One of the main things I wanted to do when I came to Kuching was to visit some nice beaches and see some more wildlife that wasn’t contained in a cage. I did some looking online and talked to some people familiar with the area, and Bako National Park seemed to be a good choice. It’s pretty close to the city, has public transport that takes you right to the park office, and somehow manages to be pretty remote. In fact, the only way you can get there is to take a small boat along the coast from the park office. There were always other people at the park in the three days I was there, but it was never difficult for me to find a beach that I could have all to myself. Perfect!
I caught the bus by the Kuching Waterfront at one of the stations. The bus to look for is the Rapid Kuching bus, which is a convenient bright red color. Pretty easy to find. The route ends at Bako National Park, so it’s pretty tough to get off at the wrong spot. The best part? It’s only 3.50 ringgit That’s just over a buck. The boat ride to the park is 94 RM round trip, but you can split it between 4 or less people.
The park has different types of accommodation, ranging from campsites which cost 5 RM to lodges which cost 150 RM. Wanting to save a little money and get some use out of the tent I’ve been lugging around, I chose to camp. The fact that it’s been raining hard pretty much every day didn’t really click in my head until I got there. Ah well.
I got there easily enough and started to go set up my tent. However, as I started towards the campground, the park ranger held up his hands and told me to wait. He said I should wait to set my tent up until I was ready to sleep, since, “…the monkeys, they will be inside your tent.” Ha! Never having dealt with wild monkeys before, I was tempted to put it up anyways, but I heeded his advice and stowed my bag in the luggage room. In retrospect, I think that was a good idea.
I got some food first and scarfed it down quickly. It wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad. It was just sustenance. I bought myself an ice cream cone to make myself happy, then set off down the first trail: Telok Paku. No sooner was I out of the common area when I saw them. Monkeys!!! There were a bunch of macaques hanging out around a small bridge. I’d only seen one other wild monkey before, so I was very excited to get a good picture. Then, I saw the perfect opportunity. A momma monkey was trotting towards me along the railing with a baby clinging to her stomach. Photo gold! I whipped out my camera and steadied it; ice cream cone in hand. The monkey came trotting closer and I waited for the perfect moment. Closer… closer… Just as my finger moved to take the picture, the monkey sped up and leaped straight at me; grubby little paws outstretched and mouth twisted into a rictus of hate.
I remember saying something stupid like, “Oh…” and then twisting as it slammed into my hand. The beast’s momentum carried it to the other railing, but the damage was done. My hand felt lighter. In a haze of horror, I noticed what the evil little cretin clutched in its hands. Despair nearly overwhelmed me as I saw my delicious ice cream cone disappearing into its slavering jaws. I could feel my fists clenching in rage and almost unleashed my darkness on the deserving creature when I remembered the baby monkey clinging to its belly. I looked at the baby, then looked sheepishly at the stunned mother and daughter staring at me from the other end of the bridge.
“I guess she was hungry,” I quipped lamely, and steadied my camera for a picture of the culprit instead. She may have stolen my ice cream; but I stole her soul. Bwahaha.
I made it through the rest of the day with no further animal attacks. Paku Beach was very nice, and I had it to myself for most of the time I was there. I walked around, climbed some rocks, soaked up some sun, and took a swim in the warm South China Sea. As I splashed about in giddy, solitary bliss, I noticed movement on the shore. I looked closer and saw a family of bearded pigs! Naturally, I wanted a picture, so I slowly and cautiously got out of the water and circled around the group to where my stuff was. I was a little nervous, since one of the most basic rules of being around wild animals is to stay away if you see them with their young. Also, not being familiar with pigs in Borneo, I wasn’t sure if these pigs were as dangerous and temperamental as pigs in other parts of the world. So, ever so carefully, I got to my stuff and started taking pictures, trying to keep big rocks between me and the critters. Luckily, no piggy stampedes, so everything worked out.
That night I set up my tent in the tenting area. It had been raining and smelled like it would continue to do so, so I wasn’t too keen on pitching my tent on the soggy ground. Luckily, the camping area had small, rectangular, covered fire pits with a two foot wide strip of concrete in front that were just the right size for my tent. I set it up and spent a long night sleeping on a slab of concrete as the rain poured. At least I was dry.
The next day, I got up and hiked two more trails. After the strenuous jungle trek I completed two weeks ago, the last thing I felt like doing was doing more jungle trekking, so I contented myself with two shorter trails: Telok Pandan Besar and Telok Pandan Kecil. They were nice hikes.
Kecil ends at the top of a cliff with a great view of the beach below.
Besar ends at one of the beaches nearby. It’s much nicer than Paku and the beach in front of the common area, and far less popular. The whole time I was there, I only saw two other people, and they left after 5 minutes. I was finally alone on a huge, sandy beach with the jungle behind me, two cliffs on either side, and the sea before me. Little sensations became noticeable. The grainy squish of sand between my toes. The warm feel of the water as it splashed against my legs with each cycle of the waves. The absence of any sound made by humans. If that hadn’t put me in a peaceful mood, I don’t know what could have. Bliss.
On the way back, the heat started to get to me. It was freaking HOT. Luckily, I had plenty of water, so I didn’t get dehydrated. Just a little sunburned. A special bonus at the end was the chance to see some of the elusive proboscis monkeys crashing around in the treetops. They’re pretty funny-looking.
After another night on my concrete slab, I relaxed for the rest of the third day. I ate, read part of a book, and took more monkey pictures. Then, when I was ready, I met my boat driver and began the journey back to Kuching.
Bako National Park was an awesome experience. The hiking was good, the scenery fantastic, and the amount of wildlife running around was pretty amazing. I think three days was a good amount of time to spend there; though I would recommend more to fully appreciate all the hiking available. I’m definitely glad I went out there.
Nathan studied and started working in business, but quickly grew tired of it and tried teaching English in South Korea. Since then, he's been working and traveling around the world.So far, he's visited 30 countries, with many more to come!