The One With The Big Noses – Borneo Part 2

If you wanted animal pictures (Kerry, Chris, Jacob) this is the one for you.

On the boat ride into Bako National Park our driver said the storm was coming. Around 30 minutes later, we could feel the change he felt. The air temperature dropped slightly and the wind picked up… then some thunder in the distance. Moments later the sky opened up and the sound of the huge rain drops on the sheet metal roofs made it difficult to talk.  Tropical rain is an incredible experience to live through. It completely takes over everything, with a fantastic intensity that gives a brief and very welcome respite from the constant heat and humidity.

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Bako National Park is only accessible by boat (20 RM/ / $6 CAD a person per way. After an hour bus ride from Kuching proper (3.50 RM/ $1 CAD each), this dock is the starting point of a 30 minute journey down the Sarawak River and into the South China Sea, ending at the beach in front of the visitor’s centre.  Note the sign with the crocodile warning.  The area has recent saltwater crocodile sightings, so swimming is off limits.  This entire section of river is a brackish estuary, perfect for saltwater crocs.
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Views on the boat ride to Bako National Park. In the background is Santubong Mountain, a peninsula north of Kuching jutting into the South China Sea.  The mountain was used as a navigational landmark for many years by sea traders.

The incredible thing about Bako National Park is the amount of wildlife readily on display.   This hit us right away, just in the sheer number of animals we saw in the 30 minutes between the boat and the start of the rain. Mudskippers on the beach, a bearded pig causally strolling along the path, troops of macaques and langurs, and two extremely rare proboscis monkeys enjoying the afternoon in the vegetation by the beach. This was in our first 30 minutes in the park. If that was any indication, it was going to be a great few days. And oh, it was.

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One of our favorite park inhabitants, the Bornean bearded pig.  They roam the park area around the cabins and cafeteria, hunting for food. They’re remarkably tame, and you can walk right up to them.  They do have tusks under that beard though, so we didn’t get too close.  We nearly ran into one walking on a path to the beach, although it was just as startled by us. For scale, the biggest pig of the clan came up to Emily’s hip level.
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Silver langurs are a pleasure to watch.  They eat leaves most of the day, and you can get remarkably close to them.  We ran into a troop of them on one of the hiking paths, and spent a good 20 minutes just being surrounded by them.
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Half-fish, half-amphibian, all awesome.  Mudskippers!  Evolution in action, transitioning from sea to land. They’re hilarious to watch as they scurry around the edge of the water.

And of course, the strangest looking creature at the park.

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Male proboscis monkey.  During the day the monkeys mostly sit in the trees in the shade.  In the evening they become active, eating leaves from the trees along the beach. This guy was happy to pose for us for quite a while.  They communicate with a strange honking noise.
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Apparently the bigger the nose, the more attractive to the lady monkeys. 
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They look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
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Proboscis monkeys are only found in Borneo, and are quite rare due to ongoing habitat loss.  There are over a hundred at Bako NP, and they all seem to hang out right in front of the visitor’s centre.  
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The female proboscis monkeys have much smaller noses than the males. 

We had a great encounter with a troop of monkeys, who sat in the low branches above us and enjoyed their evening meal.  Eventually they decided to move across the path, and they ran right in front of us.

 

Many people just do day trips to Bako NP, but there is also an option to stay over in their lodge style accommodation. It’s such an exotic experience to call this place home for a few days.  We decided to stay for 2 nights, which was the right choice because the last boat for day trippers leaves at 3pm, so they miss out on all the animals active in the evening and at night.

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Hostel A, our home for 2 nights at Bako NP.  For $5 CAD per person per night, its a bargain.  Some of the reviews online complained it was in bad shape, but we found it ok, as long as you’re not expecting hotel-level comfort. It was like camping, or sleeping in an older cabin.  
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The view from our porch – note the bearded pigs!  At one point our porch was stormed by a troop of aggressive macaques, who were trying to get our can of pringles.  They wouldn’t leave us alone until a bearded pig sauntered along and scared them off.
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A crazy looking worm of some sort, found on the board walk in front of our cabin.  Its head is T-shaped, like a hammerhead shark.

The top activities at Bako NP are animal watching, and jungle hiking.  In our time there we hiked most of the trails, which vary between jungle, cliffs, and open land on top of the hills.  The humidity is intense, and we carried as much water as possible.

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Its so humid all the time that moss covers most of the rocks and trees near the ground.
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Typical landscape around the cliff sections of the paths, this one on Trail #1. All of the trails, though they can be challenging, are really well signed with distance markers and directions so  getting lost is not an issue.
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There are so many colorful dragonflies to see.
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After a 2.5 hour hike in the crazy heat we were happy to reach a waterfall for a quick dip.  
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Many of the trails end at secluded beaches.  
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The views from the cliffs down to the beaches are incredible. Unfortunately, no swimming due to those pesky crocs.
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We saw this good-sized lizard hunting in the mangroves near the start of some of the paths.
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After hiking for 3.5 km through the jungle, the trail ended at a huge beach. Rather than hike another 3 hours back, we caught a ride with a local fisherman who was hunting clams on the beach.  On the boat ride back we got really lucky, spotting a pod of indo-pacific dolphins out in the sea.  Our driver was nice enough to take us out there, where we saw somewhere between 10 and 15 dolphins.

Staying overnight at the park is great for so many reasons. You can start early and take you time doing a long hike, and it is a much more relaxed pace than if you have to make the last boat at 3. The proboscis monkeys are most active just before dusk.  The sunsets on the beach are incredible.

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Our friend the bearded pig enjoying a snack as it nears sundown. This beach was also full of hermit crabs making tracks through the sand.
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The sunset on the first night was spectacular.
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But the sunset on the second night was simply astounding.  There was a heavy thunderstorm shortly before, and the sky was still filled with thunderclouds.  

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I’m gonna go down by the water, But I ain’t gonna jump in, no, no [because of the crocodiles]. We knew the intense reds and oranges of the sunset looked familiar….
And then there are the night walks in the jungle.  For 10 RM (around $3 CAD) per person, you can join a night walk lead by one of the park staff.  The walks are 1.5-2 hours, through the still hot and very dark jungle.

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Green pit viper, hanging out above our heads.
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There are many types of stick insects.
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A family of swallows, hanging out under an overhang on a rock face. At least we think the guide said they were swallows.  Kerry, Chris?
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A poisonous frog. Apparently it spits at its enemies, causing irritation on their skin.
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Smile for the camera! A female stick insect.
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Centipedes are evil.
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A sunda flying lemur.  Wikipedia tells us that its neither a true lemur, nor does it fly.  But we saw it glide a good distance.

We also saw a palm civet, a small mammal that lives in the tree tops and hunts at night.  But it was far too high, and moving far too fast for us to get a photo. We aren’t even sure how our guides saw it. It must have been a hundred feet up, and it was moving so fast, all we really saw was a very long tail.

After 3 days and 2 nights at Bako NP we were exhausted.  The heat and humidity are intense all the time, and the hiking is fairly tough at times.  We were sad to leave, but really, really looking forward to a hot shower and some air conditioning. Bako was a highlight of Borneo, and really of our entire trip.  Its a wild, vivid place where the Bornean nature can be experienced up close and personal.  They could easily charge twice as much to visit and sleep here, and it would still be well worth it.

Now we are finished in Borneo, and after nearly 5 months we are finally leaving South East Asia.  Our next destination is Kunming, China, where we will be spending a month exploring.  Its exciting to be moving onto somewhere different, though we are a little nervous (or curious?) about how different China will be.

We aren’t sure what internet access will be like in China, in particular for our WordPress blog.  So if we go quiet for a while, don’t worry.  If we can’t log on, we will just save up and post a bunch of content once we get out of China and arrive somewhere with less restrictive internet.  Apparently Facebook is blocked by the government, so we won’t be able to announce new posts like normal.  So feel free to subscribe to our blog, so it will give you an e-mail notification every time we post something new.

  • Doug and Emily / May 28, 2017 @ 9:13pm / Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia / Big Bottle bar
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