Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lonely Planet: Into the heart of Borneo - a guide to Sarawak’s national parks

Home to some of the world’s biggest caves and most diverse ecosystems, superlatives abound when it comes to describing Sarawak’s national parks.

So blessed is this Malaysian state with a wealth of natural wonders that it can be difficult deciding exactly which parks to visit.

To help you make your decision we’ve come up with some helpful pointers about what’s on offer where, using the cities of Kuching (in Sarawak’s west) and Miri (in its centre, close to Brunei) as the jumping off points for some spectacular exploration.

Around Kuching

Flora and fauna: Bako National Park

If you’ve come to Borneo to see rainforest animals in their natural habitats, Bako National Park is the perfect place to start, located less than an hour’s drive from the state capital of Kuching, on a rocky peninsula jutting out into the South China Sea.

The park attracts visitors keen to see its most celebrated residents, the distinctive pot-bellied, red-furred proboscis monkeys, who lounge around close to the shore. But there’s more much more wildlife on offer, with the chance to spot silver-leaf monkeys, cheeky long-tailed macaques, scaly monitor lizards and bearded pigs, who are often seen rummaging around park HQ.

The mangroves here are home to saltwater crocodiles, and as many as 190 kinds of birds have been identified within the park boundaries.

Once you’ve had your fill of the fauna, it’s the flora’s turn to grab your attention – Bako is a wonderfully accessible place to experience almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo. 

From the terminal at Kampung Bako, a 30-minute boat trip takes you to park HQ, from where a range of hiking trails lead through the various terrains, including beach and cliff vegetation, heath forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, grasslands and peat swamp forest.

It’s possible to hike the trails in a loop or arrange to be picked up by boat from one of the park’s hidden coves.