Yesterday was Labour Day and I decided to make full use of it by visiting one of the more famous attractions around Kuching – the Bako National Park. After 28 years of staying here, professing to be a local Kuchingite, frankly it’s a little embarrassing to have yet visited an easily accessible national park.
The park itself is situated approximately 37 km from the city.
How to go to Bako National Park
We started our journey from Kuching at 7.30am by car and reached the Bako National Park car park and boat jetty within 40 minutes. There is scarcity of parking spots around the area so we were lucky to have arrived early. By 8.30am the jetty was already packed with throngs of tourists and day trippers (especially so since yesterday was a public holiday).
Park entrance fee is RM10 per person for Malaysians, and it costs RM30 each person for the return trip by boat to the national park itself. The journey by boat takes 20 minutes.
The boat stopped at the beach and we had to disembark from it straight into the water. That was a bit surprising, yet we took off our shoes and waded through the water anyway. That was, as I later found out, the Teluk Assam beach. It was quite a walk to the park HQ – photo opportunities abound along the way on the vast expanse of sand.
Bako Hiking Trails
There were numerous hiking trails to choose from, some of them are closed so we went for the most popular routes – Teluk Pandan Kecil and Teluk Pandan Besar. One has to register at the park HQ before starting the journey.
After a quick breakfast of fried noodles, off we went merrily into the jungle. The flora and fauna is amazing – we saw long-tailed macaques and wild boars up close. No sight of proboscis monkeys though – they’re at a different part of the national park. The initial flat parts of the trail in some parts consisted of wooden walkways over mangrove swamps, but it quickly gave way to steep rudimentary steps perched on tree roots which turned out to be a testing exercise in physical strength. We reached the fork at the trail to Teluk Pandan Besar after almost 2 hours of huffing and puffing. By this time the mid day sun blasted its heat without mercy at us, testing not only our strength but endurance.
Teluk Pandan Besar Trail ends at a cliff which affords a spectacular view of the South China Sea and a secluded but inaccessible beach below. After taking photos we quickly left as the heat was too much to bear. We hiked back to the fork and made our way to Teluk Pandan Kecil and after another 30 minutes of torture, made it to what is supposedly the end point (judging from the number of people taking photos and even having a picnic there).
We were about to turn back and start on our journey back towards the HQ when a fortunate stroke of serendipity happened. An elderly gentleman told us it was actually possible to take a boat straight back to the HQ. So off we went, making our way down the steep descent to the beach below the cliff.
We arrived at a secluded beach which was really tranquil. Save for a few hikers, jolly swimmers and the boatmen, we were the only ones around.
We took a boat together with another foreigner couple and the boatman took us close to what is arguably THE place to be in the whole park – the magnificent Bako Sea Stack.
It is one thing to be seeing this thing everywhere in tourist brochures and even textbooks, and an entirely new experience to be seeing it up close, with the choppy seas around us.
We reached the HQ at about 2pm, exhausted yet fulfilled. I kept thinking about the chance encounter with the stranger. What a stroke of luck! If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have known that it was possible to take a boat straight to the HQ, with the added opportunity to see the sea stack up close.
If you’ve never been to Bako National Park, I highly recommend you to pay a visit.