A guide to Bako National Park, Borneo
If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, don’t hesitate to take the plane to Borneo too. Just do it, as it will be one of the highlights of your trip! From Langkawi, I flew via Kuala Lumpur towards Kuching (Sarawak) where I visited, among other places, Bako National Park. In this article I’ll tell you all about this beautiful national park, practical information and the reasons why you should pay a visit to Bako National Park.
About Bako National Park
Only a 30-minute drive away from Kuching, you can find the Bako National Park. It’s the oldest and one of the smallest national parks of Sarawak, Borneo. As it’s located near a lively city, it’s also a park which is easy to reach.
One of the highlights of Bako National Park will probably be the nose monkeys, which you can come across during hiking one of the many trails in the park. However, there’s so much other wildlife you can come across too. Another unique characteristic of Bako National Park will probably be the divers amount of eco-systems you can find here: beach vegetations, cliff vegetation, heather forest, mangrove forest, lowland forest, grassland vegetation and peat bog forests.
As it’s rain season from November until February, it’s recommended to visit Bako National Park between the months March and October.
How to get here
As told before, you can reach Bako National Park within a 30-minutes’ drive. By car, you arrive in the village Bako, from where you can take a boat over the Santubong River towards the head quarter and the entrance of the national park. At the village Bako, there is an office where you can buy your tickets for the national park and for the boat ride. When arriving at Bako National Park, you agree on a time with the boatman when you’d like to be picked up again. The boat trip takes around 30 minutes and definitely is a nice experience on its own! You arrive on a beach, from where you walk further to the headquarter of the national park.
Arrived at the headquarter of Bako National Park, you need to show your ticket at the “reception”, where you’ll get a map with all the hiking trails. If you have questions at that time, you can ask the person behind the reception. Near the reception, you can also find a simple restaurant where you can have something to eat or drink.
You can go to the village Bako by car, but you can also use a taxi service or a public bus. Besides the car, the taxi will probably be the easiest way (of course not the cheapest). I would recommend to download the app Grab, on which you can order a taxi for a small price. You can compare this app with Uber, but Grab is only possible to use in several Asian countries.
What to bring
Despite the fact there’s a restaurant at the entrance of Bako National Park, it’s important to bring some equipment for during the hikes:
– bottle of water; for the hiking trails
– good hiking shoes; for the hiking trails
– rain coat or poncho; for when it’s going to rain
– mosquito repellent; as there are many mosquito’s in the park
– sunscreen; for when hiking along the beaches, where the sun may shine brightly
– towel; for when it rains for example
– a camera; as I would expect you’d like to make lots of pictures!
And if you would like to overnight in the park, you should think about the following things:
– flashlight or head lamp
– mosquito net
– sleeping bag (if necessary)
– cooking facilities (if necessary)
There are 16 hiking trails in Bako National Park with all a different length and level. When you walk from the beach to the reception while arriving at the national park, you can find a huge sign on which you can see all hiking trails, a map of the national park and how long the trails are. At the reception you will receive a map; the receptionist will give you tips on which hiking trail suits you best.
Most paths will go along beautiful waterfalls and beaches. Some paths include lots of climbing; which makes it quite difficult. On the other hand, you’ll get some amazing views at the end of the trail. We were for some hours in the park, where we did two “short” trails: one where we ended up at the beach and spotted some nose monkeys and one where we climbed a little, but where we ended up at a nice viewing point.
If you would like to do one of the longer hiking trails, it’s recommended to overnight in one of the lodges within the national park.
You can find lots of wildlife during your visit to Bako National Park. The nose monkeys will probably be the highlight of your visit, as you can often see them from up close. However, you can find all kinds of monkeys. Around the head quarter already, you can come across many long tail macaques. Especially around the restaurant, as they’d love to eat with you..
Besides monkeys, you can also find several types of snakes, spiders, frogs and bearded pigs. And on the beaches you’ll come across thousands of little crabs. Such a nice image!
Staying in or around the park
You can both stay in or around the park. If you overnight around Bako National Park, you can only visit the park for a few hours. Keep this in mind by planning the hiking trails you’d like to do. If you would like to hike a longer trail, or if you would like to hike multiple days, it’s recommended to book a stay in the park.
You can chose from a basic accommodation (a bed in a dormitory) to a private chalet; there is something for everyone. During a multiple-day hike you can overnight at one of the many campsites. Another advantage of staying in the park will be the fact that you can see more wildlife, as several animals will be most active during the night. Optionally, you can book a night tour through the park with a guide.
Take into account that you need to pre book your accommodation in Bako National Park to avoid disappointment.
During my stay in Borneo, I didn’t overnight in Bako National Park, but around an hour driving from the park. I stayed at The Culvert, an unique stay and absolutely recommended! From the accommodation it’s quite easy to pay a visit to the national park. In the direct environment of The Culvert, you don’t have may restaurants and other facilities. However, within a 30-minutes’ drive you’ll be in Kuching.