Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Beautiful Borneo: Baku National Park

Borneo at Baku National Park as the sun sets.

Accommodation: Bako National Park on the island of Borneo, is in Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia. There were three types of accommodation available, had I been on my usual carefree, a dorm (RM15.90 per bed) would have sufficed. Alas, I took the slightly more expensive 'Lodge' option for RM53. As of July 2012: Adult single-entry to the park: RM20 Child/Senior single-entry: RM7. All of this can be arranged at the tourist office in Kuching.

Places to see: Well, it's the Borneo rain forest and jungle so rather self-explanatory. Not being the most athletic of people, I chose one of the lesser labour intensive treks. There are various options thankfully, depending on your level of fitness. I took the 45 minute Bukit Gondol trail which leads you to the highest point of the park. And not ending my hiking journey just there, I also took the 2 1/2 hour Tajor trek to see some beautiful waterfalls.

Nothing beats a night trek, or just a swim in the beach under the twilight moon though. Food and drink is pretty expensive there, so bring some supplies. And for god's sake, take adequate footwear and water for the hikes!

Getting to and from Bako National Park: From Kuching, take a taxi or Petra Jaya Bus No. 6 (RM1.50) to Kampung Bako (Bako Village). The journey takes approximately 45 minutes. Boats can be chartered (RM40 each way) at the National Parks Boat Ticketing Counter next to the jetty for the 30-minute boat ride to the Park HQ whilst registering your arrival at the Park Arrival Booth. The last bus back to Kuching leaves Kampung Bako at 5pm.

Transport: Apart from the boats to and from the park, unfortunately the only transport is your own two feet and well-built calve muscles.

Well, my memory is getting a little rusty these days, but it all started in a Petra bus heading towards the National Park headquarters. On the hour, every hour, and thankfully we were in time for the morning bus. After a casual 45 minutes, we arrived at the said destination, paid for our boat, twiddled our thumbs and hopped onto a motorised boat.

On arrival, we were greeted by an enormous monkey... head. And I don't mean a decapitated one, but one that seemed to be neatly carved out of the side of a cliff, resembling Mr King Kong himself. It was assurance that we were definitely in the right place - Borneo, the land of the amazing monkeys.

And it wasn't just lush, green hilltops and canopies looming above, it was golden shores, rain forest trees and a wild 'bearded boar' enticing us to the island of tropical breezes. This porky scared the living daylights out of me in the night however.

So without further delay, we checked into our beautiful rain forest lodge. And it is exactly what it is on the tin. Okay, don't expect running hot water and all those luxuries, but it was enough to get us by for 3 days. Besides the sea next door had enough water to bathe in and it wasn't yellow unlike the indoor plumbing.

As per usual, being a 'carefree' backpacker meant I had carelessly forgot to bring adequate footwear. So what should have been a relatively difficult hike, became a precarious one.

Past the handy man-made bridges came a network of tree roots and vines, webbed all across the side of a hill. Climbing in flip flops results in a lot of blisters, blood spots and bruised egos. So the prospect of five hours of this was a seriously worrying thought. After the first hurdle came straight but muddy plains and eventually more vines, so many a pause was taken during this trip.

At the end of long tunnel came a beautiful waterfall, which was perfect after drinking and sweating profusely, so drowning my puffy, red self in the blue waters was heaven. It was the walk back in the sunset that captured Borneo in all its glory. The sun beamed over the island, as if it was proud of its creation.

After a quick wash, nap and snack, a walk on the beach seemed like the apt thing to do. Miniature crabs moved sideways along the sand, leaving behind tiny holes. Some time passed, and everything on the horizon disappeared, leaving only a moonlight shimmer across the water. I was ready for a midnight splash, but definitely no more hikes. Especially since that creepy pig made another appearance that night, with his low grunts and beady eyes.

The next morning, I climbed to the highest point of the park. The vista was pretty spectacular, and thankfully there was a light spray making the walk a little more easier to manage.
And we couldn't leave the island without visiting its famous and endangered Proboscis monkeys. Its elongated nose is a sight worth waiting for. Apparently there's only around 150 left, hence I definitely wanted to see Borneo's indigenous species. Lucky for us, we spotted a whole family!
On the other hand, the cheeky macaques were all over the place, stealing food and the limelight. And then it was over, and I wanted to immediately return. Natural wonders such as Borneo are memories that are firmly ingrained into my psyche.

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