Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Kiki Roams - Kuching, Malaysia: Bako National Park and Omigod Monkeys!

Bako National Park was on the agenda today and what an amazing day. It is a 27 square kilometre peninsula full of dense (and ridiculous hot/humid) jungle, hiking trails and almost a guaranteed wildlife spotting experience.

The Journey

First, can we all give a round of applause because I didn’t get lost once during this journey? So, from the the downtown area, you can catch the number 1 bus (it’s red – the buses are colour-coded!) to Bako from the riverfront area, directly across the street from the Riverside Majestic Hotel. I say directly across the street because this seems to be the only bus stop that doesn’t look like a bus stop. It is a random bench and plastic chair underneath a giant McDonald’s advertisement. So, easy to walk right by (which I didn’t do) and not know what it is.

The bus takes you right to the boat terminal for the national park. It takes about 40 minutes to get there and costs 3.50 MYR (a smidgen more than $1 CDN). Easy peasy.

At the boat terminal, you purchase your entry ticket to the national park (20 MYR) and at the next counter, your boat transfer (40 MYR return ticket). The boat leaves whenever there is enough people – seems that five as the minimum but they might still make you wait around a while as they hope to get 8-10 people). Be patient. Also? the boat ride is about 30 minutes and be prepared to take off your shoes and roll up your pants as high tide is still present in the morning and you’ll have to hop out of the boat and wade your way onto the beach to get to the park.

The nice thing is that there are taps of water to wash the sand off your feet before you slip your footwear back on. Be prepared to spend most of the on at the park as during low tide it is pretty much impossible for the transfer boats to bring you back to the terminal. 

The tide start coming back in around 3:00 p.m. and even then, it’s quite low and the journey back to the terminal is much slower as the boat driver navigates random sand shoals that weren’t there on your way in. You’ll also see boats marooned on the sand shoals and people walking on them with sticks as they try to get crabs and other seafood during low tide. From a distance it looks like people are walking on water.

I hired a licensed guide at the boat terminal (100 MYR for the day….about $33 CDN). This is the last point at which you can hire a guide – there are none in the national park for hire. You don’t necessarily need a guide – the trails are very well marked and it is easy to navigate. I opted for a guide because I wanted to have information about the wildlife, the trees, flowers, etc.

The guide also knew the best spots to find wildlife and he will take you off the standard trail to check out other areas where you might see some interesting wildlife. I had a great experience (licensed guides actually undergo training to learn info on the area and also receive training in first aid given the number of poisonous things that can kill you in the park) with my guide and highly recommend hiring one.