Bako National Park

Trip Start Aug 15, 2013
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9
17
Trip End Oct 12, 2013


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Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Saturday, September 21, 2013

How we got there; monkeys and pigs; walking, day and night.
 
On Thursday we left Kuching to spend a couple of nights in Bako National Park. We left most of our luggage at the guesthouse, and just took a couple of small bags with us. We took the 12 o'clock bus from the small smelly bus station near the mosque. As we were waiting for the bus to leave, and hoping the aircon would come on, we watched a man selling fish and prawns on the pavement in a makeshift shelter created from a shop awning and a wheelie bin. 

In Malaysia (and Singapore) the shops generallly have a covered walkway in front, known as the five-foot ways. These were originally designed to enable people to keep shopping even on very sunny or rainy days. The five-foot ways developed into areas where enterprising individuals set up tiny makeshift shops, selling a few fish or jewellery, or mending shoes.

When we finally left it took about 40 minutes to reach Bako town, where the boat left from for the park. (It is only accessible by water.) We shared a boat with a British couple to keep costs down, and within an hour and a half of leaving Kuching city we were in the heart of the jungle.

We had booked a four-bed room in a chalet which had three other rooms and a bathroom. The chalets were fairly basic but comfortable, except that the electricity was off during the day, and without the fans the rooms got very hot.

The chalets were surrounded by trees, and from our balcony we could sometimes see proboscis monkeys. These are lovely big monkeys, with reddish fur and long white tails. The males have huge pendulous noses, whereas the females and young males have small upturned noses. They sit in the trees, calmly eating leaves and paying no attention at all to the cameras that follow them whenever they are sighted.

In contrast, the other monkeys in Bako are the inevitable long-tailed macaques, who beg and steal food given the smallest opportunity. They seem to have a weakness for soft drinks, and several times we saw one swoop through the canteen and steal an empty Coke can, which they then tore into strips with their teeth to get the last few drops out.

The other animal frequently seen around the park headquarters is the bearded pig. These seem to spend most of their days sleeping in the mud, getting up for a forage and an occasional squabble with a neighbour.

Despite the heat, we did quite a bit of walking in the park. There are lots of different trails of varying length and difficulty, although most of the longest ones were closed for maintenance. This didn't matter though as we had enough to keep us occupied.

The first morning we woke up quite early and walked through the mangroves before breakfast. We saw lots of mudskippers and hermit crabs.

After breakfast we did a longer walk in a circuit of 6 kilometres that took us about three hours. Some of it was through quite thick jungle, and some through more open country. We saw a lot of different mushrooms and some pitcher plants. These look like cups, and contain a liquid that traps insects for the plant to feed on.

Both evenings we were there we did a night trek organised by the rangers there. The first night was the best, as there were only about seven of us and we saw a lot more animals. We saw a pit viper in a tree, frogs, spiders, a lot of very big stick insects, a tarantula, a scorpion, catfish in a pool and some glow-in-the-dark fungus. There were two sorts of frog, some brown tree frogs sitting and singing to each other, and some poisonous green rock frogs looking sinister. We also saw some swiftlets clinging to a rockwall next to their nest in a cave, and a dwarf kingfisher perched on a branch. The birds can't see very well in the dark, so they don't fly away, but just sit there blinking. The best sighting of the night came right at the end, and was just next to our chalet: a flying lemur. This is pretty rare, and consists of two big eyes on a small triangular head and a sack-shaped body the colour of mouldy leaves.

The second night we were in a group of hundreds, or so it seemed, and the only animals we saw were the givens: spiders, stick insects and frogs, although we did see more snakes. The swiftlets were still there. I bet they regret nesting in that cave. Some of the members of the group were loud and a bit dumb. A sample conversation:

A: Look at that crab's antlers.
B: They're not antlers.
A: What are they then?
B: Tentacles.

We left Bako on Saturday, having arranged for the boat to come and pick us up on the beach. It was about half an hour late, so we spent about 40 minutes waiting on a hot muddy beach, which wasn't too pleasant, but the bus was waiting at the other side to take us back to Kuching. Once there we had a quick turnaround before heading out again to Santubong.
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