide conditions when you arrive) to the reception area. Here you need to register and head off to your accommodation.
There is a central food canteen which serves simple but adequate food at set hours. Alcohol is also available for purchase.
What to do
Bako is all about nature and getting out amongst it. There is a well documented series of 16 walks which range from easy to strenuous multi-day. Make sure you carry enough water, because there are no stalls selling water.
A free night walk is offered by park staff. It is interesting – particularly as there isn’t much else to do at night, and it is a gentle stroll. Just don’t expect major sights and you will enjoy it.
One of the easy walks popular with many travellers is the walk to Kecil Beach. It is supposed to take 1.5 hours. The initial 20 minutes is the hardest part of the walk – so do not be put off. That said there is a lot of hill climbing in this period at temperatures can be very hot and there isn’t a great deal of shade. Ideally doing this in the early morning is your best option.
The beach, when you eventually get to the destination, is a lovely sight and a swim is a welcome reward. You can retrace your steps and walk back to camp or you can pre-arrange a boat pick-up. You can wing it and hope a spare boat might be there, but there are no guarantees.
As soon as you know the dates you are going to visit the park – book some accommodation. Beds are limited! The Sarawak National Parks authority has an e-booking form where you can make your request. A staff member will email back availability.
Tip: If you have enough funds then book an entire dorm room as opposed to individual beds. When we visited our 4 bed dorm cost 42 ringgit – about $11. A couple who were staying in a shared dorm were paying 15 ringgit each. For the difference of a few dollars, it is worth it.
The accommodation is basic and while the Parks department are making improvements and new additions, do not expect luxury.
These monkey’s are everywhere, and particularly around the dining hall. They look cute but really they are after the main chance. They have no hesitation at taking the food directly off your plate and watching their razor sharp teeth rip a dink can apart should warn you not to feed them, and watch what they are doing.
As one guidebook said – they are cute until you see them rip a can apart with their teeth – the monkey below did proceed to do exactly that.