Bako National Park, Kuching – My 2D1N Experience

Bako National Park, is one of the oldest national park in Sarawak, a state of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. The national park was established in 1957 and it covers approximately 27 square kilometers in size. Despite its seemingly small size in comparison to other national parks in Sarawak, it has, according to Sarawak Tourism Board website, almost every types of vegetation that you can  find on the island of Borneo which include Swamp Forest, Scrubland, Mangrove Forest, Dipterocarp Forest and Delicate Cliff Vegetation.  Apart from types of vegetation, the website also claimed Bako National Park is home to many wildlife that include Long-tailed Macaque Monkeys, Silver Leaf Monkeys, Bearded Pigs, Squirrel, Monitor Lizards and the highlight, the Proboscis Monkeys that is endemic to the island of Borneo.

Having said above, this writing is not about promoting Bako National Park but to document what I have discovered at this park during my 2 Day 1 Night visit as well as some tips and information that may be helpful for you guys who is planning to visit this park. Whether it is worth a visit or not, it will be up to you to decide.

The decision made to visit this particular national park was mainly because of my planned short visit to my hometown, Kuching city. Besides having  many good reviews, it is also located near to the city. After doing some research, myself together with two other friends decided to spend a 2 Day 1 Night trip to explore this national park and to discover what the park has to offer.

Our journey commenced on the morning of 17th August 2017 (Thursday). Kuching rained heavily almost every day prior to our visit but luck was on our side on the morning of our journey as we were blessed with cloudy but fine weather. We started our journey at approximately 7.40 AM from my home. Journey was smooth and relaxing as we cruised on well-paved trunk road towards our destination. Journey was supposed to take only 40 minutes , but because we were too excited with the trip, we actually headed towards the wrong direction and had to spend another 15 minutes of detour before arriving at our destination, a jetty in Kampung Bako (Bako Village) at approximately 9.00 AM.

Tip: If you’re not driving, take an UBER or GRAB from Kuching city to the Bako Village jetty (ticketing and registration counter ) for approximately RM30 per way.

If you use Grab car, it’s going to cost approximately RM29 from Boulevar Shopping Mall (Kuching City) to Bako Village Jetty.

Travelling into Bako National Park requires a boat ride which takes approximately 30 minutes from their jetty (Google map coordinate: 1.663470, 110.431503) at Kampung Bako (Bako Village). You must get your boat ride tickets and registration done at this jetty before entering the park. Boat ride cost RM15 per person, per way and an additional RM10 (Local Malaysian) or RM20 (Foreigner) entrance fee to the park. – Summary of all the cost is available at the bottom of this post.

Bako Village jetty. This is the place you register yourself and purchase your boat ticket to the Bako National Park.

When we arrived at the jetty, there were already many tourists mostly westerners, waiting for their boat to depart to the park. This was surprising to me because on the day of our travel, it was a Thursday,  and there were not many times for me to witness such large number of tourists visiting a tourist spot o weekdays. This just proved that Bako National Park is a hit among  tourists and it’s a shame of me, as a local,  only visited this park, at this age. It didn’t take much time after purchasing our boat tickets and registration at the counter before we hopped onto our boat and departing for the park.

Our boat ride from Bako Village jetty to Bako National Park. The park is inaccessible via road so boat is the only mode of transport. Background is the majestic Mount Santubong.

To get to Bako National Park, our boat had to navigate along the winding river of Tabo, exiting via the river mouth and into an open sea before reaching the park headquarter which is inaccessible via road. Our boat ride was smooth and calm. Along the ride we witnessed long-tailed macaque roaming in the mangrove forest, local villagers returning from the sea after their fishing trip in their self-made sampan, the majestic Mount Santubong as well as some incredible sea stacks along the coast of the national park which personally, were something new to me. Before we knew it, we arrived at the jetty of Bako National Park. After alighting from our boat, we were greeted by mangrove and tropical rain forest. We then took a 6 minute of walk towards the park’s headquarter in order to register our arrival as well as getting our room’s key for our night’s stay.

Tip: If you plan to stay a night or two at Bako National Park, you will have to make an advance booking via Sarawak E-Booking Portal. In our case, we stayed at Forest Lodge Type 5, that costed RM100 per nigh and equipped with basic necessities namely 4 beds, 2 wall mounted fans and attached toilet and bathroom.

Upon arrival at the park’s headquarter, we were overwhelmed with many long-tailed macaque interacting with tourists without any shyness. We also spotted few Proboscis Monkeys resting on trees besides the national park headquarter. There was also one particular wildlife which i was amazed to see especially one that is alive, the bearded pig. All these wildlife didn’t look afraid of the tourists there and i’m not sure if that’s a good sign especially when they are waiting for the guests to drop them some foods. Looking at the scenario, it definitely has confirmed what Sarawak Tourism Board website has quoted “…almost guaranteed to see wildlife.”

Among wildlife discovered at the park in the morning, namely – clockwise from top left – the Proboscis Monkey, Bearded Pig, Long Tailed Macaque & Silvered Leaf Monkey.

By the time we finished registering ourselves at the park headquarter, it was almost 10am. Our room would not be ready until 2pm so we decided to explore one of the 18 trails at the park. For your information the length of each of the 18 trails ranged from shortest 0.2km (30 minutes per way) to longest 5.75km (7 hours per way). There are trails suitable for different level of fitness so my advise is to assess own capability before choosing the right trail for your adventure. For the list of the trails, please checkout Sarawak Tourism Board website here or refer to the trail map I have attached at the bottom of this post. On the day of our visit, trails to the east coast of Bako National Park were cordoned off due to damage of trails after heavy rains days before but fortunately it did not affect the more popular trail that we had opted to take, which is the Telok Pandan Kecil trails (1.5 km, 1.5 hours per way). We opted this trail mainly because:

  • At the end of this trail, one will be able to enjoy breathtaking view of Bako National Park from a cliff top and the beautiful bay below and South China Sea beyond.
  • to see the famous sea stack which the park has being promoting to the public. To see the sea stack however, one has to take a boat ride along the park coast back to the park headquarter as the sea stack is not visible at the end of this trail. The boat ride can be arranged at the park headquarter prior to your trail adventure and it costed us RM35 per ride.

The trail begins by tracking through a mangrove forest. Here we get to see mangrove plants and wildlife that lives in its ecosystem particularly the Mudskipper, Fiddler Crab and we even managed to spot a Sea Snake. Not to worry about getting dirty walking on mud because wooden planks had being built so you can walk above the mud and discover these small creatures’ activities below you. The trail on the mangrove section took about 8 minutes to complete and actually felt quite relaxing with cool breeze blowing at us from the sea and the trail being flat and straight before we entered the rain forest and began our ascending trail to the cliff top, the highlight of this trail.

Trail in the rain forest was equally interesting as we explore different kinds of vegetation normally not seen by us city dwellers. Among them were spiked rattan and bamboos that were abnormally large compared to those we see in the city. Walking in the forest felt cooling as we’re shielded by tall forest trees acting like umbrellas, protecting us from the burning sun while on the forest floor, vegetation here appeared shorter in size which made trekking in the forest a lot easier. We also came across swamp of ants making their move and Stingless bees constructing their nest. We did not discover any larger wildlife though, probably because we were too focused on rushing to reach our destination.

Exposed tree root crawling on the surface of our trail

Trekking some distance later, we reached a place what the park described as scrub-like padang vegetation. As explained earlier, this trail was generally on ascending degree and at this stage, we were quite high from the sea level though we have no idea how high were we. The landscape of this “scrub-like padang vegetation” is the first time I have seen in my life.  The landscape here was interesting in that there were not many tall standing trees and in fact, only  low lying vegetation exist here and among those was the pitcher plant, a kind of carnivorous plant. The ground, I believe was limestone and interestingly shaped probably caused by water erosion. We continued our journey until finally, we reached the highlight of the trail, a cliff top overlooking the South China Sea and the white sandy bay below, reminds me of popular tourist spot in Phuket, Thailand. We would love to stay a little bit longer to enjoy the beautiful scenery here but due to hot burning sun and lack of shade, we left the spot and proceeded to the bay below by trekking down a very steep wooden stairs. We rested while enjoying the beach and I was regret for not bringing along my swimwear for a swim there.

The cliff top with white sandy bay below
The highlight of this trail, the cliff top overlooking the South China Sea
The sea stacks of Bako National Park

We then departed back to the park headquarter on the boat that we requested earlier and on the way, we managed to witness the famous Bako National Park sea stacks. Personally, this was the first time I experienced such unique structure so being an amateur photograph, I have requested the boat man to make several approach towards the sea stacks in order to get the best shot of them. The boat journey took about 10 minutes and by the time we reached the jetty, it was approximately 2.30pm. We decided to check into our room and had our luggage secured there.

We stayed at “Forest Lodge – Type 5”, a 4-singles bed room with attached bathroom and toilet. Amenities were basic, namely two units of wall mounted fan and blankets. Take note also there’s no television set, air-condition and soap and shampoo so you may want to bring your own. The room was clean and tidy and it costed us RM100 a night. To us, it’s good enough as we only needed it to secure our belongings, a place to rest and a night sleep. There were other more equipped room where you can select at the accommodation booking website.

After done with the check-in, we proceeded back to the park headquarter where the park’s only cafeteria was located and to have our lunch there. The cafeteria itself I would say was adequately decorated and had enough room for guests there. Not air-conditioned but since it’s located near to the beach, the cooling breeze blowing from the sea was enough to be comfortable. Our lunch option that afternoon was a buffet styled lunch. We were presented with dishes which include fried rice, noodle, assortment of vegetables and curry chicken meat. The cost of the dish was calculated based on number of scoop we took and and it ranged from RM3.50 to RM4.50 per scoop depending on types of dish we selected. My personal comment on the food, they did not look appetizing when presented on the food tray and they tasted average. My selected of dish consisted of fried rice, curry chicken and vegetable with a tinned drink that costed me RM16.50. Overall satisfaction level? Slightly below average if you ask me. But it’s the only choice of food we had here at this park.

No sun set sighted. Beach outside Bako National Park headquarter and the famous Mount Santubong in the background

After finishing lunch, we returned to our room to have a rest after the long tiring and enjoyable trekking. In the evening at approximately 6pm, we proceeded to the beach just outside our room and realized the sea has receded, I would say, about 2km away from the shoreline and because of that, we discovered lots of Fiddler Crabs running around like no one’s business. We intended to get a glimpse of the beautiful sunset over the majestic Mount Santubong at the beach but the heavy cloud that evening disappointed us as no sun set was sighted. Luck was not on our side so we decided to return to the cafeteria for our dinner before proceed to join a night trekking session to discover night wildlife. It costed us RM10 each to join (RM20 each for foreigners). We were divided into 6 or 7 person per group and lead by a guide into one of the trails in the forest (it was peach black and I had no idea which trail we were trekking). The guide was very experienced and managed to show us wildlife just by listening to the sound the wildlife made or looking into the dark corner of the forest. Among wildlife that we discovered include the poisonous frog, a napping Kingfisher and Swiftlet, giant ants, Borneo Tarantula and Wagler’s Pit Viper – venomous snake, just to name a few. I was amazed by the guide’s skill to spot these wildlife at night and was quite enlightened by the explanation given on the wildlife spotted. Our night walk ended at approximately 10.30pm and will I recommend this to anyone considering this? Definitely a yes.

Some of the wildlife discovered during the night walk

Tip: For the night walk, make sure you bring along a torch light, outfit with long sleeves and long pants to protect yourself from potential harm from wildlife, bottle of water and please travel lightly as the night walk session can last up to 2 hours. Visibility of these wildlife however was not guaranteed as it depends a lot to weather condition.

We returned to our room right after the walk, took our bath and went to sleep after a tiring day at the park. How was the night? Though not air-conditioned, the room was quite cooling at night with the help of the two wall-mounted fans and also the breeze blowing from the sea. Our lodge was located very near to the beach so it’s quite relaxing hearing sound of pounding sea water near the beach. Behind our lodge was the tropical rain forest. We were advised not to open the windows as our lodge area was full of macaque and they may sneak into our room to snatch our stuff. The ventilated design of the room however allows cool air to flow and circulate the room for a comfortable night sleep without the windows opened.

The next day, 18th September 2017, we were fully energized and prepared for our second trekking and we opted for the Telok Paku trail which was about 0.8 km per way and would take approximately 1 hour to reach the destination. The reason we opted for this trail was because of a small beach with a sea stack at the end of the trail and also it’s reasonably distance for us to complete before hoping on the earliest boat returning home at 1pm. The beginning part of the trail follows that of Telok Pandan Kecil trail which we did the day before and the rest was combination of small ascend and descend through the cliff forest  and overall, it’s less laborious compared to previous trail.

Surprisingly, a Hermit Crab sighted crawling on a tree trunk.

We managed to spot some spiders, hermit crab (yeah, in the forest) and Proboscis Monkey. It’s a short trail so without realizing, we reached the end of the trail and arrived at the beach less than the estimated 1 hour.  This beach was considerable smaller than the Telok Pandan Kecil beach we explored the day before but there was one sea stack near to the beach, an amazing sight for me. We stopped for a photo session and enjoyed the scenery before returning to the park headquarter.

Panoramic view of Telok Paku

We packed our luggage and departed from the park jetty at 1.00 pm via a boat back to Bako Village and from there we proceeded driving back home.

2 days 1 night spent at Bako National Park has being a good experience to me. As claimed, I did manage to discover different types of wildlife in this protected forest such as the Proboscis Monkey, Kingfisher, Silver Leaf Monkey and Hermit Crab, just to name a few. The forest landscape particularly the scrub-like vegetation amazed me most and not forget to mention the beautiful beaches and sea stacks made this trip and wonderful one for me. For those who’s interested about Borneo rain forest and its wildlife, this is one of the national park you cannot miss. It’s inexpensive to visit and is located only approximately 1 hour driving from the city center of Kuching, Sarawak and of course, there are plenty to discover at this national park.

Summary of my cost incurred visiting Bako National Park:

Details Costing
Accomodation Approximately RM33.34 (RM100 per room – Forest Lodge Type – 5 Terrace)
Travelling from Kuching City to Bako Village Jetty Kuching City to Bako Village Jetty (We drove ourselves – Fuel approximately RM10 return) Alternatively you may take Uber or Grab Car that cost approximately RM29 one way or mini bus at RM5 per way per person. You can get on the mini bus at Kuching Open Air Market (Google Map: 1.559267, 110.342309)
From Bako Village Jetty to Bako National Park Headquarter Boat fee is RM30 per person. (RM15 each way)
Bako National Park Entrance fee RM10 per person (Local), RM20 per person (Foreigner)
Boat fees from Telok Pandan Kecil back to Bako National Park Headquarter (Optional) RM11.67 (RM35 per boat trip)
Night walk (Optional) RM10 per person (Local), RM20 per person (Foreigner)
Meal at the Bako National Park cafeteria RM33.00 (RM16.50 per meal x 2 – 1st day Lunch & Dinner). Alternatively please bring your own food supply if you think the food here is expensive. In my opinion, it is and the reason it is so because food supply is transported to the park using boat as there is no road access)

In total, my total cost for this 2D1N trip to Bako National Park was RM138.07.

Additional Information that may help to plan your trip here:
Accomodation booking at Bako National Park: https://ebooking.sarawak.gov.my
About Bako National Park:
https://sarawaktourism.com/attraction/bako-national-park/
Contact Number: 1-800-88-2526 (Toll Free Line)

Bako National Park Trails map

Map from Kuching city centre to Bako National Park

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