Going wild in Borneo

Over the New Year, we escaped the city and went in search of wilderness in Borneo. As nature lovers, this was the perfect way to welcome 2018.

This kind of trip is the exact reason we chose to move to Singapore. Being an hours flight from what remains of the world’s rainforests is a huge privilege. Under immense pressure from palm oil plantations, it is not lost on us that in ten years time there might be no rainforest left to see.

The view downstream from Bako Village
From the moment you get to Bako village, you know you’re in for something special

We chose to visit Bako National Park, the oldest national park in Sarawak which is the western park of Malaysian Borneo. To get there, we loitered at a bus stop, eventually catching a bus from Kuching to Bako village, and from there a boat to the national park.

We were visiting in the low, technically monsoon season. I’d heard stories of two metre high waves tossing the small boats around during the crossing. It all looked calm from Bako village, but I popped a couple of motion sickness pills to be safe.

Bako National Park
All was calm in the mouth of the river
Bako National Park
We didn’t spot any crocodiles on our boat ride

We were lucky – the waves were’t too bad, and my pills were doing their job well! Apart from a tense moment when the boat engine cut out (there are crocodiles in these waters, to add to the excitement!), we arrived safely.

Bako National Park boat
Safely offloaded at Bako National Park
The beach at Bako National Park
Now where?
Entrance to Bako National Park
The hidden entrance

Welcome to another world! The boat pulled up at a wide and empty beach where we jumped out into warm shallow water. The beach is surrounded by undeveloped forest, pure, simple, and our home for the night.

Knowing that a day visit wouldn’t be enough, we had booked one of the national park’s cabins for the night. It was very basic, but who cares when it means you fall asleep and wake up to the sounds of the rainforest.

Cabin at Bako National Park
Our home in the forest for the night
Cabin at Bako National Park
Each cabin is tucked away amongst the trees

Eager to explore, we headed off on the Lintang loop trail. It was a fantastic walk, challenging, varied and quiet. We climbed up steep, thickly-rooted forest, stomped across open rocky expanses, and waded through shallow rivers.

Bako National Park is super rich in wildlife. The undeniable star of the show is the proboscis monkey, which can only be found in Borneo. These odd-looking monkeys mostly live in the trees, and the males can weight more than 20kg.

I could not stop grinning when watching them play in the trees. Chasing each other, chilling against a branch, lazily stuffing leaves into their mouths. They are wonderful creatures.

 Proboscis monkey
Only the males have the large funny-looking nose
Proboscis monkey
They are beautiful colours, with a funny flat head
Female proboscis monkey
The females are smaller, with a less bulbous, pointy nose

We also saw a tonne of other wildlife totally new to us. Bearded pigs, silver leaf monkeys and snakes all made an appearance. As it was New Years Day, the staff were not running their usual night walk. We were disappointed, until we met the wonderful Marindo from Cat City Holidays. He was taking a lady on a night walk, would we like to join? Yes please!

With Marindo, we walked through the wet rainforest, with only our torches to light the way. We saw huge spiders that made me want to sprint back to camp. I love nature, but am admittedly a bit of a wimp!

“This is very poisonous,” said Marindo, “this bites, that bites, everything bites. But there’s enough time to get to the hospital, so no worries”.

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My appetite has now been whetted for more jungle time. The wildlife and raw wildness is something special. We are planning a trip to Sumatra in June with visiting friends and now feel more prepared with what to pack and expect.

My ultimate goal for that trip is to see Orangutan, which literally translates to people of the forest. But in all honesty, just spending time hiking and wondering what lurks behind each rustle, brings me so much happiness.

Bako Village jetty
Arriving back at Bako village

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