a trip to Bako National Park
Last summer vacation, I along with my family went on a tour to Malaysia's part of Borneo Island. Among the various places we visited one mentionable trip was Bako National Park. Situated about 40 kilometres from Kuching, the capital of the Sarawak state of Malaysia, Bako is a national park highly rich in biodiversity and is a must-visit for nature lovers.
There are various ways to get there, the most common being a 45-minute ride to Bako's ferry station and then a 30-minute ride by boat to the epicentre of the park. For newcomers visiting the park, it is advisable to have a park guide with you for safety and better viewing in a short time. Therefore, we had a guide with us.
Bako National Park, established in 1957, is the oldest national park in Sarawak. It covers an area of 27.27 square kilometres at the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula at the mouth of the Bako and Kuching Rivers. Millions of years of erosion of the sandstone have created a coastline of steep cliffs, rocky headlands and stretches of white, sandy bays at Bako.
Wave erosion at the base of the cliffs has carved many of the rocky headlands into fantastically shaped sea arches and sea-stacks with coloured patterns formed by iron deposition. Bako is one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak, yet one of the most interesting with multiple biomes (including rainforests), abundant wildlife, jungle streams and waterfalls, secluded beaches, and trekking trails. A network of 16 marked walking trails of different lengths allow visitors access.
In addition, various beaches are accessible by boat. The range of attractions and activities in a compact area has made Bako one of the most popular parks in Asia.
The diversity of rain forests in Borneo Island, including those in Bako, is not a haphazard event but the result of unique circumstances over millions of years. It is the product of a number of factors including tectonic movement, climatic change and biological evolution.
Bako contains almost every type of plant life found in Borneo, with over 25 distinct types of vegetation. Bako is home to approximately 150 endangered proboscis monkeys, which are endemic to Borneo, and has been called "the best place to see proboscis monkeys in Sarawak". Other animals include long-tailed macaques, wild boars, silvered languor, monitor lizards, plantain squirrels, Bornean bearded pigs, and otters.
Bako is also home to a number of lizards and snakes, including the famous pit viper. Bako is a fascinating place for bird watching, with over 150 species recorded. Bako's nocturnal creatures include the colugo, pangolin, mouse deer, various species of fruit eating and insect eating bats, tarsier, slow loris, and palm civet cat.
While walking through the tracks in Bako we managed to see the long-tailed macaques, wild boars, pit vipers, flying limos and the rare Proboscis monkey. The tracks start through the mangrove forest and then slowly head uphill into the rainforest. The tracks are well marked and there are maps at every checkpoint to help one find their way.
Some of the tracks lead to fantastic view points while others lead to small beaches or into the mangrove. There are various places from which different animals can be seen. It is truly remarkable how the Bako National Park authority has kept a safe habitat including various ecosystems for the animals to safely live in their natural world and for people to see them and learn to feel for different species present in our planet and help safe the vastness of biodiversity.
The population of animals in Bako has significantly increased since the park first opened a few decades ago. Such National Parks around are truly invaluable in helping preserve nature. We must all learn to protect the various species of plants and animals of our beloved planet.
By Tamim Sujat
Photo: Tamim Sujat