Bako National Park Travel Guide
Overview of Bako National Park
Bako National Park is located on the island of Borneo, and is the oldest national park in Sarawak state, East Malaysia. It is 37 kilometres from Kuching and easily accessible on a day trip. The park covers the northern tip of the Muara Tebas Peninsula, with an area of 27 kilometres square.
Bako has an outstanding diversity of natural landscapes in a relatively small area as the park consists of coastal cliffs and rolling hills, mangrove forest, swamp forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, cliff vegetation and fine sandy beaches surrounded by jungle. However, Bako National Park is most famous for its interesting sea stacks and rock formations produced by coastal erosion over millions of years.
What to Do
Bako National Park is very popular for treks and trails, wildlife spotting and birding. Bako also has tranquil white sandy beaches that are perfect resting spots in between jungle treks. There are 16 color-coded jungle trails to choose from based on different levels of fitness. The fit and adventurous can opt for full-day jungle hikes or overnight camping and trekking, while those who prefer a leisure trek can opt for a relaxing forest walk.
Jungle Trek and Nature Trails
Paku trail is relatively flat, short and easy. It offers one of the best opportunities to see the park's wildlife. The trail finishes at a beach which is home to a colony of proboscis monkeys living in the trees above.
Tajor trail takes you through a varied terrain, including hilltops with great views. The trail ends at a small but attractive waterfall. The calm pools and waterfall are safe for swimming.
Limau trail is a continuation from Tajor trail. It is the park's longest and most arduous trek. After 5 – 7 hours of trekking, the trail ends on a beach and it's possible to arrange to be picked up by boat from the Limau beach. Please take note to inform the park staff about trekking Limau or Kruin trail.
Lintang trail is a loop trail taking you through all the park's different types of vegetation in half a day.
Hike to See the Sea Stack
Telok Pandan Kecil is Bako’s best beach. Hike along Telok Pandan Kecil trail for around an hour to come to a rocky headland. From there, take in the beautiful view of a beautiful secluded bay. The beach is bordered by limestone and sandstone cliffs, and the erosion from the waves, leave remarkable rock formations, such as the famous Sea Stack. Alternatively, you can hire a boat from one of the beaches in the park to see the Sea Stack up close.
Telok Assam is located near Bako National Park HQ and is a great place for spotting wildlife such as the long-tailed macaques, silver leaf monkeys, monitor lizards, plantain squirrels, bearded pigs and mouse deer.
Although it requires some patience, an encounter with a group of proboscis monkeys is likely to be the highlight of your trip to Bako. The best times to see them are early in the morning or in the hours before dusk. Telok Delima and Telok Paku are the best trails for viewing the proboscis as well as the mangroves at Telok Assam. Telok Assam is also an excellent bird watching spot.
Watch the Sunset
Take a stroll at sunset on Telok Assam beach and you will see flocks of swifts hovering around their nests at the rocks of the beach. Watch the sunset over Mount Santubong, providing a colourful backdrop to the mountain.
Bako is also a great place for birdwatching. There are 53 species endemic to the island of Borneo, but over 150 bird species have been spotted in this park. Some of the highlighted species includes Kingfishers, Barbets and Woodpeckers.
Night Walk to Spot Nocturnal Wildlife
If you stay a night in Bako National park, it is recommended to join the night walk led by park rangers trained in spotting creatures that we would otherwise walk right by. It is thrilling to spot flying lemurs, snakes, stick insects, pit vipers and more in their natural habitat.
Island Trip to Pulau Lakei
Pulau Lakei is a small island with a wonderful white sand beach and small guard house. Located near the northern tip of the Bako National Park, trips to the island can be arranged with a boatman. The boat journey takes approximately one hour and on the way, you will see the beautiful rock formations and sea stacks. Apart from the beach, there is a wooden staircase with more than 150 steps that leads to the highest point of the island - a natural pool called Kolam Salamun with mysterious calligraphy and a view point that sits atop a steep cliff giving visitors an absolutely stunning vista.
Take a Cruise to Get Up Close to the Sea Stacks
You can hire a boat to see the famous giant sea stacks of Bako found at Teluk Pandan Kecil and along the coastline. These natural sandstone formations are often larger in real life than in pictures. The most prominent one just several metres out of the sea resembling the head of a cobra. There is also a unique sandstone formation resembling the head of a laughing lion.
When is the Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Bako National Park is between March and October, as you might experience more rainfall and rough seas during November to February when it is the monsoon season across the South China Sea.
How to Get to Bako National Park
From Kuching to Bako National Park, take a bus ride with Rapid Kuching (red public bus number 1) from the Open Air Market bus station that departs every hour. The journey takes about 45 – 60 minutes.
By Taxi or Ride Share Service
Alternatively, from Kuching to Bako National Park, take a taxi or use a ride share service to reach Bako in half the time by bus.
By Mini Bus or Mini Van
From the bus station near the Open Air Market in Kuching, take a mini bus or mini van that only departs when there are enough passengers onboard.
From Bako Village Jetty to Bako National Park
When you arrive at Bako Village, there is a visitor centre which you will have to register and purchase your entrance ticket and boat ticket. From the jetty, take a 20-minute boat ride to Bako National Park Headquarters. On the way, you will pass through mangrove swamps as the river mouth leads to the open sea.
Bako Boat Service Counter (Monday - Sunday, 9.00am - 3.00pm): +6011 2513 2711
How to Get Around
The size of Bako National Park village is just 27 square kilometres. It is easy to get around on foot. Otherwise, you can arrange a boat ride to one of the islands or to see the sea stacks.
What to Eat
There is only one park café inside Bako National Park that serves local food. The prices are reasonable. There is also a section which sells snacks, chips, cookies and ice cream. The selection is not wide but adequate.
It is possible to bring your own food as the accommodation comes with a shared fridge. You may set up a barbecue in Bako National Park if you notify the park.
Outside of Bako National Park, there are several seafood restaurants by the river. One of the famous places is Bako Seafood Restaurant in Kampung Hijrah that is known for fresh and affordable seafood.
Where to Stay
There are chalets, lodges and hostels for rent at the park headquarters. It is recommended to stay a night or two to experience the full diversity of what Bako has to offer.
If you are planning to stay overnight, it is advisable to do an online booking in advance.
What to Bring
Sunscreen, mosquito or bug repellent, rain poncho, umbrella, flashlight or headlamp, basic toiletries, aspirins and first aid kit, camera and charger cables are recommended to enhance your experience in nature.
What to Wear
You can wear comfortable attire and trekking shoes to explore the trails in Bako National Park.
Things to Note
- Saltwater crocodiles may be found near river mouths, beaches and in mangrove swamps. Swimming has not been allowed in the park.
- Do beware of jellyfishes, cuttlefishes and stingrays.