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BAKO NATIONAL PARK

INTRODUCTION

 

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.


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 and 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.

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.







TREKS AND TRAILS

Bako’s extensive trail system is made up of 16 colour-coded jungle trails which offer a range of walking and hiking options. The fit and adventurous can opt for full-day jungle hikes or overnight camping expeditions, whilst those who prefer to take it easy can opt for a relaxing forest walk. The following table provides details of approximate trekking times and distances and the colour codes used in the park.

 

 

 

No.

Trail Name

Trail Length

One Way Time &
Distance From HQ

Colour Code

1.

Tanjung Sapi

0.5 km

30 minutes (0.8 km)

White/Red

2

Telok Paku

0.8 km

1 hour (1.2 km)

White

3

Ulu Assam

0.8 km

1 1/4 hours (1.4 km)

Blue/Red

4

Telok Delima

0.25 km

45 minutes (1 km)

Blue/White

5

Telok Pandan Besar

0.75 km

1 hour (1.75 km)

Yellow

6

Telok Pandan Kecil

1.5 km

1 1/2 hours (2.5 km)

Yellow

7

Serait

1.25 km

1 1/2 hours (2.2 km)

White/Yellow

8

Lintang

5.25 km

3 1/2 hours return

Red

9

Tajor

2.75 km

2 1/2 hours (3.5 km)

Red/White

10

Tanjung Rhu

1.8 km

2 1/2 hours (4.2 km)

Red/Yellow

11

Bukit Keruing

2.25 km

3 1/2 hours (5.5 km)

Blue

12

Paya Jelutong

0.2 km

3 1/2 hours (5.7 km)

White/Blue

13

Bukit Gondol

2 km

4 1/2 hours (7.7 km)

Yellow/White

14

Ulu Serait

2.75 km

3 hours (4.8 km)

Blue/Yellow

15

Telok Sibur

0.8 km

3 1/2 hours (5.3 km)

Red/Black

16

Telok Limau

5.75 km

7 hours (10 km)

Red/Blue

17

Telok Kruin

1.5 km

7 1/4 hours (10.5 km)

Blue/Black

18

Pa’ Amit (Lakei Island)

1.0 km

30 minutes (from Base)

Orange


The following paragraphs provide brief details of each of trails. If you require further information, please consult the Park Rangers.

1. Tanjung Sapi   2. Telok Paku

A short but steep climb through cliff vegetation. Takes about 30 minutes. Excellent views of Telok Assam, the South China Sea and Santubong. Proboscis monkeys can occasionally be heard crashing amongst the trees, especially early morning.


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Takes about one hour and passes through cliff forest before reaching a small secluded beach. Proboscis monkeys are often seen during early morning or late afternoon. One of the best trails for seeing proboscis monkeys. Move slowly, keep as quiet as possible and listen out for strange grunts or movements in the canopy.


3. Ulu Assam   4. Telok Delima

Passes at first through swamp forest and a flat section where proboscis monkeys are sometimes seen. The trail then climbs steeply and at times you must hang on to tree roots to keep your balance. At the top you are rewarded with breathtaking views of Bako’s coastline.




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Another excellent trail for spotting proboscis monkeys, and only 45 minutes from park HQ. As the Lintang trail bears right and climbs a small hill you are in prime proboscis territory. Listen out for strange grunting noises or the crash of vegetation. If you hear something, stop, keep as quiet as possible and scan the forest. Try to ‘follow’ the strange noises with your eyes. If you are lucky you may see a harem of proboscis monkeys.

5. Serait   6. Telok Pandan Kecil & Telok Pandan Besar

This trail takes about one and half hours and ends at the park boundary. It is not frequently used and is somewhat secluded. Good for seeing some of Bako’s rainforest giants.









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The one and a half hour trek to Telok Pandan Kecil is one of Bako’s most popular. It ascends the forested hills overlooking Telok Assam, reaching a plateau covered in scrub vegetation, and continues along a sandy path lined with carnivorous pitcher plants, before reaching a cliff top with stunning views of the secluded bay below and the famous sea stack just offshore. A 10 minute descent through cliff vegetation brings you to one of the best beaches in the park. Whilst swimming, watch out for monkeys who steal unguarded bags. The Telok Pandan Besar trail ends at a cliff top with views of the beach below.

7. Lintang   8. Tajor

The Lintang loop trail is a very popular trek as it passes through nearly all of the vegetation types found at Bako. The whole trek takes between 3 and 4 hours, so it is probably the best choice if you can only visit for a day. The section between the Ulu Assam and Serait junctions is another good spot for seeing proboscis monkeys. The Bukit Tambi viewpoint is a short detour off the main trail and overlooks the western part of the park.

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The Tajor trail passes scrub and padang vegetation and ends with a steep climb down to a small beach. Take a hat as the sun can be quite fierce on the exposed sections of the trail. The trail also passes the Tajor Waterfall, a popular resting spot. The waterfall is quite small (and best after heavy rain) but it has a beautiful jungle setting and a small dip pool. From the park HQ it takes about two and half hours to reach the waterfall. Watch out for slippery rocks along the Tajor stream.

9. Tanjung Rhu   10. Ulu Serait

This trail branches off the Tajor trail and leads across open country to the rocky Rhu peninsula and a small headland where you can see wave-cut platforms and rock pools. From the park HQ, it takes about two and half hours, or 45 minutes from the Tajor junction.

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This trail connects the Lintang trail with the Bukit Gondol hill walk. It is deep inside the park and passes through scrub, padang vegetation and swamp forest. From the Lintang junction to the base of Bukit Gondol is about one and a half hours.

11. Bukit Gondol   12. Paya Jelutong

This semi-circular loop trail passes over Bukit Gondol, the highest point in Bako at 260 metres. From the top of the hill there are excellent views of Pulau Lakei and the Muara Tebas areas. The loop trek takes about 45 minutes.


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This trail is actually a short cut for those who do not wish to climb Bukit Gondol. Although it is a very short trail it offers the opportunity of seeing fresh water swamp forest in unique setting that is extremely high above the sea level. The most dominant species in the area is Jelutong, a softwood species used for making pencils and the latex for chewing gum.

13. Bukit Keruing   14. Telok Sibur

This trail connects Bukit Gondol with Tajor and passes some mighty rainforest giants. It passes along the slopes of Bukit Keruing, the second highest point in Bako. From Paya Jelutong to the Tajor waterfall takes about one and half hours.



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A full day trek. From the park HQ it takes about three and half hours to reach the end of Telok Sibur trail, first following the Tajor trail to the waterfall. Continue along the main trail for another 45 minutes until you reach a junction and the start of the Sibur trail. After a very steep 45 minute descent, a walk through the mangroves and a wade across a the Sibur river you finally reach the longest beach in Bako.

15. Telok Limau   16. Telok Kruin

This is Bako’s long distance trail, six or seven hours from the park HQ to the small beach at Telok Limau. You pass through rich rainforest, scrub land and swamp forest, cross small streams and climb a number of hilly sections affording excellent views of the whole Muara Tebas peninsula. You can camp at Telok Limau and return the next day or arrange for a boat to pick you up, or the trip can be made vice-versa; using a boat to Telok Limau and then trekking back to the park HQ. Only physically fit, experienced trekkers should attempt this trail, and must inform the park management before leaving.






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Being so far from the park HQ, the Telok Keruin trail is rarely used. It is usually done as a side trek from Telok Limau. From Telok Limau, the first section is a 15-20 minute climb through the forest until you reach a scrub section. You must then trek for another 25 minutes before you reach the Telok Keruin trail. Shortly after the junction the trail descends to an area of scrub vegetation. Look out for pitcher plants that line the side of the trail. There are four short side-trails which lead to the Bukit Kruin lookout, a small rock pool, the Muara Tebas lookout point, and the Tanjung Keruin and Tanjung Po viewpoints. The last section of the trail is a very steep descent to a mangrove forest. The trail then continues through the mangroves. Look out for the marks on the trees that show the way to the deserted beach - one of the best in the park.

17. Pulau Lakei (Lakei Island) and the Pa’ Amit
     Trail
   

This small island at the northeastern tip of the Bako Peninsuala has a delightful white sand beach and crystal clear waters for swimming. At the highest point on the island, at the top of a 160-step wooden ladder, is the grave of a legendary Malay warrior. Datuk Ibrahim was an early resident of the island, and believed to be so strong that he could engrave Islamic ‘khats’ (religious calligraphy) on rocks with his bare fingers, such as those found at the Salamun Pool on the island. The pool is popular with local visitors, some of whom believe that the water in the pool has spiritual and curative powers. The grave also attracts devotees seeking to have wishes granted or to see into the future. The Pa’ Amit Trail, the only trail on the island, leads to two viewpoints that offer excellent photo-opportunities when as the sun sets over Mount Santubong. Accommodation is available on the island but space is limited.


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TRAVEL NOTES

Entry Fees & Permits   Getting There
There is a nominal entry fee for all National Parks in Sarawak. Check with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching for the latest fee structure. A permit is required for professional photography or filming, which should be arranged in advance with the National Parks Booking Office.
 
From Kuching, take a taxi or Petra Jaya Bus No. 6 to Kampung Bako (Bako Village). The journey takes approximately 45 minutes. Boats can be chartered at the National Parks Boat Ticketing Counter next to the jetty for the 30-minute boat ride to the Park HQ whilst registering your arrival at the Park Arrival Booth. Check with the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching for the latest boat fares. Local tour operators also organise guided trips to Bako.
The Park Headquarters   Accommodation
Upon arrival, visitors are required to register and pay their Entrance Fee or other park fees at the registration counter. The Park HQ also has a cafeteria selling food and beverages, a small sundry shop, and an excellent information centre with an interesting selection of wildlife videos (upon request). Enquire at the registration counter for details.
 
Park accommodation consists of 3-bedroom Chalets, 2-bedroom Lodges, 4-bedroom Hostels and a camping ground. Barbecue pits are provided for visitors to prepare their own meals. Please contact the National Parks Booking Office for the latest room rates and to make reservations.
Reservations & Enquiries   Opening Hours
National Parks Booking Office,
Visitors Information Centre,
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg,
93000 Kuching Sarawak,
Tel: (+6) 082 248088 Fax: (+6) 082 248087
Online booking: http://ebooking.com.my


The Visitors Information Centre is located in the Old Courthouse Complex at the junction of Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, Jalan Gambier and Main Bazaar, opposite the Kuching Waterfront.

 
National Parks Booking Office Monday-Friday 0800 hrs – 1700 hrs
Saturday, Sunday& Public Holidays Closed
Further Information    

SARAWAK FORESTRY
Tel: (+6) 082 610088 Fax: (+6) 082 610099
Toll free line: 1 800 88 2526
Website: www.sarawakforestry.com
Email: info@sarawakforestry.com

Bako National Park
Tel: +6082 478011 or +6082 478012

Bako Terminal
Tel: +6082 431336

 


 
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