Thursday, October 25, 2012

Exploring the wilds of Borneo: Bako National Park

YOU don’t have to go far in Sarawak to find the jungle. In fact you see it from the plane as you descend into the capital Kuching – a tangled green mass stretches out below you, actually covering three quarters of the state in Malaysian Borneo or 8.7 million hectares. Even if you’re not too sure of your maths, rest assured that’s a lot of jungle.

One of the best places to get a taste of this immense jungle and its inhabitants is in the state’s oldest national park, Bako, just a short bus and boat ride from the capital. In fact, there are few places in the world you can be in such a bustling city and within an hour in such intense forest.

Bako has 2727 hectares of pristine forests, beaches, mangroves, rocks and waterfalls, and an array of hiking paths linking these. They are well laid out on a map you are given on arrival, and very well marked so there’s no chance of getting lost, but you can hire a guide if you wish.

Bako National Park contains much of Borneo’s rare and unusual flora and fauna, including the Probiscus monkey with its distinctive upturned nose, found only here in Borneo. You will also find the cheeky macaque monkey, the cute silver leaf monkey, various pigs, vipers, pythons and even flying lemurs. While you’ll easily see the monkeys and pigs during the day, and probably not far from the park office, you’ll need to join the guided night walks from the park office to spot the nocturnal animals and things that slither and hide away.

These tours leave every night on dark and with the aid of a torch and much know how, the guide takes you along paths near the overnight bush cabins. Undertake a night walk and you just might be surprised by how much wildlife there is among the jungle.

There are seven ecosystems in Bako National Park and you won’t need much help investigating these, but to do so you will need to cover some distance. Bako is really all about its walking tracks that traverse the thick jungle and those that come here also come prepared to walk.

There are actually 30km of walks and none are particularly difficult. There are also plenty of places to sit and enjoy the ocean views and unspoiled jungle along the way, but given the high humidity in the park you’re best to undertake a walk that enables you to swim either at a waterfall like the Tajor trek (2 hours) or one of the beautiful and remote beaches like Cove Beach (take the Telok Paku or Telok Pandan Kecil trail) so you can cool off before you begin the trek back. Water is truly your friend in this part of the world, so make sure you are always well hydrated. There are some stretches on the tracks that provide no shade so a hat is also advisable.

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