Bako National Park
Ecotourism is slowly but surely becoming a trend. Although having a deep passion for nature is nothing new to many people, yet the term "ecotourism" (having been coined in recent years) is becoming more of a fashion statement than anything else.
So, what is comprised within the term "ecotourism"? Images of lush tropical rainforest, vast mangrove forests, a rough-edge coastline dotted by white sandy beaches and of course, some of the world's most rare and unique flora and fauna.
The first of a series of articles on national parks in Sarawak, you will never hear enough of the word 'ecotourism'. Bako National Park should be your first stop if you are planning a trip to one of the many national parks in the state. Bako has a unique set of geological and climatic conditions. In a tiny area of 10.6 sq miles (27.4 sq kilometers), you can find seven distinct ecosystems compressed within the relatively small space. Despite its size, the Bako National Park is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna and this is so thanks to the many distinctive ecosystems.
The park is a well-maintained location; therefore exploring it by foot is easy. There are good trail systems and great animals to watch. Having been a protected piece of land since 1957, Bako promises an array of fun and adventure.
Located just 24 miles (37 kilometers) from downtown Kuching (Sarawak's capital city), your starting point to the national park begins at Kampung Bako. To reach the park's headquarters at Telok Assam, you must first take a half hour boat ride. Along the way, you will see numerous wooden houses on stilts from the riverside villages and also fishermen tending to their fish traps. Once you reach the HQ, you will soon realize that you are headed towards the heart of wildlife. Even the few wooden chalets and rest houses are surrounded by virgin jungle.
Although you may be highly excited and can't wait to jump straight in and explore the park, I would advice that you take a trip to the park's information center first before doing anything else. This place can fill you in with all sorts of required information and it is also here that you will get to learn more about Bako's bio-diversity and some of the attractions that you will get to see along your route. The information center will also be a good spot to check out the numerous available routes and the time taken to complete each track. Please be aware that each route will offer you through different sceneries, some through the thick dense forest with all its unique wildlife, some through the white sandy beaches and of course, some that will allow you to view the interesting flora.
The best times for a trekking session are either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. At about 7 am, you will be greeted with troops of the long-tailed macaque monkeys. These monkeys will be around the area most of the day. Used to seeing humans, these monkeys are tame and enjoy loitering around the area. You will also get to see the silver-leaf monkey that usually congregate in big groups around the chalets and along the Telok Assam route. Not necessary to venture far, you will also get to see the plantain squirrels, bearded pigs, snakes, flying lemurs and a number of lizards. One of the country's largest lizards, the water monitors, are also spotted hanging around the jetty and near the rest houses.
Smaller creatures can be found at the mangrove forest at Telok Assam. Hidden within the complicated network of aerial roots of the mangrove trees are creatures such as hermit crabs, sky-blue fiddler crabs and mudskippers. If you are a lover of birds, the mangrove is a good place for viewing Bako's bird life. So far, there have been a recorded 150 species of birds found at Bako including the state bird of Sarawak - the hornbill. Here, you will also get to see the birds such as the velvet-fronted nuthatch, racket-tailed drongo or ruby-cheeked sunbird. Such birds are a rarity and definitely, they are not of your garden sparrows variety!
The highlight of this trip is when you get the opportunity to encounter the Proboscis Monkey, a rare and protected animal found only in Borneo. Out of 6,000 monkeys left in the wild, about 1,000 of them are found in Sarawak and about 150 of them lives in Bako. If you want to catch sight of this rare monkey, head on down the Teluk Paku or the Telok Delima trails. They can be seen either during the wee hours of the morning or the hours before dusk. Patience and silence are the virtues here. To seek out these Proboscis Monkeys, one must be quiet and still? and you might just catch sight of them.
One of the most popular trails at Bako is none other than the Lintang Trail. It is highly recommended for those who want a rainforest experience. The trek will take about 3 ½ hours and will show you the full glory of Bako's vegetation. Another popular trail is the Telok Pandan Kecil trek, which will lead you to Bako's best beach. A short walk of 1 ½ hours, you will be rewarded with a refreshing swim at the end of the walk. Scenery at Bako National Park is simply breathtaking and awesome where the jungle canopy can rise to 40 meters in height! Although some climbing may be tough and steep, yet the walk will prove to be enjoyable, nonetheless.
The Bako National Park emits a kind of Robinson Crusoe feel and you will feel yourself in the thick of nature and very much in tune with your surroundings. Each trail promises a difference. It all depends on what you really want. I will not dwell too much into each trail, as they are all great in their own aspects. To know more, you can either call up the Bako National Park at (6 011) 225049 or the Kuching Visitors Information Center at (082) 248088.
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At current, these are the available accommodations found at Bako National Park:
2 semi-D two-room units (2 beds per room)
5 two-room units (5 beds per room)
2 two-room (with 3 beds room) hostel
3 four-room units (4 beds per room)
You can get to Bako National Park by taking either a bus or a taxi from Kuching to Kampung Bako. From there, you will have to take a 30-minutes boat ride. This service is operated by the local villagers and cost RM30 for a one-way ticket.
* Source: Book entitled "Malaysia - National Parks" taken from the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board.
* The above rates are correct at time of printing and subject to change. Please consult your nearest office to verify the charges.