Bako National Park is famous for its diverse ecosystems, coastline, jungle trekking and proboscis monkeys. This guide to Bako covers the following topics:
Reasons To Go
- Best wildlife watching destination in Sarawak
- Diverse range of habitats from mangroves to rainforest
- Good trail network with a variety of hikes from full day treks to short walks
- Picturesque coastline with small bays, beaches, mangroves and sea stacks
- Excellent wildlife photography opportunities
- Suitable for families and visitors of all ages
Seven distinct ecosystems, an extensive jungle trail system plus superb wildlife viewing opportunities make Bako National Park the perfect introduction to Sarawak’s forests and wildlife. Bako covers an area of 27 sq km and is readily accessible from Kuching.
Despite its relatively small size, at Bako it is possible to view nearly every type of vegetation found in Borneo. The different ecosystems of the park – mixed dipterocarp forest, mangrove forest, beach vegetation, cliff vegetation, kerangas or heath forest, padang or grasslands and peat swamp forest – are accessible via a network of trekking trails and plankwalks.
Great Wildlife Watching
Bako is one of the best places in Sarawak for wildlife experiences. It is Sarawak’s oldest national park and was gazetted in 1957. The animals at Bako are therefore used to humans. As a result visitors are almost guaranteed to see wildlife.
Commonly seen wildlife includes the proboscis monkey which is endemic to Borneo, silver-leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, monitor lizards, bearded pigs and a variety of birdlife.
The park’s star attraction is undoubtedly the proboscis monkey. Males have a huge nose and pot belly. It is estimated that there are 275 proboscis monkeys at Bako. They are often spotted around the park HQ and accommodation blocks at Telok Assam. The Telok Paku & Telok Delima are also good places to spot proboscis monkeys.
The Coastline & Varied Landscapes
Whilst the rainforest and wildlife are Bako’s main attractions the park has a picturesque coastline; dotted with small bays, cliffs, beaches and rocky features, including the famous Sea Stack near Telok Pandan Kecil.
Owing to the diverse range of habitats within Bako, the scenery constantly changes from place to place or even along a single trail.
For example, on the trek to Telok Pandan Kecil you leave Telok Assam with its beach vegetation, pass through mangrove forests, before climbing a hill and walking through a narrow strip of dipterocarp forest. The forest then thins out as you enter the kerangas or heath forest.
When you reach the plateau you come across a totally different landscape – a scrubland where the poor soils only support bushes & grasses. There are no tall trees here but pitcher plants line the sandy trail and ground orchids grow in the impoverished soil. From the cliff above Telok Pandan Kecil you look down on the beautiful beach, the Sea Stack and patches of cliff vegetation across the bay.
Treks & Trails
The park’s trail system comprises 18 colour-coded trails and offers a range of walking and trekking options from short and easy walks near the park HQ to full-day hikes through the jungle.
Some of the most popular trekking trails include Telok Pandan Kecil, which leads to a small beach; the Lintang loop, which passes through nearly all of the habitat types found in the park; Telok Paku, a short and relatively easy trail located close to the park HQ that passes through beach and cliff vegetation; and Telok Delima, which passes through dipterocarp forest and finishes at an area of mangroves.
The Malay names of the trails give you an idea of the terrain and / or final destination of the trail. Jalan = Trail; Tanjung = Cape; Telok = Bay; and Bukit = Hill.
|Trail Name||Distance||One Way From HQ||Colour Code|
|Tanjung Sapi||0.5 km||30 mins (0.8 km)||white / red|
|Telok Paku||0.8 km||1 hr (1.2 km)||white|
|Ulu Assam||0.8 km||1 1/4 hrs (1.4 km)||blue / red|
|Telok Delima||0.25 km||45 mins (1 km)||blue / white|
|Telok Pandan Besar||0.75 km||1 hr (1.75 km)||yellow|
|Telok Pandan Kecil||1.5 km||1 1/2 hrs (2.5 km)||yellow|
|Serait||1.25 km||1 1/2 hrs (2.2 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Lintang (loop)||5.25 km||3 1/2 hrs return||red|
|Tajor||2.75 km||2 1/2 hrs (3.5 km)||red / white|
|Tanjung Rhu||1.8 km||2 1/2 hrs (4.2 km)||red / yellow|
|Bukit Keruing||2.25 km||3 1/2 hrs (5.5 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Bukit Keruing||2.25 km||3 1/2 hrs (5.5 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Paya Jelutong||0.2 km||3 1/2 hrs (5.7 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Bukit Gondol||2 km||4 1/2 hrs (7.7 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Ulu Serait||2.75 km||3 hrs (4.8 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Telok Sibur||0.8 km||3 1/2 hrs (5.3 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Telok Limau||5.75 km||7 hrs (10 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Telok Kruin||1.5 km||7 1/4 hrs (10.5 km)||closed for maintenance|
|Pa’ Amit (Lakei Island)||1.0 km||30 mins||closed for maintenance|
Note: Most of the long distance trails in the eastern side of the park are currently closed for maintenance.
If you are on a day trip you need to pick your trails to get the best out of the day.
If your priority is wildlife watching, then choose the shorter trails near the park HQ (e.g. Telok Paku, Telok Sapi, Telok Delima) and allocate some time to just walking around Telok Assam as wildlife is often spotted here.
If you are into hiking, then the Lintang Loop is perhaps the best option as its an enjoyable walk and you’ll get to see a range of habitats. If you set off around 9 am you will be back to the park HQ around 1 pm. You can then have lunch. If you still have the strength you could fit in a shorter walk before getting the last boat back around 3 pm. Alternatively spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around Telok Assam and the park HQ area searching for wildlife.
Make sure you take sufficient water, snacks and insect repellent before setting off on a trail.
If you are going on trails (e.g. Lintang, Telok Pandan Kecil, etc.) that pass though the Padang (open plateau) also take a sun hat and sunscreen. This area is mostly scrub and bushes with no tree cover. It can get very hot out there in the open, especially in the dry season.
Watch Our Video of Bako National Park
Bako National Park Accommodation
Accommodation at Bako is basic with the various rooms in need of renovation and repairs. If you prefer a minimum level of comfort maybe you should opt for a day trip. If you choose to stay overnight do not expect too much and you should be fine. There is a range of different park lodges mostly offering a similar set-up.
A room in a Forest Lodge Type 5 (3 beds, fan and shared bathroom & toilet) is RM 100 per night. If you take both rooms in the lodge the price is RM 150 per night.
Forest Lodge Type 6 (2 beds, fan, attached bathroom and toilet) is RM 75 per night.
Forest Lodge Type 5 Terrace (4 beds, fan, attached bathroom and toilet) is RM 100 per night.
A room in the air-conditioned Forest Lodge Type 4 (3 beds, attached bathroom and toilet) is RM 150. If you take both rooms in the lodge it costs RM 225.
A bed in a 4-person hostel room is RM 15. If you take the whole hostel room the price is RM 40. Blankets and towels are not provided for the hostel.
There is a campsite but it is not recommended as troops of macaques often raid tents, sprinting away with clothes, bags, toothpaste or anything that tickles their fancy.
There is a RM 10 key deposit. If you check out in the morning and want to stay at the park for the rest of the day you can store luggage at the park HQ. This storage area is not locked so take any valuables with you.
Check-in is between 2 and 5 pm and check-out is by 11 am.
You can book rooms at Bako on the Sarawak e-booking website.
There is an interpretation centre consisting of information panels with pictures and text. If you are staying overnight the centre is worth a look to learn more about the park. If you are on a day trip and therefore have less time its probably best to head straight to the trails. If you have a bit of time before your boat departs you can visit the centre.
The canteen at the park HQ offers a self-service buffet of mixed rice dishes and also sells snacks and drinks. Whether its lunch or dinner the food is fairly similar. There will be rice, a chicken dish, stir-fried vegetables, fried noodles and maybe some fish. The food is not that great and often cold. If you are on a day trip and only having lunch then it is not too bad. If you are staying overnight then bring fruit and snacks from Kuching.
How To Get To Bako National Park
Bako National Park is located 37 km from Kuching and covers the northern part of the Muara Tebas peninsula. Aim to leave Kuching early (7.30- 8am) so you you can get the most out of your day at the park.
It takes about an hour to get from Kuching to Bako. The first part of the journey is by road (30-40 minutes) to Kampung Bako. If you take a bus it will take around an hour.
Buses depart Kuching for Kampung Bako roughly every hour. The first bus leaves around 7 am and the fare is RM 3.50. Take the Red Bus No. 1. You can catch the bus from a few points in the city centre, for example, near the Open Air Market / Electra House or at the bus stop opposite the Riverside Majestic Hotel
If you take a Grab car the one-way fare is around RM 30 whilst a taxi is RM 60-70 plus.
There is a booking office at the Bako jetty where you pay park entry fees (see below) and book a boat. The size of the boats varies with capacities ranging from 5-15 passengers. Most can take 6-10 passengers.
You can choose between the shuttle boat service or a private charter. For the shuttle boat you have to wait until there are enough passengers. This is not an issue during the peak season months (Jun-Sep). However, during the rest of the year you might have to wait around for a bit.
The return boat fee is RM 40 per person for foreigners and RM 30 per person for Malaysians. You can also charter a boat which is usually RM 120 return. The price for larger boats is more.
During the wet season (Nov-Feb) there is a limit of 4 passengers per boat owing to the sea conditions.
The boat ride to the park HQ at Telok Assam takes 20-30 minutes.
The entrance fee for foreigners is RM 20 (adult) and RM 7 (child, 7-18 years). The price for Malaysians is RM 10 (adult) and RM 3 (child, 7-18 years). Malaysians may be asked to show their IC card as proof of citizenship. Children 6 years and below are free.
What to Bring
If you are on a day trip we suggest you bring the following:
- Sun hat
- Mosquito repellent
- Good walking shoes
- Raincoat or poncho (you can buy cheap ponchos for RM 5-12 in Kuching)
- First Aid Kit (or at minimum some band aids and bite cream)
If you staying over night also bring:
- Sandals or pair of flip flops
- Overnight bag with enough things for your stay. Note you will sweat a lot on the trails so might need more shirts (and undies) than you initially think.
- Tissues or toilet paper. Toilet paper is supplied in the rooms but it can run out (especially in the hostels) so bring extra.
- Camera charger
- Flashlight or torch
- More Snacks (the canteen food is not great so it’s a good idea to bring a range of snacks. Its also good to take some snacks on the trails, especially if you are doing the longer treks)
Do Not Swim at the Park’s Beaches
Previously it was possible to swim at the park’s beaches. In fact, one of the most popular activities was to trek from the park HQ to Pandan Kecil beach and then take a refreshing dip in the sea. Today this is not advisable. There have been several sightings of estuarine crocodiles at the beaches and bays in Bako.
The crocodile population in the wider Kuching area has expanded over the last decade and the animals are moving into areas where they were previously not seen. Bako is no exception. Crocodiles were always found in the Bako River but now they are occasionally sighted in the park’s waters.
Sarawak Forestry has put up ‘Do Not Swim’ signs around the park. We advise you to follow this sound advice. Also stick to the trails and mangrove boardwalks. Don’t go wandering off into the mangroves at low tide.
Borneo Adventure run day trips and overnight tours to Bako. Although it is possible to see much of what Bako National Park has to offer in a day trip, an overnight stay is highly recommended.