Bako is one of several world-class national parks in the Sarawak state of Borneo. It was established shortly before Malaysia became fully independant in 1957, and is one of the top natural attractions on offer in the area.
A beautifully dense carpet of rainforest is wrapped in fine sandy beaches and dramatic coastal cliffs, but its Bako’s diverse flora and fauna which attracts hoards of nature-lovers to its shores. There are 16 colour-coded jungle trails that offer short and long distance treks, which can take between 30 minutes and seven hours.
We attempted an afternoon hike to a waterfall that was 3.2km away, but the difficult terrain and non-existent path in places, meant it took us 2 hours to complete only 1.7km. We had to turn back in the end so get an early start if you can.
During our time in Bako we came across vipers, Bornean bearded pigs, a large variety of insects, birds of paradise, and very cheeky long-tailed macaques (one stole my lunch 🙈).
The real star of the show though is the rare and endangered proboscis monkey. We were lucky enough to see four of them quite close to the park’s base!
How long should you spend there
You have the option of spending as long as you want in Bako as there’s accommodation available in the park, however, you might not want to spend more than one night (find out why further down). Most people tend to stay for two days to get in a few good hikes and enjoy the night walk.
I met one woman who had been there for five days though, so if you’re as active and enthusiastic about nature as her, you also might want to extend your stay! The good thing is that you can jump on a return boat whenever you’re ready. All you have to do is let the person at the boat desk know what time and day you want to leave (this can be done an hour before if its not busy).
Getting to the park
To get to Bako you first need to get a 20 minute boat ride from the park’s entrance, which is situated 30-40 minutes outside of the centre of Kuching. If you’re only going for the one day, get there early as the last boat back is at 3pm. Because of the area’s tropical weather there are often thunderstorms and showers so make sure you check the forecast before leaving, as the small boat might not run.
Tip: Wear sandals or flip-flops on your way there as you’ll have to wade through the water to get to the shore (only calf deep though).
We shared an Uber with two other backpackers from our hostel, which cost 27,000 RM (£4.80). You can also get an even cheaper bus from Kuching centre which takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour. It’s the red public bus number 1, and ask your hostel or hotel for details of where you get it. They run fairly regularly, but if you don’t want to wait for one when you finish at the park you can also charter a shared minivan for around 30,000 RM. You’ll be lucky to find an Uber in the area, as it’s quite far from the city.
Accommodation and food
There are several bungalows and hostel rooms for rent at Bako. The bungalows get booked up a few weeks in advance so if you know when you want to go book online on the park’s official website here. We left it until the day before to check out where to stay, and all that was left was a four bed hostel room with a shared bathroom (if you can call a tap and a mouldy toilet a bathroom) for 20,000 RM each. It was VERY basic, with no towel, no sheet to cover yourself with, and only a fan to keep you cool, but at that price it’s hard to complain.
Tip: Remember to bring a towel, and a sleeping bag or silk liner if you have one!
There is a local cafeteria at the base that serves a buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner for around 5,000 to 7,000 RM. The price is based on a scoop basis, so make sure you count because they certainly will 😂. We also took some snacks with us and a pot noodle for breakfast just in case we didn’t like what was being served, but it was actually okay. You can also purchase tea and coffee, as well as cold can drinks and water from the small shop. Beer is on offer, but you can’t buy this past 8pm.
How much it costs
The park costs 20,000 RM (£3.60) for an adult, and 7 RM for a child. A return boat journey set us back 40,000 RM (£7.30) pp. You can purchase both on arrival very easily and quickly, so don’t worry about booking ahead or online. Once you’ve arrived and signed in at reception, its free to wander around.
If you want a personal guide to help spot the wildlife this will cost you, but it shouldn’t be too much. Being budget travellers we didn’t bother, but came across a lovely tour guide who showed us a few things for free which we wouldn’t have managed to see otherwise, including the probiscous monkey. We did pay 10,000 RM each to join the night hike, which gave us the chance to see some nocturnal creatures and fireflies 😀.
Add these prices and the accommodation, food and taxi there, it cost us around 110,00-130,000 per person (£20-£24).