the best things to do in bako national park

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

While we would have liked to have spent the night in Bako National Park, near to Kuching, we weren’t as organized as that required. There’s a variety of different rooms to stay in in the park, but you need to book ahead especially in this holiday season that is August here on 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 as a day trip and stay in Kuching

If you are looking for an accommodation in Kuching, here is a list we highly recommend:

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.

Kuching to Bako – Bus and Ferry

Getting to Bako is easy from Kuching and this trip to Bako is one of the best things to do in Kuching.. The big red number 10A 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.

Booking travel in Malaysia is easy, especially with online booking from 12GoAsia. There are heaps of comfortable buses and ferries that are easy options. For your transport in Malaysia, use 12goAsia for online booking and make life a lot easier! Get timetables for Malaysian buses and ferries, plus book online and get instant confirmation here.

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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.

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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.

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The Bako Boat Ferry Terminal

50 minutes later we pulled up at the Bako Boat Terminal, where the first thing we did was join a line. This was the line to pay for the ticket to the National Park.

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There’s a small cafe 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.

Running the gauntlet of local guides was easy. They’d obviously decided that we weren’t in the market and concentrated on a much more affluent-looking family instead.  So we headed down the ramp and go on the boat with about 12 other folks.

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We all got life jackets, and our load seems fair, even appropriate for the boat size and we zoomed off down the river.

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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.

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From here it’s a 8 minute walk to the park headquarters where everyone must check in, so we set off down the boardwalk. We come to a standstill almost immediately, because right there, in the tree just by the boardwalk are a pair of Proboscis Monkeys.

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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.

It’s a great start to our visit.

On our way to check into the National Park office (there’s no signposting, its just “off to the right” after we were dropped from the boat), we pass the accommodation blocks. Some of it looks nice, some of it looks hot and humid.  It might have been nice to wake to a sunrise and seeing the animals earlier in the morning, I’m glad we woke to air conditioned comfort instead.

Check 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.

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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.

Breakfast 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.

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So finally, we set off, deciding to go on the only loop walk available.   The Lintang Trail. It’s a 5.25km trail, that begins on 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.

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Immediately 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.

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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.  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 round huge boulders and scrambling over rocks.

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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.

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

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

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

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There’s no shade, little breeze and we still haven’t met a single person.

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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.

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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.

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A guide might enhance the hike that you take, pointing out different vegetation, but the wildlife (such that there is) is easy to spot.

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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.

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It might have only been a 5.25km hike, but we’re done. All other hikes return the same way you go out on.  We have 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.

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It’s quiet here on Bako today, we passed only 6 folks when we were taking our hike (and that 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).

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

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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.

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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!

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 loiter with a slowly growing group for 30 minutes until the bus arrives.

Bako started off strong – it’s interesting to take a boat to get to a park. It’s not a cheap day out (the bus, boat, and park fee combined comes to 67 RM (US$15.78, GBP 10.17 per person ) – and breakfast and lunch weren’t great value either) – the hike was good, but not great – I definitely preferred Gunung Mulu as a park.

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