Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Borneo’s hidden gems: Bako National Park and Santubong Peninsula, Sarawak

Walking along a trail, on my way to one of Bako National Park’s beaches, there came the most stunning view of Mount Santubong and the south China sea beyond. It’s moments like these when you know you’re on a good holiday!

As the oldest and smallest national park in Borneo, Bako is often forgotten by travellers who are drawn to the more famous Mulu National Park, Kinabatangan and the Danum Valley. Similarly, the Santubong Peninsula, just west of the park itself also offers various outdoor activities, stunning beaches and wild swimming pools to boot, although not many travellers visit.

This is a blessing and a curse; whilst the remote jungle atmosphere is helped by the fact there are few tourists, it also means people are missing out on a true hidden gem.

Bako National Park and the Santubong Peninsula is just under an hour’s journey by car from Kuching International Airport, so you can step off your flight and be spotting the big nosed Proboscis monekys endemic to Borneo without wasting more time on travelling to some wild area miles away.

Bako National Park can only be reached by an additional 20 minute boat ride from the road. This has helped protect the wildlife inside and the journey offers stunning views of the landscape: Mount Santubong, various beaches and even mangroves. The park boasts some of the most varied habitats in the whole of Borneo: from rainforest, to sandy beach, to mangroves, to rocky outcrops.

You can essentially see any species found in Borneo in this park, except Orangutans – but there’s plenty of opportunities for you to spot them later on your holiday. For example, just a 20 minute drive from Bako is the Semmengoh Orangutan Sanctuary where you can see rehabilitated Orangutans before they are released back into the wild.

Another benefit of Bako National Park are its hidden beaches, of which there are many. They are secluded in secret bays and give you a truly private experience. A personal favourite is Teluk Pandan Kecil beach which has the feel of a desert island.

The trail to this beach is also the one that gives brilliant views over Mount Santubong and the South China Sea. Animal lovers – watch out for the characterful bearded pigs that make the sandy shores their home. They’re very relaxed and like noseying the area for bites to eat.