How best to enjoy Borneo's Bako
What we say:
It would be very hard to not enjoy Borneo’s Bako National Park; the variety in terrain, animals and beach make it one of the most diverse national parks you can go to without spending an arm and a leg (unlike at Mulu). Although it has been open for tourism for many years, there is still a sense when trekking through some of Bako that you are traversing through the tiny slices of wilderness left in Sarawak. It may be quite daunting if this is your first time in the tropical jungle, but Bako is very friendly for the uninitiated and if you bear a few things in mind, you will no doubt have a great time.
Try to spend at least one night in the park itself. Not only will this allow for a more leisurely itinerary, but you’ll also get to see a sunset either over the mangroves or on the beach. Of course, to maximise aesthetic pleasure, spend two nights and take in both sunsets.
If you do stay overnight, then make sure that you get back to the park headquarters before dark — this means ensuring that you start your return journey with enough daylight to get back. This may sound obvious, but there have been many instances of lost tourists wondering around in the forest. As such, make sure that you sign out with park HQ before embarking on your trek and please, please remember to sign back in when you return! Should you fail to turn up by dark, a search party will be sent out for you. Regardless of when you start your trek, remember to take a torch and more water than you will need.
Start with a few smaller treks first. Some great three- or four-hour treks can be enjoyed to the west of the park HQ, where the terrain is relatively flat. Have a wander around some of the mangrove swamps here – do check the tides! After this, you can graduate to the harder treks on the east of the island. These can be quite taxing as the first 20 to 30 minutes are very steep and the terrain is very, very uneven. If you want more of a challenge, it’s possible to hire a boat out to one of the more remote beaches and trek back to HQ. These treks can take anything up to eight hours so take plenty of water and food supplies.
You won’t find any culinary delights at Bako. In fact, after a couple of servings of Malaysia’s ubiquitous greasy noodles and rice, you may find yourself trying to feed your food to the wild boars (an aside: please don’t feed the animals). The only way to mitigate inevitable food ennui is to bring some of your own, bearing in mind that there are very limited cooking facilities. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a good bet, as they keep well and this is a good time to create some exotic salads. It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of honey and a packet of Milo in the bottom of your rucksack, as not only will it provide some welcome relief from whatever it is you’ve been eating for three days straight but will act as a very rudimentary ration pack should you get lost on a trek.
The thing is, even if you don’t take any of the things we’ve recommended into account, as long as you’re sensible and remember to drink lots and lots of water, you’ll find something at Bako that will make you wish you’d spent more time there. Let us know what you find!Last updated: 1st September, 2014
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