Bako National Park – Sarawak, Borneo
It’s been a while since the last visit and butterflies were beginning to flutter in my tummy. 7 years can be a long time in the tropics. lifecycles seem to be shorter and longer at the same time.
It was a 5.30 morning call, we had to get to Bako village for an early check in at the park. Having arrived in Kuching the day before, we had not been able to get to the Visitor’s Information Centre in time to make bookings for a place to stay at the park. Had our quick toast, jam and coffee at Singgahsana Lodge (breakfast included) where we stayed the night before and carrying with us only our overnighters, rushed off to catch the 7.00am bus.
There are a number of ways of getting to Bako. One is to take a tour Or by taxi (RM30 per way) or by mini van. We decided on the bus. This public bus, Petrajaya Transport Co leaves from Bus Stop no. 1 at Jln Market, opposite Elektra House for Bako Village (Kampung Bako) every hour from 7am till 6pm and costs a nominal fee of only RM2.50. Be prepared to wait though. It’s not always on time.
The white mini vans take travellers into the outskirts of Kuching, charge at least double the price of public buses and waits to be filled before leaving. If need be, you can also catch one of these at the car park area opposite Electra House.
About 30 minutes later, we arrived at the bus stop at Kampung Bako. The Bako National Park office (more like a booth really) is by the jetty and manned by very helpful officers. Before entering the park, all visitors are to acquire permits which means just filling up a form and submitting to the officer there. Upon finding out that we hadn’t booked a room at the park he promptly called the park to enquire on availability. The park is now a must see for anyone visiting Kuching and surroundings. Looking at the visitor chart, numbers have certainly jumped from several thousand in the early 90’s to about several 10s of thousands in 2000s. Busy periods are especially on weekends. But on taking a closer look at the visitor chart, the peak seems to coincide with summer and winter holidays in Europe. However, the dormitories are difficult to book some days as tour agents bring in large tour groups. Unfortunate for us, we happened to visit on one of these booked out days.
Rooms at the Park
The officer at the jetty finally got a reply from the park and. there were no dorm bed left but there was a room available for RM105 per room per night. Ouch! Just to give you an idea of the type of accommodation at the park and pricing, have a look at the accommodation page.
Okay, not to scare anyone away from staying overnight. Bako National Park has so much to offer nature wise. The only grouse we had was the housing condition. We had no choice but to stay at a RM105 per night room, with shared bathroom facilities but we had expected a little more of the cleanliness and upkeep of the place …
Boat ride to Bako
Having been to Bako 3 times in my life, one of the highlights is the boat ride. The first two trips, we were totally drenched. The winds were strong, the rain was pelting on us and there was absolutely no cover from the direct bombardment; the boats were open-tops. Lesson no 1. make sure you bring along waterproof luggage. The recent trip in September was of fine weather, the water was still, the winds down and no rain. I’m not sure if the weather has anything to do with boat schedules but when the tide is low, boats have some difficulty getting to the jetty at the park and visitors may have to wade out to sea to the moored boat or enter and leave the park at tide related times ie earlier than expected sometimes.
The officer stationed at the Kampung Bako jetty usually arranges the boats for visitors. The local boatmen are licensed with the park and standard rate is RM40 per person per way and these boats can seat 4 – 6 persons comfortably. The ride takes some 45min, hugging the coastline, passing kelongs and fishermen out on their sampans pulling in their nets left out the night before. Finally, we arrived at the Bako National Park jetty.
Let the boatman know when to expect you for your return trip and don’t forget to ask for his name, just in case you have a change of plans and may need to get in touch with him. Normally, these boatmen will wait for visitors at the canteen so if you do have to change your plans, meet him there or pass on your message to the ranger or any of the other boatmen sitting around and they will be able to help you locate your boatman.
From the jetty, it’s a bit of a walk to the ranger station. At the ranger station, visitors are required to pay RM10 for the entrance fee. For any room bookings, either pay there or present the voucher for the prepaid room. If you’re early and roomkeeping has not completed their cleaning yet, then visitors can leave their baggage in the baggage room at the ranger station – hang around at the canteen or go on the treks.
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