Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
I love Bako National Park. Sadly, I was unable to stay overnight this time, but I recommend that if you possibly can – do so! I also recommend you book well in advance to get a bed.
This park, which I believe is the smallest in Malaysia, and certainly the most visited because of the ease of access, from Kuching, Sarawak, is almost a different place when all the day-trippers leave.
At the bottom of this blog is a link to another story, with photos, that I wrote about Bako a few years ago after my first visit. I’m still in love with the ‘ugliest animal you ever could see’ and of course the severely endangered proboscis monkey – most people have no idea that this monkey is even more endangered than the orangutan – once again, like many animals, in danger because of habitat loss.
A public bus from Kuching will take you to the dock where you can catch a boat to Bako. Just remember, there are crocodiles in the water!
Here are some photos of those so-called ugly animals – I think ‘how could you not love the Bornean bearded pig’.
“That is the ugliest animal I have ever seen’ says Nikki,my traveling mate for a few days.
With its streamlined body, long head and nose, skinny deer-like legs (3 toes front, 2 at rear) and a bristly beard along both sides of their snout, I think the Bornean bearded pig is amazing! Very laid back, ignoring the photographers and travellers in the Bako National Park it seems most efficient at digging for roots and worms in the bush and lawns, however they also hangout on the beach, browsing for food at low tide.
The pigs, and the naughty macaque, are the first animals we see as we arrive at the Sarawak Forest Dept. HQ to book into our basic accommodation.
We’ve just travelled 20-k from Kuching to Bako Village and then, under a sign warning of crocodiles, took a boat for the final 30 minutes.
During the boat ride we’re told ‘low tide wet landing, high tide dry landing’ and as we arrive at high tide use the jetty, not the beach, to land at this ‘smallest, oldest, and most visited’ of the states national parks. It spreads 27 sq k between the Sarawak and Bako rivers on the Muara Tebas peninsula with a coastline lined by steep cliffs, small bays and beaches.
Apparently Sarawak has the most number of national parks, totally protected, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves of all Malaysian States and makes up about 8% of the land. (see more on the Forestry Sarawak website)
Recommended to me by Ian Ord on either my Twitter or Facebook pages it seems the rich variety of wildlife are best seen close to the HQ which is why so many travellers come just for the day. I recommend you stay for at least one night – although my next trip will be for at least two nights: it was wonderfully peaceful when the ‘day-trippers’ left and we did a night hike with a forestry guide.
On the evening walk we saw a Culago (flying squirrel) which was great, and despite not having closed shoes, and watching the ground, I was not attacked by the terrible fire ants. We also saw swifts and their prized nests – with young in the nests they hardly fitted in.
All around park are the long-tailed macaques, compulsive thieves so be careful for both you and them – it may seem funny that they steal cans of drinks but its not good for them. It also means they become aggressive and will grab your bag if they think you could have goodies in it. Monkeys, despite looking cute, can be very violent so please don’t feed them.
Another park favourite for me were the silver leaf monkeys (silvery lutung) is sometimes called the David Beckham monkey because of its hairstyle. The silvery lutung is a medium sized monkey with a long tail, the grey-tips on its dark brown or black fur, giving it a uniform silvery appearance: the young are cute red-heads! A crest of fur runs along the top of the head, and the hair on the cheeks is long while their hands and feet are hairless, with dark coloured skin, and have opposable thumbs and toes – this means they can hold things using thumbs and fingers.
We walked a few of the many trails and at 34 degrees with 93% humidity it was wonderful to arrive at a beautiful, nearly deserted, beach where Nikki and I plunged into the cooler water. Magic.
Proboscis monkeys of course are the stars here. With their long, straight, pale tail flowing behind them they leap almost clumsily from tree to tree. They eat young shoots of indigestible foliage which is then broken down in their two stomachs. Male vanity and the need to dominate means their nose can grow to such a pendulous length they have to hold it up, or push aside to eat! It also seems the head of the harem is always on duty with his penis erect for much of the time leading to many postcards of him ‘showing his red chilli.’
Other males, lower in rank, hang out in male groups until their noses grow bigger and they have the chance to challenge the leader and so become head of the harem.
They have few predators in their natural environment – they are preyed on by crocodiles but people are its biggest threat. With the loss of lost vast areas of natural habitats to due to deforestation they appear to have been pushed into smaller, and more isolated, pockets of bush. It is listed by the IUCN as endangered in its natural environment and could face extinction: evidently very few are in captivity as they do not respond well to those conditions.