Hiking Borneo's Bako National Park Trails
Bako National Park is often overlooked for the larger parks in Malaysian Borneo. Despite Bako only being relatively small there is heaps to see, many hiking trails and its only a short bus and boat ride away from Kuching.
This post will help you with how to get to and from Bako National Park and what you can do and expect to see inside the park.
While in Sarawak I visited both Bako (pronounced barkoo) and Gunung Mulu NP which you have to either hike in via the head hunters trail or fly into. You can't drive to Mulu which is actually pretty cool. They are very different and while they both have some amazing things to see and do Bako's proximity to Kuching makes it very easy to see.
How to Get To Bako National Park
Bako is only a short bus ride from Kuching which makes it very easy to get to. Knowing this I was actually very surprised at how little hikers there were, which I'm not complaining about! Its only an hour on the local bus to get from Kuching to Bako NP and very simple to do, as its bus no 1 and Bako is the last stop so you can't really go wrong.
If you are standing on Jalan Abell which is the main road through the centre of Kuching town, make sure you have the river to your back and the bus out to Bako will be heading from your right to your left.
Its a decent drive out so you will get to see a fair slice of the Kuching and surrounding area. Its not long before you are in the country and about an hour before you get to Bako National Park.
Once you get off the bus you head inside the visitors center, pay your park entrance fee and the boat fee, and then don your life vest and into the boat for the 25 min trip to the park. Be prepared to get your feet wet!
The boats seem to go once they are semi full so you might have a wait. If you intend to visit the loo or wander off be sure to tell your boat guide so they wait for you.
About Bako National Park
Bako is Sarawak's oldest national park, and has been protected from 1957. While it is one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak, it does have a wide range of vegetation and animal life and has established itself as a great nature park.
I was surprised at the lack of people in the park. Being in such close proximity to Kuching, I expected it to be very busy but it wasn't at all. The only challenge we came across was that once we had completed our first hike (the longest one in the park) we had our lunch and went to book the boat home, but we had left it too late and had to get a mid afternoon boat.
That didn't leave us enough time to do any more hiking sadly and I felt like it was a rookie error. We should have gotten off the boat, and booked the last boat back immediately to avoid having to cut our day short. Cest La Vie – it's all good!
We arrived to Bako on low tide and had to walk over 500 metres of mud flat to get to the main entrance. Despite the coming and going, some of the paths around the park are literally jungle tracks and there is a lot of water about. This is Borneo remember – so again – wear shoes you don't mind getting wet.
Telok Pandan Kecil & Telok Pandan Besar Hike
Once you are at the park their is a good amount of info on the trails and while most people go trying to spot a proboscis monkey, we decided to do the longest hike (Telok Pandan Kecil & Telok Pandan Besar) first and head out to the point overlooking the water.
I say trails but I mean very rough trails. It's a tropical climate in a mangrove area so tree roots are the order of the day. You could fall VERY easily so we took it pretty slow and to be honest I can't remember which trail this was but it did take us out to the main veiw point overlooking the weird rock!
I think the guide said 30 mins and it took us 45 and a little longer on the way back. Coming down is a bit challenging as you don't have whole foot steps around the roots so you are balancing on the balls of your feet for good chunks of it.
This one and half hour trek to Telok Pandan Kecil is one of Bako’s most popular. You climb up the hills overlooking Telok Assam, topping out at a plateau covered in really scruby vegetation. Before long you realise that the sandy path you are walking down is lined with pitcher plants which is actually pretty cool.
You eventually reach a cliff top with great views of the secluded bay below and also of the famous sea stack that is a popular photo destination. You can them climb down the cliff (it is kind of a trail) to the beach and if you like go for a swim.
We did swim but not for long. The tide was out and at this point I wasn't 100% sure of the crocodile situation in Borneo, so I had a quick dip and got out as did Chin. It wasn't the best day so I didn't feel like we missed anything.
Be careful of the monkeys if you go swimming. They are renown for stealing bags off the beach.
We got back to the café for lunch and I had pulled out my crackers and was getting my meat and cheese out and quick as anything a monkey had grabbed my crackers and bolted.
Bloody hell he was quick! SO QUICK!
I literally put them down and put my hand in my bag for my lunch box and he swooped. It wouldn't have been 15 seconds those crackers were out of my bag!
The café owner had seen it all and very nicely gave me a cup of noodles which was very sweet of him.
We had planned to do a 3 hour hike which was great for seeing the Proboscis monkeys however as I said the last boat was booked so we had to do a much shorter hike or risk having to stay the night. We had both already paid for our accommodation in Kuching so we bit the bullet and got the earlier boat back.
That turned out to be a very lucky decision as a massive storm came through and no other boats came back that day!
My Advice For Bako National Park
If you would like to get a much better feel of the park, I would stay at least one night but possibly two. If you could get out there early one morning and hike for the full day, spend the night and book the last boat home (but book it really early so you don't miss out) you could see pretty much all of the park and I'm sure some proboscis monkeys, which sadly we didn't see.
The Bako national park hiking trails can range from flat gravel paths to steep tree roots with nowhere to put your foot. Make sure you have decent shoes (trail shoes if possible) and have your hands free for the steeper hikes.
If you do decide to camp at the park you should know that because of the monkeys, you can't pitch your tent until around 6pm and you have to pull it down early in the morning. They will hold your camp gear for you at the café but you shouldn't pitch your tent and leave it completely. If someone stays with it, the monkeys will stay away for the most part, but never leave it unattended.
Even if you only have a day, its a great day trip from Kuching as you not only see the park but the surrounding areas of Kuching and get the boat ride down the river and back as well.
NB: Make sure you ask where the boats leave from as its not the same location as you arrive to. When you arrive they drop you at the beach right in front of the visitors centre but when you leave its all the way out at the end of the boardwalks in the mangroves.
Ask when you get off the boat or when you book your boat back just to be sure. You don't want to be waiting in the wrong location.
Bako National Park Entry Fees
Entry fees include your park entrance and the boat to and from the park. The bus comes straight to the park entrance, you pay your fee and wait for the boat.
|For Non Malaysians
|18 and above
|6 and above
|6 – 17
Day Tours to Bako National Park
If you would prefer, you can also grab a day tour from Kuching to Bako National Park. Ranging between $240 AUD they seem quite expensive but if you only have the day and don't want to be bothered with organising the trip, this Bako national park day trip might work for you.
Don't forget to make sure you look around Kuching as well. It is a cool little city with great food and some good things to see and do.
Check out my Borneo Destination Page for all the info, posts & places to visit in Borneo.
Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.