Bako is situated on the beautiful Muara Tebas Peninsula, a former river delta which has been thrust above sea level. Its sandstone cliffs, which are patterned and streaked with iron deposits, have been eroded to produce a dramatic coastline with secluded coves and beaches and rocky headlands. Millions of years of erosion by the sea has resulted in the formation of wave-cut platforms, honeycomb weathering, solution pans, arches and sea stacks. Bako's most distinctive feature is the westernmost headland - Tanjung Sapi - a 100-m-high sandstone plateau, which is unique in Borneo. Established in 1957, Bako was Sarawak's first national park. It is very small (2742 ha) but it has an exceptional variety of flora and guaranteed wildlife spotting. Its beaches and accessible trails make it a wonderful place to relax for a few days.
Ins and outs
Bako lies 37 km north of Kuching, an hour's bus journey from Petra Jaya terminal. Take the orange bus No 6 from just below Electra House on Lebuh Market to Kampong Bako. The bus continues just beyond to the Bako NP boat jetty where the driver turns around and heads back to Kuching. There are also minibuses (no fixed schedule) from Lebuh Market. Ask the driver on your way to Bako to confirm the day's last bus. From Kampong Bako, charter a private boat to Sungai Assam (30 mins), which is a short walk from the Park HQ (up to 5 people). Travelling by car, the drive from Kuching takes about 40 minutes. Parking is safe at Kampong Bako and the park offices, from where you rent a boat .
It also is possible to hire boats around the park: speed boats (for up to six) charge a negotiable rate; good for exploring the park's beaches and the island of Pulau Lakei.
On arrival visitors are required to register at the Park HQ; the information
centre next door has a small exhibition on geology and flora and fauna within the park. Visitors can ask to see a 40-minute introductory video to the park. The Park HQ has a canteen.
Flora and fauna
To obtain the necessary permits, contact the the
National Parks and Wildlife Booking Office
There are seven separate types of vegetation in Bako. These include mangroves (
is the most common stilt-rooted mangrove species), swamp forest and heath forest, known as
, an Iban word meaning 'land on which rice cannot grow'. Pitcher plants (
) do however grow in profusion on the sandy soil. There is also mixed dipterocarp rainforest (the most widespread forest type in Sarawak, characterized by its 30- to 40-m-high canopy), beach forest, and
vegetation, comprising scrub and bare rock from which there are magnificent views of the coast. The rare
(umbrella palm) is also found in Bako Park; it is a litter-trapping plant as its large fronds catch falling leaves from the trees above and funnel them downwards where they eventually form a thick organic mulch enabling the plant to survive on otherwise infertile soil. There are also wild durian trees in the forest, which can take up to 60 years to bear fruit.
Bako is one of the few areas in Sarawak inhabited by the rare proboscis monkey (
), known by Malays as Orang Belanda (Dutchmen) or even Pinocchio of the Jungle, because of their long noses. Bako is home to approximately 150 proboscis monkeys. They are most often seen in the early morning or at dusk in the Teluk Assam and Teluk Delima areas (at the far west side of the park, closest to the headquarters) or around Teluk Paku (a 45-minute walk from the Park HQ). Another good place to spot them is on the beach when the tide is out and they come down, so you can see them up close.
The park also has resident populations of squirrels, mouse deer, sambar deer, wild pigs, long-tailed macaques, flying lemur, silver leaf monkeys and palm civet cats. Teluk Assam, in the area around the Park HQ, is one of the best places for birdwatching: over 150 species have been recorded in the park, including pied and black hornbills. Large numbers of migratory birds come to Bako between September and November. Other inhabitants of the park are the blue fiddler crab, which has one big claw and is forever challenging others to a fight, and mudskippers, evolutionary throwbacks (resembling half-fish, half-frog), which are common in mangrove areas.
Also in the park there are two species of otter: the oriental small clawed otter and the hairy nosed otter (the best area to see them is at Teluk Assam). The Bornean bearded pig is the largest mammal found Bako and is usually seen snuffling around the Park HQ. There are many lizards too, the largest being the water monitor which is often found near the accommodation. Snakes occasionally seen include the poisonous bright green Wagler's pit viper and sometimes pythons and tree snakes on night walks. Nocturnal animals include flying lemur, pangolin, mouse deer, bats, tarsier, slow loris and palm civet (the beach by the Park HQ is a great place for a night-time stroll).
There's a good range of well-marked trails throughout the park - over 30 km in total; all paths are colour coded, corresponding to the map available from Park HQ. The shortest trek is the steep climb to the top of
, overlooking Telok Assam, with good views of Gunung Santubong, on the opposite Peninsula, across Tanjung Sipang, to the west. The 3.5-km trek to Tajor Waterfall is among the most popular, with varied walking (including some steep climbs), spectacular views and a chance of a refreshing swim at the waterfall. A few meters further on you reach a secluded beach.
The longest trek is to Telok Limau; a five- to seven-hour walk through a variety of terrain. You can arrange with Park HQ to lay on a boat to bring you back. Some trails are temporarily closed for maintenance - always check with Park HQ. Full day treks and overnight camping expeditions can be arranged. There are plankwalkways with shelters at intervals to provide quiet watching spots, particularly required for viewing the proboscis monkey in the early morning.
There are seven beaches around the park, but some are rather inaccessible, with steep paths down to the cliffs. The best swimming beach is at
, about 1½ hours' walk, northeast from the Park HQ. It is also possible to swim at
. Enquire about jellyfish at the Park HQ before swimming in the sea; it is advisable not to swim in March and April. In the monsoon season, between November and February, the sea can be rough.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF