the best things to do in bako national park

How to Visit Bako National Park Borneo – What To See + Do

Bako has been a Malaysian National Park since 1957 and this park covers just 27 square kilometers (10.42 square miles).  Bako National Park, Borneo is easiest to reach from the city of Kuching and there are a variety of activities here in the park.  You’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife here in Bako National Park, and there are some great hikes here.  Bako, though, is most famous for being home to 275 rare proboscis monkeys, which are found only in Borneo. Our guide to Bako National Park covers how to get to Bako National Park, what to expect at Bako, Bako National Park hikes, Bako National Park Tours as well as Bako National Park Accommodation. 

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Why Come to Bako National Park Borneo

Bako National Park is the oldest National Park in Malaysia, and while it’s small, about 10 square miles, it has some lovely beaches, and great hikes and is the park where you are most likely to see wildlife in Malaysia.  So if seeing the rare proboscis monkey is of interest you should come here.  If you’re staying in Kuching, then visiting Bako is one of the top things to do in Kuching

How to Get to Bako National Park From Kuching

You’ll need to get to Sarawak’s state capital, Kuching before heading to Bako National Park.  From Kuching to Bako is about an hour and there are a variety of ways to travel to Bako from Kuching.

The easiest way to get to Bako National Park is to take a tour from Kuching and there are a variety of options available

A Day Tour to Bako from Kuching:  This 7-hour day trip will take you into Sarawak’s oldest National Park – hike the coves, trails, and rainforests of Bako, get to see the proboscis monkeys, and also see the famous sea stacks of Bako National Park.  You’ll get transport from your accommodation and a guide to making sure you spot wildlife and also take the right trails around the park.  Take a look at more information on this great Bako day trip here.

2 Day – and overnight – in Bako National Park from Kuching.  This longer option gives you a night’s stay in the National Park (it’s one of my biggest regrets that we did NOT do this).  This 2 day trip to Bako includes one night in the National Park and includes meals – as well as an English-speaking guide who will introduce you to the flora and fauna of Bako. This trip also includes a night jungle safari.  Check out this great day trip here.

If you’re looking to visit Bako National Park independently, then here are the details of how to get to Bako from Kuching.

Kuching to Bako National Park

To go to Bako from Kuching you need to first take a bus, minivan (or taxi) to the Bako boat jetty and then take a boat.  You cannot drive directly to Bako National Park (from anywhere), everyone has to enter the park by boat.

Kuching Bus to Bako National Park

Getting to Bako is easy from Kuching The big red number 1 (Rapid Kuching) bus leaves from the open (but covered over) market near Jalan Masjid (see the map) and as we were going just for the day we made sure we were on the first bus of the day at 07:00.  There is a bus on the hour, every hour during the day.  I’d recommend getting the first bus of the day, if you decide you’ve had enough in the National Park, then you can always leave earlier.  These buses also stop to pick passengers up at the Riverside Majestic Hotel.  The last bus of the day is at about 6 pm.

When we traveled there were a few food stalls open at the market but nothing that looked like it could be consumed in a hurry should the bus decide to leave.  The bus wasn’t completely full, but it wasn’t far off, this first part of our journey to Bako cost us 3.5RM each.  In 2022, this price is still correct.

If you miss the bus, then there are plenty of minivans plying this route too, they’ll likely charge you 5 RM per person for the same route.

Buses from Kuching to Bako and minivans to Bako from Kuching take about 45-60 minutes to go from Kuching to Bako and they arrive at the Bako Boat Terminal,  where you’ll need to pay for and take the boat to Bako.

Taxi from Kuching to Bako Boat Jetty

A taxi to the Bako boat jetty will cost around 60 RM.  You can arrange a taxi from your accommodation or find out by the Open Air Market bus station.

Minivan from Kuching to Bako Boat Jetty

Minivans wait by the Open Air Market bus station in Kuching and cost 5 RM per person to go to Bako.  They depart when full and if you’re waiting for a bus, they’ll likely tell you that the bus isn’t running today.  If you are traveling in a group, then you can charter the whole minivan for about 30 RM.  Minivans are faster than the bus and take about half the time to get to the Bako boat terminal.

Bako Ferry Boat Terminal

50 minutes after leaving Kuching we pulled up at the Bako Boat Terminal, where the first thing we did was join a line. It’s not particularly organized here, and you’ll see a variety of lines.  The first line you need is the line to pay for the ticket to the National Park.

Tickets to Bako National Park cost 20 RM for adults and 7 RM for kids.  You’ll also need to buy your boat ticket.  The boat trip from Bako village to Bako National Park takes about 20 minutes.

Boat tickets to Bako National Park cost 30 RM per person each way.  This Bako National Park boat fee is EACH WAY.

If you want a guide for Bako, then you need to organize it here and your guide will travel with you, you will NOT have the opportunity to arrange a guide once you get to the park. 

There’s a small cafe at the boat jetty here that also sells packaged snacks and water, but nothing looks appetizing (either on the way in or out), so we head towards the boats, heading down the ramp and getting on the boat with about 12 other folks.  We all got life jackets, and our load seems fair, even appropriate for the boat size and we zoomed off down the river.

bako national park boat trip

You can also ask (and pay extra) to be taken to see the Sea Stacks that Bako is famous for.  This tour, from Kuching, includes a visit to the Sea Stacks.

Arriving in Bako National Park

It’s pretty as we come up to the jetty, dead trees line the shore. Live ones closer to the land show the promise of additional vegetation.  You’ll be advised when you arrive on the boat what time the last boat of the day will be, so make sure you don’t miss it!

low tide at Bako National Park

From the boat jetty in Bako, it’s an 8-minute walk to the park headquarters where everyone must check in, so we set off down the boardwalk.

visit Bako National Park arriving at bako national park

We come to a standstill almost immediately, because right there, in the tree just by the boardwalk are a pair of Proboscis Monkeys.

visit Bako National Park probiscis monkey

Up close they’re big and they look somewhat muscular.  It isn’t until one jumps onto another tree and we hear the resulting thud that we realize quite how big they are.

probiscis monkey at bako

It’s a great start to our visit to Bako.

On our way to check into the National Park office (there’s no signposting, it’s just “off to the right” after we were dropped from the boat), we pass the accommodation blocks. Some of it looks nice, and some of it looks hot and humid.  It would have been nice to wake up to a sunrise and see the animals earlier in the morning.

Checking In at the Bako National Park Office

There are two elements to the check in at the National Park office, which is in the main building just after the cafe/restaurant.  First of all, check in who you are with your passport number and collect a map of the national park with suggestions from the rangers as to which hikes you might like to take.  Then note down on a separate sheet which hike and route you’re taking and what your departure time is, plus when you expect to return. Many of the trails are closed.

visit Bako National Park hiking trail map

This is normal. They close off huge swathes of the park to allow it to regenerate.  It’s not detailed on the park website, but the rangers will tell you when you arrive where you can and can’t hike.

Food & Drinks at Bako National Park

The café here serves breakfast, which is a self-service option of fried rice or noodles. Leathery fried eggs are an additional extra. It’s food, Malaysia, but not as we know or like it.  Ths restaurant here is basic and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and they’re all buffet-style. They also serve drinks.  There are no food stores in Bako National Park.

visit Bako National Park restaurant

It’s hot here, so bring lots of water, or better still, use a filter water bottle and use it to drink tap water wherever you are in the world– I wrote about that here.

Hiking Trails at Bako National Park

When you check in at the National Park Office the rangers will advise which of the Bako National Park trails are open for hiking and will recommend which trails to take.

There are 16 different trails at Bako National Park.  It’s worth taking a look at them before you head to the park, to see which you might want to take, although bear in mind that not all of them will be open.  The park indicates the length of the trail and also the time it’s likely to take to hike it.

  1. Tanjung Sapi: 0.5 km, 30 minutes (0.8 km)
  2. Telok Paku: 0.8 km, 1 hour (1.2 km)
  3. Ulu Assam: 0.8 km, 1 1/4 hours (1.4 km)
  4. Telok Delima: 0.25 km, 45 minutes (1 km)
  5. Telok Pandan Besar: 0.75 km, 1 hour (1.75 km)
  6. Telok Pandan Kecil: 1.5 km,1 1/2 hours (2.5 km)
  7. Serait: 1.25 km,1 1/2 hours (2.2 km)
  8. Lintang: 5.25 km, 3 1/2 hours return
  9. Tajor:2.75 km, 2 1/2 hours (3.5 km)
  10. Tanjung Rhu: 1.8 km, 2 1/2 hours (4.2 km)
  11. Bukit Keruing: 2.25 km, 3 1/2 hours (5.5 km)
  12. Paya Jelutong: 0.2 km, 3 1/2 hours (5.7 km)
  13. Bukit Gondol: 2 km, 4 1/2 hours (7.7 km)
  14. Ulu Serait: 2.75 km, 3 hours (4.8 km)
  15. Telok Sibur: 0.8 km, 3 1/2 hours (5.3 km)
  16. Telok Limau: 5.75 km, 7 hours (10 km)
  17. Telok Kruin: 1.5 km, 7 1/4 hours (10.5 km)
  18. Pa’ Amit (Lakei Island): 1.0 km, 30 minutes

Bako National Park Trail Map

This Bako National Park Map shows the trails available.  Be sure to check in at the National Park and see which trails are open.

Hiking the Lintang Trail (Loop) at Bako

We decided to go on the only loop walk available when we visited. The Lintang Trail. It’s a 5.25km trail, which begins on a boardwalk, has climbs and descents, and also takes you through all the different vegetation types that are present here in Bako.

It takes, so the park says, 3.5 hours. Immediately after we leave the park offices we find our second lot of wildlife. A family of wild pigs, snuffling their way both along the boardwalk and to the side of it. They’re unperturbed by us, we’re more scared of them by the looks of it.

wildlife while visit Bako National Park

The boardwalk is pretty old, pretty slippery, and broken in a lot of places, but that’s ok because it doesn’t last very long. 

boardwalk hiking trails at bako national park

Before long we’re clambering up small wooden ladders, with missing rungs, those with short legs really need not apply here!  We’re also skirting around huge boulders and scrambling over rocks.

hiking trails at Bako National Park

There’s not just a lot of different types of forest here, but also a huge variety of trails underfoot, we even share the path with streams mid-way round our hike.

visit Bako National Park hiking trails

For the first half of the hike, we’re under the canopy of the forest.

hiking trails at bako

As we get to the highest point we come out onto the Savannah and into the heat of the sun.

And the sun is hot – even though it’s only mid-morning.

There’s no shade, little breeze and we still haven’t met a single person.  The hike is interesting from the different terrain, but once we hit the top, we didn’t find shade again until almost back to the park offices.

visit Bako National Park lintang hiking trail loop

There are occasional signs, directing us on the way, but on the first part, it’s hard to go wrong.  It’s only when we join the trails heading towards Pandan that we get lost.  This happens after we’ve helped someone to go in the right direction!  After 10 minutes of wandering on baking hot stones, we find the trail again.

A guide would definitely enhance the hike that you take, pointing out different vegetation, but the wildlife is easy to spot.  Wildlife spotting is best in the early morning or late afternoon, so we’d timed it just right, being on the first boat in this morning.

The Lintang trail might have only been a 5.25km hike, but we’re done, it’s been hot and the last part of the trail had no shade.

All other hikes, apart from this looped Lintang trail that we took return the same way you go out on. 

After a self-service lunch, which is remarkable only in its mediocrity and the opportunity it lends to watch the pigs foraging outside.  We’re also amused by the long-tailed macaques that sneak up behind unsuspecting tourists scare them silly, then steal their food and fruit.

It’s quiet here on Bako today, we passed only 6 folks when we were taking our hike (and that was at the end of our trail).  We’re lucky when we head to the Boat Office to buy our 20 RM tickets out, we can get on the next boat out, so we sit in the shade and contemplate more macaques. (If it’s busy, I’d suggest booking your return boat as soon as you arrive in the Park).

We were warned when we arrived that the last boat would not be the publicized 4 pm, but that it would be much earlier at 3 pm, that’s not a problem for us, as it’s so hot today. The reason that there are early returns is because of the tide and of course, there’s nothing we can do about that.

Low tide means that catching the boat involves wading out into the ocean to get in the boat. To stop the boat from grounding as it fills up with passengers, the boatman moves the boat into deeper and deeper water.

My shorts are wet, but at least I’m not the large members of the Chinese family who are soaked to the waist before they throw themselves over the side almost capsizing us in the process.  Still, it bonds the rest of the boat instantly.

Next time I’d be first on the boat and I’d also put my shoes back on before the boat arrived at the other end, a metal and wood walkway that’s sat in the sun all day does burn the soles of your feet somewhat!

Getting from Bako Village to Kuching

Back at the boat terminal, it looks like we’ve just missed a bus, or, more likely, that there never was one in the first place. Timetables are merely a guide to what is possible, not probable.  And so we loitered with a slowly growing group for 30 minutes until the bus arrives. 

FAQs about Visiting Bako National Park

Here are our frequently asked questions about visiting Bako National Park. If you have questions about Bako, then check the answers below, or ask a question in the comments below.

How do I get from Kuching to Bako National Park?

The trip to Bako National Park from Kuching involves a road journey of 23 miles (37 kilometers) and then a 20-minute boat ride.  There is no road transport available for the final part of the journey.  You can drive, take a taxi, get a bus or take a minivan for the road transport part of this journey.

Where is Bako National Park?

Bako National Park is about 37 kilometers from Kuching, Sarawak’s state capital.   Bako is on the Muara Tebas peninsular at the mouth of the Kuching and Bako rivers.

When is the best time to visit Bako?

You’ll have better weather if you visit Bako National Park during the dry season – which is from March to September.  The monsoon season runs from October to February, when it’s more humid and hikes at night might be canceled.  Boat trips are likely to be a bit rougher too.

What is the Bako National Park Entrance Fee?

The fee to enter Bako National Park is 20 RM per (foreign) adult and 7 RM per child.  If you are taking this one day tour to Bako, or this two day overnight Bako tour, then your entrance fee is included in your tour fee, as is your transport to and from the park.

Where Can I buy Bako National Park Tickets?

You buy Bako National Park tickets at the Bako village boat jetty. 

How much is a tour guide at Bako National Park?

The regular price for Bako National Park tour guides is 10 RM per person.  You can book a private tour for usually 20 RM per person, depending on the size of your group.

How long should you go to Bako National Park for?

You can visit Bako National Park on a day trip – either independently or as an organized tour with a guide.  Even if you arrive independently you can find a guide at the Bako boat jetty (before you get on the boat).

If you decide to stay overnight in Bako, then you’ll need to book accommodation – or this 2 day tour – well in advance.  Staying overnight also means that you’ll be able to take a jungle night walk.  We didn’t stay overnight at Bako but did take night walks in Mulu National Park (and that was AMAZING!)

What are the opening hours of Bako National Park?

Bako National Park is open from 8 am until 5 pm, 7 days a week.  Bako is open on public holidays.

How do you book Bako National Park Accommodation?

If you want to stay overnight at Bako National Park, then it’s advised to book well in advance.  The Malaysian Government booking service for stays at Bako National Park is here.  You need to book ahead, especially in this holiday season which is August here in Borneo.

The National Park has an online (sometimes) “booking” site, but it’s little more than a request for availability.  You’re much better off going into the offices in Kuching, where they have real-time availability, although the definition of real-time isn’t quite what I’d expect.  It took us 20 minutes to ascertain that there might be a room, but we might have to come back later to confirm. So we decided to visit on a Bako National Park day trip and stay in Kuching.

What can we do in Bako National Park?

Bako National Park is famous for the rare proboscis monkeys, other wildlife, the sea stacks, and hiking. 

visit Bako National Park sea stacks

Why is Bako National Park famous?

Bako National Park is famous for being Malaysia’s oldest National Park as well as its diverse ecosystem.  Bako is famous also for being the home of rare 275 proboscis monkeys.

Where to Stay in Kuching

The Waterfront Hotel is an incredible place to stay in Kuching, it offers a great view of the Sarawak River. It’s also conveniently located near all must-see attractions in Kuching. The Waterfront hotel has a fitness center, an infinity pool with a view, and a sauna.  You can check rates and availability of Kuching’s Waterfront Hotel here.

The Kuching Hotel is a great choice for accommodation due to its value for money. The Waterfront is only a 5-minute walk from the hotel. Although the Kuching Hotel doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, outside its doors are various places to eat from a quick bite to fancy dining.  There are more reviews on the Kuching Hotel here.

The Meritin Hotel is conveniently located near a busy area offering various tourist activities. Even though the rooms are small, the beds are comfortable and the AC works great. There is basic furniture, the rooms are very clean, and the staff are super helpful. The hotel has its own restaurant which also offers a buffet.  This is a great location check it out here.

Malaysia Travel Tips

Final Words on Visiting Bako National Park

As Malaysia’s oldest and one of the smallest National Parks, Bako is within easy reach of the city of Kuching.  It’s easy to take a day trip to Bako, it’s a great place to see wildlife, including the endangered proboscis monkeys and it’s a super place to take a hike throughout a variety of different climates.  Part of the fun of visiting Bako National Park is actually getting there too!

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