Bako National Park is one of Sarawak's unsung heroes; it's not as publicised as Mulu National Park and not nearly as organised in terms of activities but in our opinion it's much more of a real rainforest experience. It also has the added bonus of being one of the only national parks where you are guaranteed to see animals of the mammalian kind.
Bako lays claim to being the oldest national park in Sarawak, having been founded in 1957, and it's also the smallest. Situated on an island some 20 minutes' from the mainland, it can only be reached by boat. Its remote location adds to the sense of adventure one feels when stepping onshore at Bako. Its island location and early transition into a national park means that wildlife has flourished without poaching or hunting, making Bako one of the best places to see wildlife without having to trek too far.
Although just 27 kilometres square, Bako hosts a variety of ecosystems, from rainforest to scrubland, and moreover it has some truly beautiful beaches that can only be reached by either boat or trekking. Swimming isn't really recommended as the water is about the same temperature as a hot bath, a shame but it's probably just as well as the water is cloudy and many of the beaches hide sharp rocky bottoms.
It is possible to do Bako as a daytrip out of Kuching but then you'd be missing out on staying out in the jungle and the brilliant sunset vistas that can be had while eating from the park cafe. It also just seems to be a bit of waste of a journey to leave after only eight hours and you'll only regret having to leave once stepping onshore anyway, so do yourself a favour and book at least one night in the inexpensive park accommodation.
Facilities at Bako are very limited and it is often cut off from the mainland during low tide, so be sure to bring a comprehensive med kit – there are some procedures for emergencies but it's always good to be mindful of this when trekking. Remember to bring lots of water and snacks on treks!
By Hollie Tu