Borneo Backpacking Guide: Bako National Park

The adventure begins on a boat ride through the Kuching river, slowly drifting past traditional fishing villages on stilts and lush mangrove forests. As the river mouths to the sea, the boat picks up speed and motors by large sea carsts and the coastline of Bako National Park. Here is your first glimpse of Borneo’s rainforest. An eagle soars above. I can feel we are somewhere very special.

boat ride

Borneo backpacking guideWe hop off the boat onto a wooden boardwalk over the swamp. Below us are hundreds of teenage frogs, with two front legs and the tail still developing. Fiddler crabs with one huge claw dance below. We walk the path towards Park Headquarters. I hear rustling in the trees. One step off the path and silver leaf monkeys peacefully munch on the leaves in the trees.

We’ve made it. Our first taste of Borneo.

Bako National Park All You Need To Know:

  • Gateway is Kuching
  • Bus or Taxi to the park
    30 minute ride – Big Red Bus Number 6, $3.50 RM. The number 6 will drop you at Bako National Park Entrance where you must buy a boat ticket to take you to the actual park. No way around this.
  • Buy your boat ticket here at the Park Entrance for $20 RM one way. The way back is another $20 RM that you buy at the boat ticket office near the canteen.

The boat takes you to the park where they ask you to check in to Park Headquarters

borneo backpacking guideand Register. Here is where you can grab a park map and any of the latest trail updates.

You have three options for accommodation, Chalet, Hostel Lodge, and Camping, or you can just make a day trip out of Bako and take the last boat back at 4pm.

  • Chalet is good for big groups or families, you can have a whole lodge to yourself  suitable for 6 for around $180 RM, book 2 weeks in advance
  • Hostel Lodge – Around $12 RM per bunk, book 2 weeks in advance or take your chances
  • Camping – $5 RM per person if you register (not sure if this was entirely required)

Camping is allowed anywhere. There is a main campsite at HQ with showers and toilets. It was at one time a fenced in area and now there is holes where the bearded pigs come in at night. We stayed here and I woke up to two large bearded pigs grunting on both sides of me in the middle of the night. They are gentle, no need to be afraid. However, make sure there is no food inside the tent or they will bite and eat their way in! (This happened to a traveler we came across, they almost got his toe!) You can also camp on the beaches like Pandan Bay and Kecil Beach is a popular one.

When and where to see Proboscis in the park?

The endangered Proboscis Monkey is a big lure for people to come to this park. If you’re quiet, you will see them. I was sitting in a gazebo near headquarters preparing for our first hike, just 20 minutes upon arrival, and a Proboscis Monkey swung in the branches above me. There are two treks that you can definitely see them – Delima and Paku. Dawn and dusk are the best times. We thought we were already late at 7:45 AM when we started our trek but turns out we were one of the first trekkers to hike this early so the monkeys weren’t scared away yet. Please these guys are very shy! We walked past two of them, at eye level, sitting just a couple meters away from the people, and of course two loud tourists screamed by “Proboscis Monkeys! We saw them!” And the monkeys ran away. This is just rude for everyone, especially for the Proboscis!

Borneo Backpacking Guide: Bako National Park
Bako is one of the few places you can see the Proboscis monkey

Canteen Food
There is one canteen and a general store.
The food is around $7 – $10 RM per plate and $3-$4 RM per drink. It’s not bad either. Local specialties and self service. Some of the cheapest National Park food.

BYO Food and Water
We brought out own food and water to save a bit of money. We brought two large drinking bottles which was enough for 1 day and night of serious all day hiking. For food, we brought some snacks and noodles to cook on our small portable gas cooker.

Beware of Macaques
We saw three types of monkeys at Bako and there are a couple more. The endangered elusive Proboscis, the cute and shy silver leaf monkey and the upfront, somewhat aggressive macaque. The macaque hangs around headquarters and steals food from the tourists at the canteen. Swiping jars of peanut butter and in our case, stealing our only food, our dried noodles. We waited for the monkey to rip open the packet, try some and then run off before fetching what was left of our pack. Yes, we still ate them! Don’t eat food around these guys and watch your bags, sunglasses and bottles around HQ!

Trip Total

Bus, Park Entry, Boat rides, Food, 1 Night Camping
$85-$100 RM

$1 USD = $3.3 RM

Borneo Backpacking Guide: Bako National Park
Carniverous pitcher plants
Borneo Backpacking Guide: Bako National Park
A marked trail
Borneo Backpacking Guide: Bako National Park
Our favourite…the Bearded Pig! oink

P.S. Do you even tourist?

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Sasha

Writer and Founder at DO YOU EVEN TOURIST?
Passionate traveller. Sea gypsy. Digital Nomad.
No fixed plans and not intent on arriving.

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