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Bako National Park lies just 40km away from Kuching and is the oldest national park in Sarawak. Due to its proximity to the largest city in Sarawak, Bako National Park makes a great option for a day trip from Kuching. Bako has a wide variety of flora and fauna, but the highlight for many, including me, is the opportunity to see proboscis monkeys in the wild.
With Bako also containing, empty beaches, excellent hiking, abundant nature and beautiful views, it makes it the perfect place to forget about the rest of the world. Unfortunately, a lot of the information I found online when planning my trip to Bako is outdated so keep reading as I show you how to travel to Bako National Park in 2023.
Where is Bako National Park?
Bako National park is just 40km by road north of Kuching in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. Also part of the Sarawak Delta Geopark, the rocky outcrops border the mouth of the Sarawak river to the south and the South China Sea to the north.
How to get to Bako National Park from Kuching
There are a variety of ways to get to the national park from Kuching. All of them involve first getting from the city centre to Kampung Bako (Bako Village) where you will then take a boat into the national park.
The cheapest and an easy way to get to Bako from Kuching is to take the public bus. The big red number 1 bus departs on the hour from behind the wet market, close to the Electra building and the local bus station. The exact location can be seen here.
The bus runs on the hour from 7am to 3pm and only costs 1RM. Like most other buses in Malaysia, the bus I was on left promptly at 7am so don’t be late!
The bus runs a route along the river and also picks up passengers at a few stops on the river and the bus stop next to Gloria Jeans coffee opposite the Riverside Majestic hotel.
It takes about 45 minutes to reach Kampung Bako.
To return to Kuching from Bako, the bus leaves on the hour from the same corner that you’ll get dropped off on with the last bus at 3pm.
Private cars can be arranged by hotels and can cover the journey in 20-30 minutes. Prices start at 50RM.
Using the Grab app, it is possible to book a taxi to take you from Kuching towards Kampung Bako. Prices start from 30RM for the car and takes 20-30 minutes. You may find it harder returning to Kuching from Bako using Grab. It is possible but you might have a longer wait.
Taking the boat from Kampung Bako to Bako National Park
Just inside the boat terminal, on your left, is the ticket office to buy the boat tickets to Bako National Park. Boat tickets are now priced per boat, at 100RM each way with a max of 5 people. Solo travellers like myself are well advised to team up with others to reduce the cost.
I was very fortunate and two other couples walked in just after me which reduced the cost significatnly. A full boat of 5 people means each person only pays 40RM for a return trip.
What to see in Bako National Park
The obvious attraction in Bako National Park is the abundance of wildlife that can be seen almost as soon as you step off the boat.
Bearded pigs, long-tailed macaques, green pit vipers, silvered langur monkeys and plantain squirrels can easily be spotted close to the park headquarters and I saw all of these from my walk from the boat to the HQ before I had even signed in!
But the highlight of a trip to Bako is the proboscis monkey. Affectionately known as the “dick nose monkey” for obvious reasons, they are endemic to Sarawak and this small park is one of the easiest places in the world to see them.
About 150 of these monkeys live in the park and are often seen on the beach close to the HQ in the mornings. I was fortunate enough to see them on one of my hikes to a beach after over hearing a guide point them out to other guests. The magical creature was sitting in the trees eating berries or leaves and in a totally natural and wild environment.
If you have any interest in the animal kingdom and monkeys in general, then seeing a proboscis will be the best part of your trip. Be patient and have a guide for your optimum chance of seeing them.
You May Also Like: How To See Orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Although the animals are a major drawcard, the park also contains an array of plant life which can be seen on the many hiking trails. On one hike I did, I felt like I stepped into 3 different worlds from jungle, to savannah to mangroves.
The secluded beaches and bays are also a major attraction with Teluk Paku beach just a 45 minute walk from the Park HQ. Plenty of other beaches and bays are accessible with hikes lasting as long as 6 hours one way for the intrepid.
The sea stacks that adorn the cost of the park are another major highlight, but these are best seen on boat tours that can be arranged at the Park HQ although a couple of smaller ones can be seen from beaches that can be hiked to.
Hiking is another major drawcard to Bako. With a varity of trails criss crossing the peninsula there will be something for you to enjoy. From short 30-45 minute hikes to a small beach, to 8 hour long day hikes reaching the far side of the park and everything in between.
At the park HQ, they will ask how long you plan to stay (if it is only one day, they will ask what time your boat is due to depart back) and what you would like to see. I was recommended two trails, to Teluk Paku beach and another hour long walk to Telok Pandan Kecil and Besar, for another private beach and beautiful lookout which took about 2.5 hours return.
What to eat and drink in Bako National Park
There is only one place to eat and drink in the park and that is at the small restaurant that is at the Park HQ. A buffet style is available all day with items charged per scoop. My first meal of simple noodles and chicken was only RM9, however a bigger lunch meal was closer to RM20. Bottles of water, soft drinks and even beer can also be purchased at the Park HQ. There is nothing else available to buy in the rest of the park so those on longer walking trails will need to stock up.
If you are visiting the park on a day trip, it would be possible to bring all of your food and drinks from Kuching to save money.
Where to stay in Bako National Park
Bako has a few options to stay in the park if you want more than a day trip, all of which are near the park HQ.
Accommodation starts at RM15 for a bed in a hostel style room of up to four people and goes up to a basic room with en suite for RM225. All accommodation should be booked on the Sarawak ebooking site here.
FAQs About Bako National Park
How long should you spend in Bako National Park
I’ve heard of people staying in the park for 4 nights so that they can hike every trail, visit every beach and have the greatest chance of catching wildlife. However, I believe visiting on a day trip is more than enough time to see the sites. Staying for one night will ensure you have the greatest chance of seeing wildlife and will mean your trip won’t be rushed.
What’s the cost of a day trip to Bako National Park?
If you were to go by yourself with no guide and taking your own food, it’s possible to visit the park for a total RM62. This is RM1 each way for the bus to and from Kuching, finding 4 friends to share the cost of the boat and the RM20 entrance fee to the park for foreigners.
It is likely that you may end up paying slightly more to fill a boat if 5 passengers cannot be found, or have differing itineraries.
Adding in food can cost an additional RM10-20 per meal, and a tour guide can be considerably more.
A full day tour including pick up and drop off at your accomodation in Kuching can start at RM300pp.
Is it possible to book the trip on the day?
Yes it is possible to wake up in the morning and head to the park on a whim. However, as always a bit of forward planning always helps (which I why I’ve written this guide!)
Can you do tours of Bako National Park?
Tours can be booked by companies in Kuching or with international companies abroad, but it is always best to book local. If pre arranged, a guide can meet you at the park headquarters and take you on guided hikes.
Going with a guide gives you the best chance of viewing wildlife as some of the animals are high up in the forest and difficult to spot.
When is the best time to visit Bako National Park?
As with the rest of Kuching and Sarawak, the best time to visit Bako is between March and September, which also coincides with the dry season. The boat to the park is calmer at this time and makes for a more enjoyable experience although it can definitely be seen at other times of year.
Exploring Bako National Park
Getting to Bako National Park is one of my highlights of my trip to Sarawak (and one of the best things in Malaysia full stop!) and I would recommend it to every who goes. Being such a close location to Kuching, the small park makes an excellent choice for a day trip, or for overnight trippers who like a remote experience.
Check out my other posts for travelling around Malaysia:
- Visiting Bako National Park From Kuching: A Detailed Guide
- How To See Orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve
- Visiting Mulu National Park: The Essential Guide
- How To Get From KL International Airport To The City Centre
- What To Do In Kuala Lumpur: Top 10 Things
- Which Lounge Should You Choose at KLIA
- Petronas Twin Towers vs KL Tower: Which Is Best To Visit?
- Visiting Pantai Pasir Panjang, Penang from Georgetown
- The Best Coffee Shops in Georgetown, Penang
- What You Must Eat in Penang: Top 10 Foods To Try
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.