Bako National Park, founded in 1957, is in the northwest state of Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. The park is home to immense biodiversity, including the proboscis monkey with its comical nose and fiery fur (think: Jim Henson character). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put the proboscis, which is endemic to Borneo, on its endangered list in 2000. Mangrove logging and rainforest clearing for timber and palm oil plantations, and the converting of coastal land to shrimp farms contribute to loss of habitat–the primary threat to the species–while hunting further declines the population. Visit IUCN and BioOne Complete for more information and to learn about conservation efforts.
Arrive at Bako Market in the Kuching District of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, pay your park entrance fee and purchase boat fare, then wait at the jetty for transport to park headquarters via the South China Sea. Expect a 25-minute trip (longer in very low tide).
Borneo’s first national park and “The Pearl of Southern Sarawak.”
Just a couple-a wild bearded pigs duking it out for territory at park headquarters. Not pictured: victorious mud bath.
Staying overnight is the best way to experience treks and wildlife. You’ll be able to get an early start which means lower temperatures and fewer day-trippers. Another major perk is that a thunderstorm one day won’t foil your plans completely because there’s always the next. Fingers crossed!
Spied this bronzeback in the grasses along the boardwalk and a ranger passing by deftly and gently picked him up for a closer look. This slender snake was about a meter long and can grow to be 1.5 meters.
Lots of nooks and crannies to explore on the beach near park headquarters.
Long-tailed macaques dining on beach blossoms.
Gorgeous colors and textures abound at Bako.
Our first glimpse of the proboscis monkey, arguably the biggest draw for Bako visitors…but there are so many draws.
Unbelievable azure beach at dusk. Adorable bearded pig tracks.
Up bright and early for our first trek along a diverse terrain. You’ll travel across both well-maintained and crumbling boardwalks, wet and rocky paths, and gnarled root systems–often connected by narrow wooden ladders.
Well-marked trails, charming hand-carved and -painted map.
Proboscis monkeys organize into families that typically consist of an adult male, several adult females, and their offspring. When a new alpha male comes of age he replaces the existing alpha (typically with little conflict) and the unseated male goes off to live a solitary life. We spotted this solo male in a clearing along our trek to Teluk Pandan Kecil.
Climbed up, up, up 2.5 km from park headquarters to view Teluk Pandan Kecil. That little speck of limestone and green just off the coast is the famous Bako Sea Stack. We spotted two pink-hued dolphins swimming east.
This will get you down to beach level at Teluk Pandan Kecil.
Just a wee one.
Bako vegetation includes dipterocarp forest, scrub-like padang, swamp forest, mangroves, and cliff vegetation.
No seriously, just keep walking. You’ll get there eventually.
Teluk Pandan Besar, accessible only by boat.
Low tide at the jetty.
The Bornean bearded pigs root around the island consuming just about everything: roots, shoots, insects, fallen fruit. A common strategy is to follow primate families in order to benefit from their discarded bounty. Our night trek ranger told us there’d recently been an incident of a pig eating the arm of a baby proboscis. They’d rushed the proboscis to the forestry veterinarian, but it didn’t survive.
Another awesome (in the literal sense of the word) night on the beach.
Oh, hey frog!
I’d have put my hand in the frame for scale, but I’m not insane. The spider was definitely bigger than my hand. Let’s say it together: NOPE.
Adorable sleeping bird genius. She sleeps on this slim branch so she’ll feel it sway under the weight of eager predatory snakes. More than 190 bird species live at Bako.
This master-of-disguise stick insect was at least 8 inches long.
Icy reception from this green goddess.
At first you don’t see it…then you do see it…then you can’t unsee it.
Pretty cute coitus.
These swallows are trying to get some shut-eye in their little moss-and-saliva nest. That cave life.
What a stunner.
It’s exhausting eating everything, always.
You don’t see the trail? It’s right there.
Reward for that early start: it’ll be just you and the critters.
Why, hello there!
This adult male proboscis was enjoying some morning beach time at Telok Paku with his family members who scampered off at our presence. This big guy sat in the tree limb chewing at a large nut for several minutes before the nut slipped from his grasp and fell below. He totally had an “Aww, man” look on his face and spent quite a while debating whether to go after it before returning to the forest, resigned to his loss.
Nature makes the prettiest patterns.
That’d be a pit viper. That’d be venomous.
Proboscis monkeys are also known by the Indonesian name “monyet belanda,” meaning “Dutch monkey.” Apparently, the monkeys and the Dutch colonizers have similar pot-bellies and large noses…
Long, long limbs.
The proboscis is one of the largest monkey species native to Asia. Males range in weight from 35 to 66 lbs and females from 7 to 33 lbs.
Going for it.
Proboscis monkeys are primarily arboreal.
What a sweet face.
Back at Bako Market, ready to take the convenient public bus back to Kuching.