I went to Kuching in Sarawak this week where, among other places, I visited Bako National Park. It is the oldest national park in Sarawak (since 1957) and one of the smallest covering an area of 2,727 hectares at the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula. It is only 37km from Kuching, making it easily accessible for day-trippers.
Getting there is part of the fun. I took a public bus to Kampung Bako and was dropped off right in front of the National Parks Boat Ticketing Counter. Here I chartered a small speed boat (with driver) for a 20-30 minute boat ride through a wide but shallow estuary and then out into the open sea before being deposited on a beach (Telok Assam) where the Park HQ is located.
Before catching the boat you can read a slightly concerning poster about crocodile attacks in Sarawak with a gruesome photo of dismembered human legs being removed from the stomach of a dead croc. Apparently there are 4.2 crocodile attacks per year in Sarawak and this number is increasing. Over half the attacks are in the Batang Lupar River Basin which I must make a note of not visiting.
Within minutes of arriving at Bako I saw more wildlife than I have seen in any other Malaysian national park. This family of Bornean bearded pigs was waiting for me on the beach. I’m a bit wary of wild boars but these guys did not seem concerned by humans and carried on making sandcastles. Nearby a group of proboscis monkeys were wandering about.
There are a number of well marked and maintained trails within the park. I opted for the relatively straightforward Telok Pandan Kecil trail, which, at 5km and 3 hours round trip, would get me back to the Park HQ in time for my rendezvous with the boat driver.
After the mangrove boardwalk at Telok Assam, the trail ascends through thick forest before reaching a plateau covered in scrub vegetation. The path continues along a sandy track lined with carnivorous pitcher plants, before emerging onto a cliff top overlooking the stunning and secluded bay below. Here you can see the snake-shaped sea stack rock formation just offshore. A further 10 minutes descent through thick vegetation and you arrive at one of the best beaches in the park. Some people were swimming but remembering the crocodiles and jellyfish and having no trunks I stayed on dry land.
On my way back I made a short detour to Telok Pandan Besar. The path ends on a cliff top overlooking another beautiful bay but there is no path down to the beach which remains inaccessible except by boat.
Back at Park HQ there is a good canteen and accommodation for those who want to stay overnight. For safety reasons, you have to register at Park HQ before setting out on a trail and sign back in on returning. Overall I was impressed with the efficient organisation of Sarawak Forestry Corporation which manages all the national parks in Sarawak. They have a good website too.