A Guide to Bako National Park, Borneo
Updated January 2021, A Guide to Bako National Park, Borneo was originally written in April 2018
Wanna experience close encounters with wildlife, incredible jungle trekking opportunities, laze on desolate beaches, see the rare and endangered Proboscis Monkey, and want it to be easy and inexpensive to reach? Then Bako National Park is a must for anyone planning a trip to Borneo.
Bako National Park is a Malaysian national park located just 37 km from the city of Kuching. It is one of the easiest to access national parks in Borneo, has some of the best marked trails making DIY travel here easy, and is renowned for being one of the best parks in all of Borneo.
For those planning a visit to Bako National Park, I urge you to at least spend a night in the park- it’s possible to visit as a day trip, but to get the best experience spend the night! Most who visit go to Bako National Park as a day trip from Kuching and usually miss out on the highlights of the park.
In this guide, I’ll share with you information on how to reach Bako from Kuching, how to book accommodation, and more!
Start planning your visit to Bako National Park and beyond with the Bradt Borneo Guidebook
Being the Bako National Park is in Malaysian state of Sarawak, the currency used is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). At the time of writing (January 2021) the current exchange rates are:
- 1 USD = 4.05 RM
- 1 Euro = 4.96 RM
- 1 GBP = 5.47 RM
- 1 AUD = 3.08 RM
- 1 CAD = 3.16 RM
The Best Time To Visit Bako National Park
Bako National Park is a great destination to visit for much of the year. The climate is tropical and fairly wet with temperatures that typically range between 27ºC and 32ºC.
The best months to visit are typically from April to September as they are on the drier side, however, don’t be surprised to run into some rain in those months. December-February are the wettest months of the year in Sarawak and parts of national parks can be difficult or inaccessible making it a less desirable time to visit.
Getting To Bako National Park From Kuching (And Back)
Arriving at Bako National Park is a two-step process. First, you must travel by taxi, shared van, or bus to the ferry terminal near Bako Village, next you will take a boat the remainder of the distance to Bako National Park.
Take the red public bus #1. It will pick you up either from the Wet Market (next to the Electra Building), and also will pick up passengers at the burger stand across the street from the Riverside Majestic Hotel.
The buses leave once per hour between 7 am and 6 pm. Buses leave Bako back to Kuching every half hour between 6:30 am and 5:30 pm. 3.50 RM each way. The approximate travel time is 45-60 min each way.
You can also flag down the bus to pick you up from the river-side of Jalan Gambier, the street that runs along the waterfront.
Can easily be arranged by your accommodation. Expect to pay 50-60 RM each way.
Shared vans will pick up passengers in the same places the public bus will. They don’t leave until full (5-7 people). The price is 30 RM each way for the entire van, so expect to pay 4.30-5 RM per person. Shared vans take about 30 minutes to reach Bako Village and the ferry terminal once full.
Upon arrival at the ferry terminal, head toward the jetty. There you will be able to purchase your entrance ticket to the park and your boat ticket. Boat tickets are 30 RM per person for foreigners and each boat can hold 5 passengers. If you want a private boat it will cost you 150 RM. Ticket prices are round trip, expect the journey to take 20 minutes each way.
When you arrive at the park tell your boat driver the date and time you need to be picked up from the park. They will be there waiting for you.
Park Entrance Fee
Purchase your entrance ticket when you arrive at the jetty to purchase your boat ticket. Foreign adults pay 20 RM, Children are 7 RM.
Important note for day-trippers: Bako is only open from 8 am to 3 pm daily, so plan accordingly.
You have 4 options for staying in the park- campsites, hostel, forest lodge, or the forest lodge 4 with A/C. Otherwise, it’s back and forth to your hotel in Kuching every day, which in my opinion is a waste of time.
Rooms book out quickly, so I highly advise you to book ahead online. A great update to hear of from my 2013 visit to Bako National Park is that you can now book and pay for your room online through the Sarawak E-Booking website.
There is a campsite located right behind the park headquarters. 5 RM per night per tent. This is the only accommodation that cannot be booked online.
Be careful of monkeys, they won’t hesitate to break in. There is a public bathroom.
Dorms are available with 4 beds each. 10 RM per night per bed, or 40 RM per night for an entire 4 bed dorm. Fan only and shared bathroom.
Lodge rooms are available with 3-4 single beds for 100 RM per night, and lodge rooms with 2 single beds run 75 RM per night. Private bathroom and ceiling fan.
Forest Lodge 4
3 single beds per room with a private bathroom and A/C. 225 RM per room, per night.
Note: I have read on a forum that as of 2017 there was wifi available, although the forum post did not specify if it was free or paid, or if it’s available in rooms or only in the park headquarter area.
Pro tip: To avoid having your room torn to pieces while you’re out, make sure to place something heavy, like your backpack atop the lid of the rubbish bin when you first get into your lodge room. The rubbish bins actually dump into bins underneath the lodges and the monkeys have gotten wise to this. Don’t forget to lock your windows before leaving your room.
Only Have Time For A Day Trip?
There is a cafeteria located near the park headquarters by the lodging. The cafeteria serves up basic dishes for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Water, soft drinks, and beer are for sale as well.
Prices here are a bit expensive for cafeteria-style dining in Sarawak- usually coming in around 16 RM per meal. This should be no surprise as the park is remote and items have to be brought in. If that is too expensive for you, plan to pack in your own food from Kuching.
Bako National Park has 18 color-coded jungle trails ranging from less than a kilometer to 20 kilometers return ranging from easy to challenging. Most treks are under 3 hours in length. Trekking in Bako National Park is well worth the effort- from the wildlife you’ll get to see to the sheer number of ecological zones you’ll cross.
Currently, 7 of the trails are closed for maintenance at the time of writing.
For short details on each trek visit the Sarawak Forestry website.
Getting To The Famous Sea Stacks
When you search Bako National Park this is probably one of the first photos you will see. The only way to really see the sea stacks is by hiring a boat and cruising along the coastline to them from Telok Pandan Kecil Beach.
You will need to arrange a boat for the Sea Stacks for 35 RM per boat at the park headquarters. Do this prior to heading out on the Telok Pandan Kecil Trek.
We personally didn’t do the boat to the sea stacks. We did the trek to Telok Pandan Kecil on the day we arrived and after a short visit to the beach, big dark clouds and lightning headed our way so we beat feet back to park headquarters. From what I’d heard from others who took the boat trip, it was well worth it (in better weather of course).
Bako is home to a number of different species, many of which can be spotted near or around the park headquarters. Some critters are nocturnal so your best bet for seeing them will be to join one of the ranger-led night walks for 10 RM per person. Here are a few animals you may encounter while exploring Bako National Park:
Proboscis Monkeys are the stars of Bako National Park, and one of the easiest places to see these rare monkeys as the park is home to 150 of them. The best place to position yourself to see proboscis monkeys is at sunrise on the beach along the trees, just outside the park headquarters. Male Proboscis monkeys have odd-looking long noses (it’s why some people call them dick-nose monkeys).
Another primate you are bound to see is the Long-Tailed Macaques. They are small monkeys you’ll find all over the park. Just be careful around them as they will bite and have sharp teeth.
Macaques are usually the culprit to tent and lodge break-ins, and tourists having to go get rabies vaccinations. Another common sighting especially around the park headquarters is the Bornean Bearded Pigs.
Another primate you have good chances of running into on the trails is the Silvered Langur. We ran into a group of 6 of them while out hiking to Telok Tajur Beach, we heard a rustling in the trees and before we knew it they were jumping tree to tree right above us.
Tarsier and Slow Loris can be found in the park (although not spotted as often, and usually at night). They are both technically primates although they don’t really look like them, they’re cute and furry with bug eyes.
Be sure to join one of the night walks in the park where you’ll head out with a ranger and flashlights to go spot the nocturnal wildlife. On night walks you may run into Colugo, Pangolin, Palm Civet, Mousedeer, Tarsier, and Slow Loris. We were lucky enough to see a Colugo way up in a tree using our binoculars. Colugos are oftentimes called flying lemurs, although they technically aren’t lemurs at all.
Pangolins are small anteater-like creatures that can be found in Bako National Park, though sightings are rare and little is known about them.
Palm Civets are small wild cats that are most active at nighttime that can found in the park.
Finally, the Mousedeer are, well, teeny, tiny deers that can be found in the park at night.
A common reptile sighting near the park headquarters is the large Monitor Lizard.
Bako National Park is home to several non-venomous snakes as well and one that is poisonous.
The Wagler’s Pit Viper is the only poisonous snake in Bako National Park. They are lime green with flat triangular-shaped heads. We saw one on a branch, just off the trail between the beach and park headquarters.
There are also over 150 bird species that can be found within the park. You can read up more on birds in Bako National Park and the whole of Sarawak here.
Want to see Borneon orangutans? See why you need to visit Semenggoh Wildlife Center
Flora in Bako National Park
Bako National Park contains almost every plant variety found on the entire island of Borneo from all seven ecological zones (mangrove forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, kerangas forest, peat forest, beach vegetation, cliff vegetation, and grassland vegetation). One of the most well-known is the carnivorous pitcher plant.
The pitcher plant has a nectar-like substance that lures in its prey to land atop. Once the bug lands atop it usually fall into the “pitcher” where a fluid inside dissolves it.
What To Pack
Bako National Park accommodation is comfortable enough but pretty basic, so you will need to pack a few items. Here are a few I suggest based on my trip.
- Bug repellant
- Hiking or athletic shoes
- Water reservoir
- Water filter
- First aid kit
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Necessary medications
- Toilet paper
- Beach or microfiber towel
Where To Stay In Kuching
Kuching has lots of accommodation options from hostels and homestays to luxury hotels. I personally stayed at the Woodpecker Lodge when I was exploring Kuching, it’s located right off the waterfront, and the staff is helpful and friendly.
More Kuching accommodations:
- Budget: Woodpecker Lodge | Booking.com | Hotels.com |
- Midrange: Riverside Majestic Hotel | Booking.com | Hotels.com |
- Higher-end: The Waterfront Hotel Kuching | Booking.com | Hotels.com |
- Luxury: Hilton Kuching Hotel| Booking.com | Hotels.com |